For approximately nine months, our mothers bear incredible difficulties to carry us in her. She has to endure morning sickness, dizziness, cramps, weight gain, and movement difficulties. Even in eating she has to be especially careful in her diet for her baby. Something as simple as sleeping becomes troublesome, as she cannot sleep in her usual positions for fear of creating discomfort to the baby. If she has a career she’ll have to work and carry the extra burden of having a child in her. If she cannot, then she’ll have to take leave or resign from her job. Her personal freedom of movement, time, career and social activities are totally sacrificed.
When the big moment of birth comes along, she has to rush to hospital and endure hours of labour pains. If any complications arise, she might have to undergo a cesarean, which means cutting through her body, and re-stitching it and waiting for time to heal. Some mothers even die while giving birth. Her life is sacrificed for ours. After the child is born she also has more problems. What vestige of freedom was left prior to birth is now completely lost. Her sleeping time is gone as she’ll be woken up all hours of the night to attend to the crying baby. Feeding will be every two hours. How many thousand times does she have to change the diaper? Every moment of her time will be preoccupied with the safety of the baby and that the baby doesn’t hurt itself. Every waking and sleeping moment of her mind will be totally devoted to the welfare of this little being selflessly. She has to physically and mentally completely sacrifice her own interests for that of the baby.
While the father may not be bearing the physical discomforts and sacrifices, but his contribution will definitely be there. He will definitely have a great part in attending to the baby. He’ll have to be there to make sure that his wife is comfortable during her pregnancy and birth. After and before the birth of the baby he’ll have to, in most cases, make sure the finances can cover this heavy burden of supporting the hospital bills. When the baby comes home, the father’s burden beings with re-shifting his priorities and has the psychological burden of having to support his family. House mortgage, food, electricity, clothes, travel, etc., etc. will all have to be burdened by the father. Some fathers might have to take up second jobs to make up. So his time is totally spent in the earning of income for his baby. The needs of the baby as it grows up are tremendous. Clothes, schooling, medical, travel and material necessities. As the child grows up, the child is quite demanding for many material wants to compete with peer adding to the burden of parents. The College and University will drain the parents of their last, hard earned savings.
If the child should meet up with the wrong people and become involved with intoxicants, crime and unruly behaviour that damage their future, how it will destroy the parents with worry. Even financially the parents will have to bail the child out of their situation. This is just a general description of the burden we create for our parents. They still gave us life and love us in their own way. We can still apply this example to aunts and uncles or whomever it’s applicable to. The fact of the matter is that our parents are indescribably kind to us. Their kindness is innumerable, countless, infinite and we will never be able to pay them back in one life alone. I read an article that in the fifties during the Korean War, some three hundred people were taken prisoner. They were held for three days. If people try to escape they were shot. Everyday the soldiers opened fire on the unarmed peasants and killed them. Naturally the ones in the front received the bullets first and were killed first. There was one mother while the shots were being fired embraced her two children to shield them from the bullets. As a result, she took four bullets into her body. As she finally collapsed the children can hear her screams of pain but she protected her children. Both children are alive today because of the greatest sacrifice their mother made for them. There were only 20 survivors out of 300. The two children related the bravery and kindness of their mother, I was very moved by this incredible story, it only confirms my firm belief in the kindness of our parents. They are so amazingly kind. I’m sure even our own mothers would choose our life over hers. In fact, I’ve personally come across parents that work very hard to provide for their children what they didn’t have themselves. They wish not even the slightest bit of suffering for their offspring. Where in the world can we find someone so devoted, loving and caring towards us without any expectation of returns. If something positive happens to us, no one will be more happy for us than them.
With all this kindness shown towards us while growing up, we must remember them, again and again. Whatever religion we may be and even a free thinker, our parents must not be abandoned. Praying to the Buddha or God but not taking the utmost care in our parents now that we are grown up will bring no results. For the general people, I feel, our parents are kinder than Buddha or God. We must support them. Assist them. Never make them feel they are a burden for us. How can they be a burden for us? It is actually we who have been the burden for them. We have taken the best years of their life, their youth. So how can we abandon them emotionally or physically now? People who do not respect their parents and not return the care they have shown will never be complete, happy and harmonious people. If we have the great fortune to still have our parents alive or living with us, we should rejoice. We have one set of parents. Once they are gone, they will be irreplaceable. A measure of whether a person is selfish or not is how they take care of their parents. How they prioritize their life towards the needs of their parents. Why? Because if someone has been so incredibly kind to us, it behooves us to return that. If we carelessly not return their kindness, it only reflects on what an unappreciative person we are. It is ridiculous to help other people but not our parents.
Golden rules towards our parents that should be followed:
1) Never speak harshly to them.
2) Keep your promises to them.
3) Serve them.
4) Make time for them.
5) They should always be on your priority list.
6) Always be in communication with whether near or far.
7) Always be involved in their life.
8) Make sure you are there in any way to help
9) Help them emotionally, physically and financially when and if they need it.
As your parents are human, they also could have made mistakes with you. Forgive them. They meant no harm. They are old now. Take care of them. Never hold grudges towards them. Lord Buddha stated that the five most heinous crimes in relations to karma are: Killing our mother, Killing our father, drawing the blood from a Buddha, Killing an Arhat, and Creating Schism within the Sangha. The resultant karma from these actions are very heavy. Upon death, one immediately takes rebirth in Hell. So if out of all negative actions two are related to parents, then we have to conclude how important they really are for Lord Buddha to mention in this manner. Of course, none of us have committed such heinous crimes, but anything done towards our parents, the repercussions are definitely heavier. Example, if we were to speak harshly to a friend or our parents, speaking harshly to the latter would be heavier negative karma.
So whether we are religious or not, it does not matter. But if we do follow a religious path, then we must be very aware for every religion teaches the importance of parent devotion. So if we are religious practitioners and we neglect our parents, then it is totally hypocritical and contradictory. We can call ourselves spiritual, because the whole basis of spirituality is remembering the kindness of others. In fact, in the text of developing Bodhichitta (Bodhisattva-cha-avatara) written by the Indian Buddhist Master Shantideva, the first step is the meditation on kindness of others especially focusing on out mother. Using this we engage in the development of Bodhichitta or loving compassion. Without Bodhichitta, there is no Buddhahood. So if we only meditate on the kindness of our mothers and not do something about it in daily life, then it is empty and does not bear fruit. If we are unable to serve them due to genuine difficulties, it’s different. But if it is out of laziness or lack of reflection on their kindness, then it is not good for us now or in the future.
As Buddhists, we should recite one rosary of Tara or Tsongkhapa mantra for them a day. We should have an image of Tara or Tsongkhapa dedicated towards them on our altars. We should make offerings to these Buddhas dedicated towards them. We should do special puja (prayer ceremonies) with the Sangha dedicated towards their long life and future rebirths. If they have passed away, then we can do the same except dedicated towards a higher rebirth for them in their future lives. Besides Tara and Tsongkhapa, we can definitely have other Buddhas. But Tara and Tsongkhapa are easy and simple practices.
Most important is the sincere appreciation of our kind parents, because of them everything in this life and future lives are possible. We should make them our priority and serve them. Never be harsh with them and always be on the alert on serving them. From this practice, the basis of a harmonious and peaceful individual will arise. From the collection of these individuals, a peaceful and harmonious society will arise.
I hope this write up benefits people and the above-mentioned practices will be followed.
With sincere prayers and good wishes.