My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
I received your kind letter. Since these days there are many other people for whom the following points about how to be a mother and bring children up could also be useful, I’m going to give you detailed answers to your questions.
Mothers Cherish Their Children
Both Human and Animal Mothers Cherish Their Babies
To be a good mother you must be quite intelligent and sharp, with wisdom that is able to see what is right and what is wrong. Generally speaking, you can see how much human mothers cherish their children and are even willing to sacrifice their lives numberless times for them, but even animals do that. Some time ago I saw a video of a mother hen with many chicks. The chicks were in a nest she had made of wool, and she kept them hidden under her body. When a snake came to eat the chicks, there was no other way for her to protect the chicks than to use her beak to peck at the snake. She struck it right on its face, near its mouth. I’m sure she hurt the snake because it went away. After that, it probably didn’t come back to attack the mother hen and her babies.
Even smaller birds make sacrifices for their babies. For example, I saw a video on my iPad of a particular kind of bird that, after it makes a nest, pulls out its own small feathers and uses them to line the nest to make it really soft for the babies. It is unbelievable how even birds try to protect their children as much as they can. I’m sure there many similar things that are most amazing.
Also, among birds, many father birds catch insects and bring them to the mother bird, who feeds the insects to their babies. I saw one kind of bird that again and again, again and again, all day long, caught insects for its babies and brought them back to the nest. Since this was done out of a motivation of strong attachment, cherishing its babies, all that time it was creating an amazing amount of negative karma.
All Sentient Beings Have Been Our Mother
These kinds of behavior are very common, not only among human beings but even among small animals. Mothers, in particular, act like this because they cherish their children and are very attached to them. When we see what kinds of things mothers do for their children, we should relate this to ourselves. Those sentient beings, both animals and human beings, have been our mother, have been kind to us and cherished us so much, and have been very attached to us. Therefore, they behaved exactly like that when we were born to them. And that was not just one time; we were born to them numberless times. They did that numberless times for us with different bodies. When from our side we think that, even though we don’t know them in this life and they don’t know us in this life and we don’t have any connection with each other, we will feel them in our heart and we will feel close to them. This happens if we have a strong good heart and much compassion, even if we don’t have a realization of bodhicitta.
One time I was at the airport in San Francisco waiting for a flight for some hours. There was a young mother there who was taking very good care of her two children, a boy and a girl. She even moved a little bit back to where there was a pillar so that her children would have more space to run around. As I watched them, I suddenly thought that she also took care of me like that in the past. Before I thought that, there was no feeling of being close to her, instead she was far from me, like looking at a mountain far away in the distance. Even without thinking much more than that, after I thought that she took care of me and served me in the same way numberless times when she was my mother and I was her child, then I felt close to her and I felt she was close to me.
The Four Kindnesses of a Mother
There’s a meditation on how sentient beings have been our mothers and have been kind to us. We can contemplate the kindnesses of our mother condensed in four ways:
- Our mother educated us
- Our mother protected us from danger
- Our mother created negative karma for us
- Our mother bore many hardships for us
1. Our Mother Educated Us
After giving us a human body, which is much better than that of an animal for achieving temporary happiness, our mother also educated us. At the beginning when we were born our body was a piece of flesh, much like the body of a frog. Then, slowly, slowly our mother taught us how to walk and how to speak. She turned us into a human being. She did so much for us.
Even before we went to school, she taught us how to stop experiencing harm and suffering in our life and how to achieve happiness. Then she sent us to school and perhaps even to college or university. To do this, she worked unbelievably hard to save money and then she spent it all to cover the expenses of our education, while all the time being concerned and worried about us. That today we can read and write is due to the kindness of our mother. Also, our father gave us this human body, which, being intelligent, we can use to think about the best way to achieve happiness. This is speaking generally, without talking about the Dharma way to stop suffering and to achieve happiness, which is the real way.
And then, because of having this human body, we are able to meet Dharma, learn Dharma and practice Dharma. For example, we can learn about the four noble truths which show us what is suffering and the cause of suffering, from where suffering came. They also show us what can be achieved—the cessation of suffering and the cause of suffering, which is nirvana, everlasting happiness. And they show us the cause of cessation—the path, in particular, the wisdom directly realizing emptiness. Wow, wow.
