Parent-children relations in modern society
Ven.Paanakave Pemarathana Nayaka Thera, Deputy Sangha Nayaka of the Nawa Thotamune of the Colombo Nawa Koralaya and Parivenadhipathi of Sri Dheerananda Vidyayathanaya, Thembiligasmulla, Makola.
By Shakthika Sathkumara
Q. What are the observations made by the Buddha as far as parents are concerned?
A. The Buddha equates parents to the Easterly Direction. According to Buddhist teachings the mother is the most venerable individual. The Buddha took steps to build up a matriarchal society. In most places, the Buddha spoke of the mother as the first and foremost, placing the father in second. The idea behind is not to underestimate the value of the father but because the mother’s attachment to her offspring is much more than the father. For example, the instances such as matha pithu upattanan, mata petti haran chanthu, brahmani mata pitaro, mata pita disa pubba, samanan mata pita and yo mataranva pitaranva can be cited. Furthermore, the Buddha referred to the parents in different names. Some of these terms are ahuneiya, prajanukampaka maha brahma, pubbachariya, and pubbadeva.
The Buddha equalled the mother and the father to the Maha Brahma. The reason for that is that the Buddha considered the mother and the father to possess the four main attributes - mettha, karuna, muditha, upekkha - inherent in Brahma. He referred to the parents as “Pubbacharya” because they are the first teachers. He described parents as “Pubba Deva” or the first deities. That is how the common saying “gedera budun amma” came into being. All of us from our childhood are familiar with the story of “Maathuposaka Jathakaya”. It depicts the greatness of treating parents. According to the “Magha” jathaka story, the youth “Magha” was reborn as the “Sakra,” the lord of deities, because he treated his parents well. In the mangala sutta, looking after parents is treated as one of the auspicious factors. The “vasala sutta” says that one who ill-treats the parents is a man of untouchable caste. Children must keep in mind that parents love their children sincerely from the bottom of their hearts and look after their welfare and therefore they are their gods.
Q. What are your reflections about parent-children relations in modern society?
A. I can say that there is no close relationship between parents and their offspring nowadays. Parents are looked down upon in general. Children do not regard their parents. This is why homes for the elders are mushrooming day by day. Sometimes old parents are hidden in old store rooms in fear of visitors who might see them lying amidst their own excretions.
Sometimes children put their parents out of the house when they are run into financial embarrassment. Some mothers undergo untold misery by being confined to houses. Their children don’t take the time to take them to a temple even on a poya day. A few days ago on the Vesak poya day an old mother was dumped near a bo-tree in the Bandaragama area.
Sometimes, it maybe that parents are at fault. Sometimes children go astray due to the faults of the parents. Such parents are unable to advise their children. Sometimes parents come by death at the hands of their own children. This sad state of affairs takes place because the parents have failed to play their role well. Sometimes parents quarrel and use abusive words in the presence of their children. Often their children follow this bad example.
Q.Could you please explain as to how this state of affairs could be changed for the better?
A. First of all, parents as well as children should properly identify the role appropriate to them in this field. In the sigalovada sutta, the parents are equated to the easterly direction and five duties are laid down as their duties by their offspring. Similarly five duties are laid down as the duties of the children towards their parents who have fulfilled the parental duties towards the children.
On the part of parents they should make their children refrain from misdeeds. They must induce them to do meritorious deeds. They must give them a sound knowledge of the arts and crafts. They must enter their children into matrimony at a suitable age. Parents must transfer their wealth and property to their children at a suitable age.
On the part of children, when the parents perform their duties towards their children as mentioned above, the children in turn have the following five duties by their parents: They must foster their parents, they must attend to their parents’ needs, they must respect and observe the customs and traditions passed down from their ancestors, they must protect the wealth and property of their parents and after the parents’ demise they must do meritorious deeds and bestow merits on their parents who have passed away.
If parents and children take the trouble to do their duties by each other as stated above, the collapse of the relationship between parents and their children would not have arisen in such huge proportion as found in modern society. Parents have to face various obstacles to bring up their offspring. The mother and father sacrifice their entire welfare to feed, foster and protect their offspring. They are also concerned with their children’s education. Children must always remember to be thankful to their parents for what they are today. Parents, when they become old, long to hug and cuddle their grandchildren. It is a bounden duty on the part of children to give their parents this joyful opportunity at their dying age.