Support for One’s Parents (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Everyone’s life has duties. We have filial obligations to support and look after our parents. Nowadays human beings are very weak in this duty and even neglect about it. This is not a good sign for society. It is the sign for selfishness, ingratitude, disrespect, no empathy, no love, etc. Someone neglects this duty and obligation; it is sure that he cannot be good to others also.

The Buddha and the ancient sages emphasized this duty strongly. In the whole Chinese history and culture, there were highly developed philosophy and practices in this virtue as filial piety. A man who does not have this virtue will never have progress and no future. Why must we support for one's parents? There are many good reasons for it.

Someone has this virtue can be called a humane person, and without it, a beastly person. If anyone has a common sense, this is not difficult to understand. Our beginning of life totally depends on parents. Our survivals in life are starting from our mothers’ wombs until to grow up can take our responsibilities. The most fundamental importance is the basic education which our parents, especially the mothers, taught and trained us when we were young. This basic education is on morality and virtues.

Nowadays, most people neglect and overlook its importance. Mothers are our first teachers, and our progress in the right and wholesome directions are in their hands. It is also true that our failure in the wrong and unwholesome direction is in their hands. Good emperors, leaders, sages, and great people came from the care of good, intelligent, and wise parents. We even can say filial obligations are the foundation of all goodness to arise. It represents gratitude, respect, love, sympathy, and concern for others.

There is a saying: “The hand swings the cradle conquers the world.” A woman has the most important role within the society, even those people in the society of today maybe not aware of it. In ancient time Chinese sages and wise people knew this point very clear and profoundly. Therefore they created and handed it down a lot of written records in texts and books from generation to generation.

She can teach and train her children to become a noble person, a sage and a great man for the society, and also can produce a wicked, evil, dangerous, and criminal for the society. A good, intelligent, and wise daughter is born to good parents. And then later in life will become a good wife and mother. Therefore a happy, peaceful, and harmonious society is a lot of dependence on women. Therefore it is not surprising that filial obligations or filial piety are the fundamental quality or virtue in Chinese culture, philosophy, education, and practice in Chinese history.

Supporting for one's parents is a noble action and must have to be done. With its obligation and action brings a lot of merit, satisfaction, and happiness. It is important to understand the gratitude of parents and should always remember it. To forget the duty and obligation is very bad indeed. We should not feel remorse or remember whatever bad things have been done before. We determine not to repeat it is enough. These things can appear near the time of death and bring more sufferings.

But for good things and on Dhamma, it is good to remember and reflect them very often, e.g., one’s own dāna and sīla, reflection on death, etc. There was a remarkable Jātaka story on a parent's love (Ja. 540, Sāma-Jātaka). This was the story of the Bodhisatta in one of his past lives as a hermit Suvaṇṇasāma. He and both of his parents were living in a forest as ascetics. His parents were blind, and he had to look after them. One day the king of Benares came for hunting in the forest and shot Suvaṇṇasāma with a poison arrow because he mistook him as a deer.

To save his life, both parents and the female deity who was also the mother of the Bodhisatta for seven past lives in the past, each one of them made the asseveration of Truth. Both parents said that they loved him more than their lives. The deity said that her love of Suvaṇṇasāma was more than anyone she had before. With the power of their truthful asseverations made the arrow poison disappeared.

Someone can ask this question; “Of the parent's love who love is stronger?” In Dhammapada, on the Chapter of Mind (Chapter 3 Cittavagga), the story of Soreyya gave a clear-cut answer (Dhp. 043). The love of a mother is more than the father. This story was strange and interesting. It expressed the power of the mind, and we should not neglect its functioning. Soreyya, the son of a rich man and some attendants went for a bath. On the way, he met the Ven. Māha-kaccāyana, who was adjusting his robes outside the city for alms-round.

He saw the golden complexion of the Thera and thought, “How I wish the Thera were my wife, or else the complexion of my wife was like him.” As the unwholesome thought aroused in him and his sex changed into a woman. She ran away and arrived at Texila and met a rich man. She married him, and two sons were born to her. Also, there were two sons from the previous marriage as a man. Later she had the chance to meet and offer foods to the Ven. Mahā-kaccāyana.

She respectfully asked forgiveness to the Thera for her wrong thought on him some years before. Then the Thera said to her: “I forgive you.” As soon as these words were spoken, she changed back to a man as before. With reflection, he was feeling very weary and repulsive of all these things and left the household life and became a monk. After that, he was often asked; “Whom do you love more, the two sons you had as a father or the other two you had as a mother?” To them, he would answer that his love for those born of the womb was greater.

The important lesson we gain from here is we cannot think about things foolishly out of control. We should not neglect the mind and become its slaves and have to control and train it for one's benefit and others. Any sexual fantasy and misconducts, including homosexuality, could bring problems, dangers, and sufferings.

The Buddha compared parents with the deity of the Brahman because they treated their children with love, sympathy, and appreciative joy and for success. We could appreciate the mother's love, if think about carefully her periods of pregnancy (9 months) and during the delivery (It must be very painful indeed, even sometimes have to risk their lives). After the delivery, she had to look after you carefully in all possible ways.

She had to feed you with her breast milk until we could take foods by ourselves. Therefore a mother's love is enriching with courage, patience, unselfishness, care, noble, and has the healing power. When I am contemplating these things, it makes me cry. Mothers are very noble, and their love is touching to the heart. Where is breast milk coming from? It is changing from her blood.

Once a Chinese movie director kept his wife breast milk in a small bottle for some years. One day he took out and checked it. It changed back into the blood. There was a story, a cow was feeding her calf, and at that time a hunter came and hit her with a spear. Instead of harming her, the spear was bent at the tip. Unselfish love is very powerful, and it has healing power.

Parents are our first teachers, especially mothers. Our progress in life depends on their education and training to us. Good and moral people, great men and sages are the outcomes of proper education and training. It has to be started from family life. Therefore the proper duties of a mother are very important for the growth and progress of the good qualities of the child. Without a good and skillful mother, the child's future is hopeless. We cannot easily repay for the kindness and gratitude of our parents.

According to the Buddha, the best way to pay it back was helping them grow in conviction (saddhā), virtue (sīla), learning (suta), generosity (cāga) and discernment (paññā). It is very important to treat our parents very well, and cannot treat them like others, e.g., the anger you have on your parents is more harmful. Insulting the parents is like burning oneself with fire.

The Buddha mentioned seven kinds of fire in the Aggi Sutta – the Fire Discourse Aṅguttara Nikāya (AN.7.47 Dutiya-aggisuttaṃ). The fire of greed, hatred, and delusion have to be removed. The fire of parents, husband, and sages (samaṇa) have to be worshipped (showing respect and making supports). The last fire has to be taken care; that is fuel fire. A husband gives security to the family. Therefore he has to be respected.

If someone very badly treating his or her parents and will get the same outcome from his or her children. Both of them can’t get good children of their own. This we can see in the life of King Ajātasattu. He killed his father King Bimbisāra for power. Later in life, he was also killed by his son. Again his son was killed by his grandson.

Three generations had been committed patricides. Nowadays if we observe our present societies, there are more and more cases of insulting, beating, and killing parents than before. We can see more and older homeless people on the streets. These and other things are the signs of decadence in human societies. Human beings are creating their hells on Earth. These are also predictions for their future to come.

revised on 2019-12-03; cited from (posted on 2019-09-27)

  • Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"

  • Content of Publications of Ven. Uttamo

According to the translator— Ven. Uttamo's words, this is strictly for free distribution only, as a gift of Dhamma—Dhamma Dāna. You may re-format, reprint, translate, and redistribute this work in any medium.