We can use this human body to purify our negative karma, the cause of the lower realms, and to practice the path by abandoning negative karma and keeping morality. By doing this, we can achieve a higher rebirth. Then we can even become free from samsara and achieve nirvana, ultimate happiness, by practicing the three higher trainings—the higher training of morality, the higher training of concentration and the higher training of wisdom. In this way, we can become free forever from samsara, which we have been experiencing from beginningless rebirths. We can become free from the unimaginable suffering of hell beings—the suffering of the eight hot hells, the eight cold hells, the neighboring hells and the ordinary hells. We can also become free from the suffering of pretas. Pretas experience the sufferings of thirst and hunger, as well as heat and cold, for an unbelievable length of time. Even for ten thousand years, they cannot find a drop of water or a spoonful of food, no matter how thirsty and hungry they are.
We can also become free from the suffering of animals. They are extremely foolish, eat each another and experience heat and cold. Animals are also used by human beings and made to do very hard work, such as the oxen that even nowadays are used to plow the land in poor countries.
We can also become free from the sufferings of human beings, such as the eight types of sufferings. And we can become free from the sufferings of asuras and suras.
We haven’t experienced these sufferings only one time. Because we are under the control of delusion and karma, the cause of suffering, we have experienced them from beginningless rebirths. But now we can become free forever from all these sufferings by meeting Dharma.
We can even become free from the lower nirvana and achieve the great nirvana, full enlightenment, by practicing the six paramitas with a bodhicitta motivation. Then, by achieving full enlightenment, we can liberate the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and, not only that, we can also bring everyone to the peerless happiness of full enlightenment, the total cessation of obscurations and the completion of all realizations. It is really unbelievable what we can do with a human body. Therefore, not only receiving a human body, but also, like us this time, being able to meet the Buddhadharma and having the opportunity to practice it, which is so unbelievable, is all due to the kindness of our mother.
2. Our Mother Protected Us
Our mother protected our life from hundreds of dangers every day.
3. Our Mother Created Negative Karma for Us
Our mother created negative karma for our wellbeing and happiness. In fact, almost every single action she did for us was negative karma because it was done out of attachment. In addition, she also harmed other sentient beings for us. For example, she may have killed other sentient beings, such as fish, in order to provide us with food. She may have engaged in stealing to give us the things we needed. She may even have engaged in sexual misconduct in order to earn a living to take care of us. Like this, she might also have engaged many times in other actions among the ten nonvirtues for our wellbeing. As a result of this negative karma she created for our wellbeing, she will be reborn in the lower realms numberless times and experience numberless sufferings. That is the reality.1
4. Our Mother Bore Many Hardships for Us
Then, on top of those kindnesses, our mother also bore many hardships for us. While we were in her womb for nine months, she did her best for us. Based on what she knew, she gave up doing many things so as to not harm us and to make sure that we were comfortable. Then when she gave birth to us, she experienced unbelievable pain. If our father was there at the time, he too would have shown how much he loved us.
After we were born, our mother sacrificed so much of her life, an unbelievable number of years, in so many ways for our health and education with much concern, worry and fear. Children never give their parents any peace. They want to do this and that and they cry when they don’t get what they want. Even during the night, they can be very demanding. It is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable.
One time when I was waiting for a flight, I watched a father and mother taking care of several children. One wanted this, one wanted that, then another wanted that. They were constantly crying. Wow, wow, wow. After five minutes, I got totally bored watching the children. I got totally bored but the parents had to suffer like this for so many years. Can you imagine? Their whole life, day and night, they sacrifice their body, speech and mind, and willingly suffer for their children. It’s amazing, really amazing.
Taking Care of Some Sentient Beings but Not Others Is Attachment
Tsogdrug Rangdrol, a great non-sectarian lama who also taught the lamrim that was taught by Lama Atisha and Lama Tsongkhapa, said that if we only cherish and pay attention to one particular sentient being but not all others, that is attachment. When we don’t have the thought cherishing all others and only [cherish] some principal people, that is attachment. It is not a pure cherishing thought. Although there are numberless sentient beings, even numberless human beings, if we only cherish and help our family, such as our brothers and sisters and people who are connected to us, but have no thought to help others, just those particular ones, that is attachment.
