Joyful Parents, Successful Children

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

As Buddhist parents, we have a special and very important responsibility to ensure that our children not only receive a good worldly education but are also educated to be good-hearted human beings. In this book, Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains how we can teach our children the good qualities and behavior that are essential for achieving every type of happiness, both short- and long-term.

These teachings were compiled and edited by Ven. Joan Nicell, and published in 2015 by Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Singapore. Now available as a free audiobook.

3. Generating the Good Heart

Solving the problems of the world—population increase, climate change, financial crises and so on—depends mainly on education. While adults also need to be educated in the prevention and resolution of these problems, special attention needs to be paid to educating the young. The main focus of such an education should be to teach children how to be better human beings. They need to learn how to develop human values like kindness and compassion.

Young people are the future of the world. How much happiness and peace, and likewise, how much fear and danger future generations will experience depends on how children are educated right now. A more peaceful world depends on children practicing the good heart—helping others and not harming them. This is the most important education you can give children and the very first thing to teach them.

Initially, it is very important to make a plan for your children’s lives to be beneficial, both for their own sake and for the rest of the world. People who are starting a new business, for example, begin by developing a plan to make it the most profitable possible. Similarly, even before you bring children into the world, you should make a plan given that a sentient being’s life is much more important than a business!

Every day, you, as a Buddhist parent, make prayers, recite mantras and so forth, for the benefit of all sentient beings—the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, asuras, suras and intermediate state beings. Since your children are also included in those sentient beings, you must think about how to make their lives the most beneficial possible. This is because, among the numberless sentient beings, you have a special responsibility for your children’s lives. You must therefore make a plan to ensure that their lives are meaningful and not passed in suffering, at the very least for themselves but ideally, also for the entire family, society, country and world.

You have a huge responsibility for the kind of people your children will grow up to be. Because you spend so much time with them, your attitude and behavior can have a lasting influence on them. Of course, there is no guarantee they will do everything you tell them to do; they also have their own individual karma. Having created strong karma in their past lives, your children’s lives may well turn out to be completely different to the way you brought them up. But because what happens to them also depends on other causes and conditions, you are responsible for helping them as much as you possibly can. Therefore, you need to have a clear plan as to how to educate them. If instead, you miss out on directing your children’s lives in a positive way, their futures will be very unsure and the opportunity you had to help them will be lost. Although many good things could have happened to your children because you lacked a clear idea about parenting, their lives might become filled with constant suffering and problems.

A good parenting plan comes from having a healthy, positive motivation for bringing up your children, one that is based on a good heart rather than on attachment. If you have a good heart and a good attitude toward life, and consequently try to do positive things to help others in your daily life, it will have a strong impact on your children. It will be of great benefit to them and they will grow up with a healthy mind—a positive, pure Dharma mind. With this type of mind, they won’t harm themselves, nor will they harm other sentient beings: their families, neighbors, fellow countrymen and the people of the world, not to mention animals. Not only that, their healthy minds will also make it possible for them to bring peace and happiness to others.

Children learn from their parents, so if they see you trying to benefit others, they will receive a positive message from your example. Then, when your children have their own children, they will pass on that same education by also living their lives with a good heart and helping others. Your children will be an example for their own children, that is, for your grandchildren. Like this, parents can help to transmit from generation to generation the importance of a good heart, of not causing harm to others and of doing as many positive actions as possible. If you do this, the result will not only be an enjoyable family life for you and your children, but it will also bring much happiness and peace to the sentient beings of this world, life after life. Therefore, your role as a parent is extremely important and entails a truly big responsibility.