Every time your children do something positive, however much you suffered because of and for them, it all becomes worthwhile. First of all, for about nine months, the mother carried them in her womb, willingly bearing all sorts of difficulties for them. Then, after the birth, you, as a parent, made so many sacrifices, bore so many difficulties and worked so hard to make money to take care of your children. But even long before that, you spent so many years getting an education—going from kindergarten to primary school to high school and perhaps even on to college or university—so that you could get a degree and find a job to make enough money to buy or build a house for your future children. Like this, you sacrificed so many years of your lives for your children. Just living with children brings so much exhaustion, worry and fear. But now, every time your children do something positive, all the hardships are made worthwhile.
Like the expression, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” if your children have a good heart and do even one act of kindness a day, this will keep difficulties away for you. All those years of suffering, all the worry and fear, will have brought a good result and you will be able to rejoice in the efforts you made to educate them. Otherwise, your life as a parent will not become Dharma, and instead, you will act only out of attachment to your children. In spite of your exhaustion and hard work, they won’t be content and their lives will be spent in suffering. Things will be difficult for everyone and there will be many problems for your entire family. Life will pass only in suffering and then death will happen. This is how things work in samsara.
Having children is a huge responsibility; it is no easy matter at all. You are not only responsible for your children’s happiness during their lifetime, you are also responsible for providing them with an education that will help them at the time of death, the most crucial moment of life. Therefore, it is not enough to give your children the sense pleasures and physical comforts of daily life. Rather, the most important thing is to think about what will be of most benefit to them when they are face-to-face with death.
Everyone has to die. It is not that some people in this world will live forever while others will die. Even the Buddha himself showed the aspect of passing into the sorrowless state. He showed this aspect even though he had attained liberation from the oceans of samsaric sufferings by ceasing their causes, karma and delusions. He showed this aspect even though he had totally removed the cause of afflictions and their negative imprints by actualizing the remedy, the path. He showed this aspect even though he had attained full enlightenment through ceasing even the subtle obscurations by completing the whole Mahayana path. And he showed this aspect even though he had actualized the two kayas, the dharmakaya and rupakaya, by completing the two types of merit—the merit of wisdom and the merit of virtue. Even though the Buddha had achieved all this, when he passed away, his holy body was burnt by fire during its cremation in Kushinagar, India. Similarly, all the other enlightened beings, those who correctly practiced the path that the Buddha had revealed and thereby achieved enlightenment, also had to leave their holy bodies behind, such that now only their relics remain.
So your children will also have to die, and after their death, there are only two possibilities—to be reborn in the lower realms or in the higher realms—and which it will be depends entirely on their karma. You can see for yourself whether they collect more negative karma or more positive karma in a day. In general, non-virtuous actions tend to be more complete than virtuous actions in terms of the motivation, actual action and conclusion, and are therefore more powerful. Virtuous actions, on the other hand, tend to be done without having a motivation of bodhicitta or some other Dharma mind at the beginning; in the middle, the actual action itself is not done perfectly or else is very weak; and at the end, either a dedication is not done at all or else it is not done well.
There are also many obstacles to creating and preserving virtue. For example, ill will reduces the power of virtue, making it weak. Even though virtuous actions are done, if they are not dedicated to achieving enlightenment for sentient beings, the merit can be destroyed in a finger snap by the arising of heresy or anger. And even if they have been dedicated to enlightenment but have not been sealed with emptiness, the merit is weakened by heresy and anger. You have to keep this in mind and be very careful in your daily lives not to allow the little virtue you collect here and there, in fact quite rarely, to be destroyed.
To sum up: First of all, it is extremely difficult for actions to become virtue. Then, even if they do become virtue, there are many obstacles to their lasting a long time, and finally, it is quite rare for them to be done perfectly and to become powerful. For these reasons, it is extremely important to help your children while they are still young to get used to putting effort into creating virtue.