Tsogdrug Rangdrol said that if the reason we cherish someone is, “They are my family,” “This person is my mother,” “my father,” “my wife,” “my husband,” “my child,” “my this and that,” that is attachment. Thinking in this way, we renounce and don’t help those who are “not mine.” From that, anger comes and we harm others, especially those who harm us or those who don’t have a relationship with us.
I heard that the First World War started gradually from one influential and powerful person. It came from that person thinking, “This is mine,” and being attached to that, and then renouncing what was “not mine,” but was “theirs.” That concept was the basis for the war. Then, because of that, so many millions of people suffered and died. You see? There is this danger.
Also in daily life, when we don’t have a happy mind and are constantly thinking “This is mine” and “This is theirs,” we renounce others and don’t help them. Or we even harm them to get happiness for ourselves or for our family and friends. Then, hundreds of problems arise from that, one after the other. We end up living our whole life with so many problems that we ourselves created.
That way of thinking is regarded as good in the view of ordinary ignorant people who don’t know Dharma, and especially those who don’t know the Mahayana teachings on the kindness of sentient beings and how sentient beings are so precious. However, the way to be a good mother and the way to take care of your baby is not in that way.
The Extensive Kindness of Sentient Beings
There are three ways in which I explain the extensive kindness of sentient beings.
1. All Our Happinesses, Including Enlightenment, Come from the Kindness of Sentient Beings
We receive all our past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment, by the kindness of every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every asura being and every sura being.
I will present the extensive kindness of sentient beings in this way. A sentient being is any being with a mind. When we hear that term, we shouldn’t think only of beings with a human mind, but anyone in general with a mind, the definition of which is “that which clearly perceives an object.” “Sentient being,” therefore, includes even the smallest beings that we can’t see with our bare eyes but can only see through a microscope.
For example, someone who is angry with us, who harms us with their body or speech, who dislikes us, who is cruel to us, who says nice things to us but criticizes us behind our back, who makes us feel disgusted or who belittles us, because we interpret that being as harming us, we call that person “bad,” “a bad person,” and we call them “enemy.” So now, from that sentient being who has a mind that is suffering and obscured, great compassion arises. From that great compassion, immeasurable great compassion arises. From that immeasurable great compassion, bodhicitta arises. From that, numberless bodhisattvas arise. From that, numberless buddhas arise. From them, the numberless holy actions of the buddhas arise.
The actions of a buddha are called trin le in Tibetan. Since that is an honorific word of respect, I translate it into English as “holy actions.” There are two kinds of holy actions. One of them exists in the buddhas’ own mind and one exists within us sentient beings. The one that exists in us is all our virtuous thoughts or minds, which are the buddhas’ holy actions. From our virtuous thoughts—the buddhas’ holy actions—come all the happiness we have experienced from beginningless rebirths, all the happiness we are experiencing now, and all the happiness we will experience in the future, including our future enlightenment, our future buddhahood.
Of course, before we achieve buddhahood, there is our virtuous thought—the buddhas’ holy action—that is the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness or the ultimate nature, which is the true path that is holy Dharma. When we generate that, we become Arya Sangha. Then, when we complete the merits of virtue and merits of wisdom, we achieve the result, the rupakaya and dharmakaya, and become a buddha. After we become a buddha, we cause sentient beings to generate the true path, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, in their minds, at which time they become Arya Sangha. Also, after we become a buddha, we cause numberless sentient beings to become buddhas.
So, all that and all our three-times happiness came from a buddha. A buddha came from a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva came from bodhicitta. Bodhicitta came from great compassion. Great compassion came from obscured, suffering sentient beings. So, that means it also came from this specific sentient being who dislikes us, who doesn’t love us, who harms us with their body or speech.
We can see now, very clearly and logically, that all our past happiness from beginningless rebirths, all our present happiness and all our future happiness, totally come from this person, the one we call “enemy.”
Also, that we can achieve Dharma, become Sangha, and then become Buddha, and that after we achieve buddhahood we can cause numberless sentient beings to achieve Dharma (absolute Dharma), become Sangha (Arya Sangha), and then become a buddha, all come from this person. Therefore, this person is most unbelievably precious to us, just as everyone in the world—whether a king, a president or a beggar—thinks money is very important and precious because if we have money we get the pleasant things we want.
Likewise, land is regarded as very precious because if we have land we can build a house on it or we can sell it. Because we can do so many things with it to achieve happiness for ourselves and others, land is regarded as very precious. Similarly, this person is most unbelievably precious. In fact, they are beyond precious.
