Should You Be Filial to Your Parents?

Today we'll investigate the topic, "Should you be filial to your parents?" From a worldly point of view it is easy to answer this question. Of course we should be filial to our parents. We should naturally express our gratitude to our parents by practicing filial compliance. To be filial like that is the very least that any person in the world can do to repay the kindness of his parents. But there is another kind of filiality which is greater than this. Because you young friends here have not heard this kind of filiality explained before, I will explain it for you now.

From a transcendental point of view, true filiality is practiced through true cultivation. If you are truly cultivating the Way, you are being truly filial. Now that doesn't mean that while you are cultivating, you are constantly having false thoughts about your parents and feeling very emotional about them. You shouldn't be "sticky" even with your parents and relatives. Instead, you should cultivate vigorously and bring forth the Bodhi resolve. In this way, you can become an outstanding person, an extraordinary person; you will be a person who can transcend the mundane world. Then you are practicing a kind of filiality which goes beyond, and surpasses ordinary filial piety. For it is said,

If one person can achieve Buddhahood,
Nine generations of ancestors are reborn in the heavens.

This transcendental filiality is filiality on a vast scale. You are being filial toward heaven and earth. You are repaying your parents in life after life -- that is magnanimous filiality!

Filial Piety: The young lamb kneels to drink his mother's milk

Filial Piety: The young lamb kneels to drink his mother's milk.

Filiality on a small scale is being filial only to your parents in this present life. In practicing this small-scale filiality, you try to make your parents happy, even if you have nothing to offer them but plain water. You care for their hearts and minds, as well as their bodies, and you do it with the utmost reverence. Not only do you look after your own parents, but you treat all elders with respect. Treating everyone as you treat your own parents is practicing ordinary filialty.

To practice filiality on a vast scale means that you are filial not only to your own parents but to all ancient sages and worthies of the past. A person who is able to emulate the sages and worthies of old is known as one who practices far-reaching filiality, filiality which transcends the worldly. But ordinary people of today aren't even practicing the ordinary worldly filiality of providing for their parents, to say nothing of practicing far-reaching filiality. Instead, people today are busily at work committing offenses! As a result, the world is getting worse day by day. People's hearts are growing more and more corrupt and their minds are full of doubts and problems, all because they are not being filial.

The men and women of today who kill, commit arson, indulge in sexual promiscuity, tell lies, and steal have vulgar characters. They believe that they should be doing such things and that being filial to one's parents is wrong, that they should learn to be mean and rotten. This is a very grave mistake.

Now while we are young it is important for us to make a good, healthy start in learning to do what we should do in order to be good human beings and good citizens of this world.

Vajra Bodhi Sea, January 1984