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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Buddhist perspective

Family life from a Buddhist perspective

(By Ven.Panangala Vajiragnana Thera, the Viharadhipathi of Nasoli Buddhist Temple, Italy)

Buddhism does not exalt lay life as in the case of ascetic life nor does it abhor or reject lay life altogether. For the benefit of the laity, Buddhism explains a way of life that enables comfortable living by the observance of the ‘five precepts’
When one considers the practical aspects of meditation in a layman’s life, it is imperative to examine its impact on the ‘worldly’ well-being as enunciated in Buddhist philosophy.

The clergy and the laity

The teachings of Buddha on a broad basis could be divided into two main categories: teachings pertaining to the clergy and those which are relevant to the laity. Bhikku and Bhikkuni, or monks and nuns form the clergy while Upasaka and Upasikas or lay male and female devotees which form the laity. The precepts observable under the first category are undoubtedly motivated to attain absolute cessation of suffering which state is described as Nirvana, while the second category envisages a certain extent of worldly comforts within a framework before the attainment of the final bliss of Nirvana.
There are detailed analyses of desirable approaches incorporated in the many Suttras of Buddhist scriptures to achieve a comfortable family life, dealt in an atmosphere of biological, psychological and social realities.

Successful family life


Buddhism explains a way of life that enables comfortable living by the observance of the ‘five precepts’ and engaging in righteous means of collecting wealth in order to maintain a family of wife and children while being virtuous in word, deed and thought. Buddhism advocates celibacy and asceticism above family bondages in order to accelerate the journey towards the attainment of the final goal which is Nirvana.
Andhupama Sutta is one of the sermons among Buddha’s teachings which illustrates the way to a comfortable and successful family life. It says that a layman should prosper in two aspects. One is his life here and the other is the life after death. The other is concerned with the amassing of wealth for comfort in this life while inculcating virtues for spiritual welfare. The two aspects are compared to the two eyes of a person.
There are persons blind in one eye, others who are blind in both and those who have good sight in both eyes. Similarly certain people are prosperous in wealth but lack in virtue. There are others who are virtuous but suffering from poverty.
And thirdly there are persons who are wealthy as well as virtuous. Those who are perfect in both these aspects are the ones who build successful lives.

The right way to wealth


Poverty is an agony for a layman who has to bear the responsibility of a family. Buddhism advocates a policy of earning by good means; through sweat and effort and distributing the wealth gained among the family members and the needy without avarice.
Buddhism does not encourage amassing wealth greedily. Such wealth is compared to a clean pond under the charge of a cruel devil. Similarly, extravagance is discouraged under Buddhist principles.

Righteous and virtuous behaviour

As far as morality is concerned, a person living a family life should be righteous in all his dealings and virtuous under all living conditions. He expects nothing outside justice either for the benefit of himself or for the benefit of others including his own family, or for his country.
This pronouncement is from the Dhamma Pada. He observes the five precepts throughout his life. He consumes the well earned wealth for the benefit of himself and others and is always mindful of renouncing all belongings at some stage of his life. He has one goal: that is to realise the ultimate reality of Nirvana- eternal bliss.
These are the bases on which successful family lives could be established as advocated by the Buddha.

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