These are just a couple of brief examples showing how this person, who we think of as an enemy, is precious and kind, but actually their kindness is way beyond these examples. This person is most precious, most dear, most kind and wish-fulfilling because from them we achieve all temporary happinesses, the ultimate happiness of liberation from samsara, and the peerless happiness of the state of omniscience, full enlightenment, buddhahood. The kindness of that person, if it were materialized, is like limitless space. Just as space has no limit, there is no limit to the kindness of that person.
So, the conclusion is that sentient beings are most dear. Every sentient being, even the ant, the mosquito and the tiniest fly, is most dear, most precious, most kind and wish-granting. That is one of the extensive kindnesses of sentient beings.
2. Our Perfect Human Rebirth Comes from the Kindness of Sentient Beings
As I mentioned before, due to the kindness of sentient beings when they were our mother, we receive a perfect human rebirth with which we are able to meet and practice Dharma.
3. Our Shelter, Food and Clothing Come from the Kindness of Sentient Beings
i) Sentient Beings Suffered in Order for Us to Be Able to Have a Home
The house we live in and that protects our life came to us from so many sentient beings. Many insects, such as ants, and many small animals, such as mice, were harmed and even killed to the build the foundation of our house. On top of that, many human beings worked so hard and created so much negative karma to build our house.
ii) Sentient Beings Suffered in Order for Us to Be Able to Have Food
Our food also comes to us from so many sentient beings. Even in water there are tiny sentient beings who get killed [in order to provide us with water]. Then, there are the small insects that live on vegetables that get harmed and killed. For example, numberless sentient beings suffered during the continuation of even one grain of rice, let alone how many suffered for one plate of rice. Also, people worked for it and created so much negative karma and, due to that, they will have to suffer and receive so much harm in the future. Wow, wow, wow. Numberless sentient beings suffered and worked for our food, and then finally we eat it. Therefore, if we eat it with attachment—just for our own happiness, just for the happiness of this life—that is terrible. If we only think of our own happiness and never think of sentient beings’ happiness, and, in particular, the happiness of those who suffered for that food and worked for it, that is so selfish. It is unbelievably selfish and cruel.
Therefore, we have to eat it for sentient beings, to be able to work for sentient beings with our body, speech and mind, to free them from suffering and achieve happiness for them. Then, not only to free them from lower realms and bring them to a higher rebirth, but to free them from samsara and bring them to the everlasting happiness of nirvana. And then, not only that, to free them even from that lower nirvana and bring them to great nirvana, enlightenment, the total cessation of both gross and subtle obscurations and the completion of all realizations. This one time that we have received a human rebirth and have met the Mahayana teachings, we have this incredible, incredible opportunity. We are so fortunate, so fortunate, so fortunate to be able to do this.
iii) Sentient Beings Suffered in Order for Us to Be Able to Have Clothing
Our clothing also comes to us from sentient beings. Of course, there’s no question that clothing made from the skin or fur of animals comes to us by killing animals. These animals suffered so much for us to have this clothing. On top of that, other human beings killed the animals for us and in doing so created negative karma. In the case of silk clothing, many silkworms died in making it.
Then, some clothing comes from plants. During its creation, many insects were killed by the way and many human beings worked hard to make it. There is so much evolution in making clothing.
Therefore, that we have the pleasure and protection that comes from wearing clothing is due to many sentient beings experiencing harm and many people working hard. It did not happen without causes and conditions; so many sentient beings suffered and were killed for the clothing that we wear.
So, there’s no choice—we have to work for sentient beings. We have to stop harming sentient beings and instead do what we can to benefit them. This is the very foundation [of Dharma practice]. We must really meditate on this again and again until we feel their kindness more and more deeply. As we feel their kindness more and more deeply, the thought to harm them will naturally stop—we dare not harm others.
People Treat Animals Like Tissue Paper
In the world, I’m not sure how many but probably billions and billions of chickens and pigs are killed every single day. The number of fish killed is even more than that, it might be trillions or even zillions. They are uncountable. Then many other kinds of animals are killed each day to feed human beings. Lama khyen, lama khyen.
People use animals like they use toilet paper or tissue paper for cleaning dirty things. Human beings can at least express their suffering, but animals can’t. Many people don’t think that animals suffer, even though when they are unhappy, disturbed or scared, it can be seen very clearly. Somehow people don’t know they are suffering or don’t even notice their suffering. People are so ignorant. It is unbelievable. They have skies of ignorance. Wow, wow, wow. They don’t know.
On top of this ignorance, people even misinterpret the suffering of animals. For example, in Nepal, people sacrifice animals. A long time ago, one of the Kopan cooks, who was called Ram, told me that when someone is about to kill a goat, they first sprinkle water on it. This makes the goat shake its body. This is interpreted to mean that the goat accepts to be sacrificed and offered to a Hindu god. Then, they cut its neck with a knife. That is a terrible misunderstanding. If someone were to unexpectedly sprinkle water on our body, we would also shake. We would even scream if we thought it meant that we were going to be killed. People are unbelievably ignorant.
If People Were to Stop Harming Animals, All the Dangers from the Elements Would Stop
All the suffering in the world is totally due to the karma of people and animals. For example, in China, people are experiencing much suffering. In Wuhan, the place where the coronavirus came from, on TV they show the markets where so many animals are killed and their bodies are lined up waiting to be bought and cooked. There is so much, so much suffering. So, that is why the virus started there. It is also why there are always floods there, in which the water fills many houses and even carries people away. That has happened so many times, again and again and again.
As well as flooding in China and other places, many earthquakes, fires and typhoons have been happening in the world. For example, there have been huge fires in America, some of which were caused by lightning and some by people not being careful. Sometimes when people make a barbeque to cook meat, a spark jumps out and then the fire spreads. These fires happen especially in the summer when it has been very dry. All the dangers caused by the elements—earth, water, fire and wind—come from people’s mind, from their negative mind of harming sentient beings. Because people don’t know that animals are sentient beings, they think that it is fine to kill and eat them. They are convinced that they are pure. However, if the Chinese were to stop eating meat, to stop harming animals, then all these dangers to people would become less and even stop completely.
All the Pain We Experience Comes from Harming Others in the Past
Lama Atisha had 157 gurus, two of whom were his root gurus. One root guru was Lama Serlingpa from whom Lama Atisha received complete teachings on bodhicitta, like pouring the contents of one pot into another pot, for twelve years. The other was Lama Dharmarakshita who composed the lojong text called Wheel of Sharp Weapons. It is clearly taught in this text that all suffering and danger stops when we stop harming others. For example, it (v. 10) says:
Whenever you have unbearable pain in your body,
It is the sharp weapons of negative karma turning back on you
Of having inflicted harm on the bodies of transmigratory beings [in the past].
Now you should take upon yourself every single sickness [of sentient beings].
“When you have unbearable pain in your body, it is because you harmed the bodies of transmigratory beings.” That means “in the past”; put in brackets “in the past.” So, “Now the wheel of sharp weapons is turning on yourself.” It means that because you harmed others in the past, now, as a result of that karma, the harm has turned back on you. It has ripened on you. Therefore, “Now every single sickness of sentient beings”—“of sentient beings” is not there in the text but put it in brackets—“should be taken on yourself.” You experience their sickness and they become free from suffering. You can also think that they become enlightened. That is an incredible way of thinking—you are experiencing suffering but you make it most beneficial for every sentient being. In order to free them from suffering, you utilize your suffering in the path to enlightenment, the path to happiness, the path to all sentient beings’ enlightenment. It is a most unbelievable profound training and Dharma practice.
Your Child Has Been Kind to You in Your Past Lives
Your Child is More Precious than a Wish-Granting Jewel
Just as sentient beings have been kind to you, so too has your child. Therefore, you should think of your child as the most incredibly kind person, whose kindness, if materialized, is like limitless space in that even a buddha, an omniscient one, can never finish explaining it. Gold and diamonds filling the whole sky, no matter how precious they are, are nothing compared to this sentient being who is your child. Your child is even more precious than a wish-granting jewel, which is much rarer than diamonds and sapphires.
In the past, wheel-turning kings and bodhisattvas found wish-granting jewels in the ocean. They would clean the wish-granting jewel in three ways and put it on a banner on top of a house on the fifteenth day of the month. Then whatever temporary enjoyments they prayed for—nowadays however many jet airplanes, helicopters, ships, Ferraris or Lamborghinis, swimming pools, and palaces made of gold and diamonds they wanted—would be materialized. This happened because they had an unbelievable amount of merit; the wish-granting jewel was just a condition.
But even wish-fulfilling jewels filling the sky is nothing compared to the kindness of this child, this sentient being. Even if we have skies of wish-granting jewels that alone can’t stop us reincarnating in the lower realms and experiencing suffering. It doesn’t help us receive a higher rebirth. It doesn’t help us become free from samsara and achieve ultimate happiness, liberation from samsara. It doesn't help us to become free from the lower nirvana and achieve great nirvana, peerless happiness, enlightenment, the cessation of even the subtle obscurations and the completion of all realizations. Skies of wish-granting jewels alone also do not enable us to free the numberless sentient beings from this suffering of samsara. Nor can it enable us to bring everyone to enlightenment.
Just as All Sentient Beings Are Most Precious, So Too Is Your Child
Every hell being, every hungry ghost, every animal, every human being, every sura being, every asura being and every intermediate state being has been kind to us. Every animal, for example, means the smallest sentient beings in the ocean that we can only see with a microscope, the worms living under the earth, the smallest flies and insects in the bushes and trees, the microorganisms living in the human body and in animal bodies, and the ants—scientifically mentioned there are twelve or thirteen thousand different kinds of ants—and mosquitoes. From every single one of them, we receive all our past, present and future happiness, including enlightenment. Therefore, everyone is most precious, most kind, most dear and wish-fulfilling, in that they fulfill all our wishes for happiness. Because of this, it is the most important thing for us and we are most happy if we are able to do them a little service and cause them even a little pleasure. That, in turn, depends on us refraining from harming them.
Now, it is exactly same with your child. It is, therefore, most important to offer them service, to stop giving them even a small harm and to give them even a small pleasure. It is the most important thing to do, it is the most fulfilling and it makes you most happy. You can rejoice, thinking you are so lucky that with your body, speech and mind you are able to offer service to and benefit this child. The thought that you should have in your everyday life is how to make your hands and legs beneficial and how to make your body, speech and mind beneficial to this child. That is what you should think every day, in the morning, afternoon and evening. Especially when you are exhausted, tired or bored, you should think of the kindness of your child.
Your attitude and your way of taking care of your child should be like this. It is totally different from the self-cherishing thought and attachment to your own happiness. In this case, you are not thinking, “This is my child,” which is attachment to I and attachment to mine, due to which you renounce other sentient beings, develop attachment and anger, and spend your whole life creating negative karma. That attitude only brings suffering, not happiness. Instead, you should always feel that your child is precious and that you are fortunate to have them in your life. Then, with a pure motivation you should serve and take care of your child. In this way, you will have happiness and satisfaction all the time.
You Should Bring a Child Up to Be the Best Possible Human Being
Teach Your Child the Four Dharmas of Virtuous Training
Now, I will tell you the way of taking care of a child. First, I will explain how to bring up a child without relating it to spiritual topics like reincarnation and karma, just how to bring up a child to be the best possible human being. A good human being means someone with a good heart who cares about others, who does not harm them and instead benefits them. It is most important to be prepared to educate your child in this way. I will give you some examples, but you can teach your child more techniques to be a good human being on the basis of your own experience.
Buddha taught four practices for the Sangha called the four dharmas of virtuous training:
- If somebody scolds you, don’t scold them back.
- If somebody beats you, don’t beat them back.
- If somebody insults you, don’t insult them back.
- If somebody gets angry with you, don’t get angry back.
These four are extremely good things to learn. Even though they were taught for the Sangha, it is very good to bring up children with this knowledge. If they can practice these four, they will be good human beings. You can teach your child to behave like this and when the child acts like this, you should praise them and even give them a present.
It is so important for your child to become a kind and good human being. That helps the whole world to not experience suffering. That brings perfect peace and happiness to others one by one, and that brings peace in the world. It is so good. The whole world receives peace and happiness from your child. It makes it worthwhile for your child to have been born a human being this time. You give meaning and purpose to your child’s human rebirth.
Teach Your Child the Shortcomings of Anger and the Advantages of Patience
One of the first things to teach your child is to not get angry and to practice patience. To do this, you should train your child from the time they are young by educating them in the shortcomings of anger. If your child is continuously angry, they will bring much suffering in the world and harm more and more people. Acting in this way defeats the purpose of your child having been born a human being this time, rather than as an animal, such as a tiger, that eats the meat of other living beings and causes them much harm. By their harming one person, all the friends of that person also get angry at your child for days, weeks, months and even years. They become an enemy of your child and your child becomes their enemy. When this happens, they all bring much suffering to the world, instead of bringing peace and happiness. This is so bad; there is no happiness in life, only much suffering and many problems. Anger can even lead to war between each person when they grow up. For example, the First World War is said to have started from one human being.
Even if someone, a boy or girl, a man or woman, has a beautiful body and is very attractive, when anger arises it completely destroys their beauty. Their body, even with all its ornaments, appears very frightening to other people when their mind becomes angry and violent. On the other hand, by practicing patience, your child will have a handsome or beautiful body and their mind will be happy and satisfied. By being a good human being, your child will cause other people to also be like that, that is, to be a good human being and to have patience, compassion and loving kindness. By being a good human being, everyone will love and praise your child.
If your child grows up with these good qualities and becomes a good human being, their life will be filled with much happiness and satisfaction even when they are alone. Also, when they are with other people, they will bring them much happiness.
If your child’s personality is good and kind, they will inspire others, even people who are very cruel, very selfish and very impatient. Naturally, your child will become the best teacher for others. Rather than teaching others by words learned in school, their very example of not harming and helping others on the basis of patience, compassion and loving kindness will inspire them.
Teach Your Child Other Important Qualities
It is very important to teach your child to forgive those who harm them. When they forgive someone, you must thank your child, show them you are happy and give them a present.
You should teach your child to immediately apologize when they make a mistake or harm someone. By saying they are sorry and being humble, your child will be free from regret and will feel better, and the other person will also immediately feel better.
By being kind to others, your child will bring happiness to themselves and happiness to others. You should therefore teach your child to act respectfully and to be nice and pleasant to others with their body. Likewise, they should be taught to be respectful and polite to others with their speech, to speak kind words, to praise others, and to express appreciation when others help and serve them. In addition, they need to learn to cherish and care for others, as they cherish and care for themselves. In this way, their mind will be filled with compassion, loving kindness, patience, satisfaction and tolerance toward others
Another important quality to teach your child is to be humble. Instead of thinking “I’m the most important one” and putting others down, which only makes others upset and unhappy and brings problems to ourselves and others, if we are humble and hold others higher than ourselves, it makes everyone happy, whether they are educated or uneducated. In that way, we bring so much perfect peace and happiness in this world, not only to human beings but even to animals.
Teach Your Child Good Table Manners
It is also good to teach your child good table manners. It is very common for mothers to teach their children, even when they are very young, how to eat and behave when they are sitting at the table. For example, children are usually taught not to talk with their mouth full, which is similar to the way in which fully ordained monks are expected to eat. Also, they are taught not to make a chomping noise while they eat, and to eat with their mouth closed. All these are very good manners that parents should teach their children.
My first student to whom I explained Dharma, in particular the evolution of samsara using drawings, was a woman by the name of Vicki. She came to be possessed by a spirit and would sit for hours in one place without speaking. She would say things like she was a buddha and so forth. Every year she would get sick, but each time it would be a little bit different. One time she stopped eating and sometimes I had to spend a half hour or more telling her to eat food. She would then eat a couple of spoonfuls and again stop eating. However, I noticed that even though she was experiencing spirit harm, when she ate, because she was very habituated with good manners from when she was a child, she wouldn’t talk with her mouth full nor would she eat noisily or with her mouth open. She didn’t do any of those things, even though her mind was possessed by a spirit and she couldn’t even speak normally, because she had been taught good table manners by her mother when she was young. So, it is good to also teach children these kinds of things. Good manners with our body, speech and mind make other people happy, which is the main thing.
Everything I have said so far is without relating it to Buddhadharma, just how to teach children to be good human beings. Next, I will explain [how to bring up children] in relation to Buddhadharma. This will help you make your child’s life more profound and of greater benefit to themselves and to others. The benefit to oneself and others becomes like the ocean or like the sky when related to Dharma.
1 This paragraph was inserted here from teachings given during the Most Secret Hayagriva retreat at Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala, India, 2010. [Return to text]