revised on 2020-09-08
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
The commentary interpreted a wife to anyone of the 20 kinds of wives. For majority of people, this is not the case. A man with many wives and women is indulgent in sexual pleasures which is low, ignoble and not leading to mental and physical well-being. The Buddha taught Siṅgāla as how a husband should attend upon his wife in the Siṅgālavada Sutta, which will be mentioned later. Another way of maintaining the relationship was mentioned in the Aṅguttara Nikāya, Book IV.
This was called the four ways of sustaining relationship (saṅgaha-vatthu) between people. These were: ① giving (Dāna), ② endearing speech (peyyavajja), ③ beneficient conduct (atthacariyā) and ④ impartiality (samānattatā). These four ways also can be called causes for popularity.
Humans have different natures and characteristics that we can use any of them for maintaining sustaining relationship with others. Some prefer gifts, so using dāna; some prefers endearing speech, so using pleasant speech; some prefers beneficial conduct, so giving suggestions and advice to them how to do things in the beneficial ways; some prefers impartiality which means treating them equally, i.e. doing things together.
The Buddha gave the analogy of sustaining relationship to be like a linchpin of a rolling chariot. He said parents would not be able to obtain esteem and respect from the children without these four factors. They were also praised and respected by the wise.
In Sakkasaṃyutta, there was a sutta mentioned about Sakka, lord of the devas and Mātali the charioteer, who worshipped the householders. They were at that time ready to go to the park grounds to see the beautiful scenery. Before he climbed up into the chariot Sakka raised his joined hands and worshipped the different quarters. Mātali was curious about it and asked Sakka whom he bowed and worshipped.
Sakka answered that he worshipped those endowed with Sīla, long trained in Samādhi, who had properly gone forth for the holy life to end dukkha. And then Sakka continued to say that he also worshipped the householders who made merits, lay Buddhists possessing of Sīla and who righteously supported a wife. After these words Mātali also did the same thing following Sakka.
According to this story, even deities are respecting and worshipping men who have merits, Sīla and assistance to one’s wife and children.
In Sigālovāda Sutta (DN.31 Sigālovada Suttantaɱ, Siṅgālasuttaṃ) – Advice to Sigāla, Dīgha Nikāya, the Buddha gave instructions to Sigāla, the house holder’s son, on the duties and obligations as a husband to wife and children.
Assistance to one's wife in five ways:
- By respecting her
- By his courtesy
- By being faithful to her
- By handing over authority to her
- By providing her with adornments
Assistance to one’s children in five ways:
- Restrain them from evil
- Direct them towards the goods
- Train them to a profession
- Arrange suitable marriages for them
- In due time hand over the inheritance to them.
The five duties and obligations of a wife:
- By doing her duties well
- By hospitality to attendants, etc.
- By her fidelity
- By looking after his earnings
- By skill and Industry in all her business dealings
The five duties and obligations of a child:
- Once I was supported by them now, I will be their support
- I will perform those duties they have to perform
- I will maintain the lineage and tradition of my family
- I will look after my inheritance
- I will give alms or generosity(cāga) on behalf of them(When the parents are dead)
This 12th blessing/protection of assistance to one's wife and children is a very interesting and important topic, and it has a lot to say and for contemplation. It is also wide and profound subject and depending on how someone views on it. People who want to penetrate about them should study, research, and contemplate all the teaching of ancient sages and the Buddha. Most people using or spending a lot of time and money to study and research for nourishing of greed, hatred, and delusion, which are the mind pollutants. Instead, they should work with the mind which is the closest to them than anyone else. It can bring them to happiness or destruction.
These cover from family life to society (i.e., the eleventh and twelfth blessings). Each family life is the smallest part of society. Therefore, it is like each part of the whole body. If any part of the body has a problem or becomes abnormal and you will surely suffer or die. If each family could handle their matters very well and will solve many problems which nowadays people encounter in societies.
Therefore, it is so very fundamental that good education within the family life can have strong effects and influences in society. We should not only take education as making for a living. Our experiences with all the six senses are educations. Therefore, no one can free from it. Education can be wholesome and unwholesome. Even science and technology, if we use it properly and rightly become right knowledge, and improperly and wrongly become wrong knowledge.
All other human knowledge also have to be counted, including religions. All wrong and harmful actions come from wrong views and thinking. The assistance to one's child is the duty and obligation of all parents. As the Buddha mentioned it five ways; the most important ones are three. These are: restrain them from evils; directing them towards good; and train them to a profession.
The one and two are fundamental education, which is morality and virtue, and without it, the child will never become good person and going in the right direction. Here I will present two stories in the Buddha's time. The first is the story of the son of Mahādhana in Jāravagga – Ageing; and the other, the story of Kāla, the son of Anāthapiṇḍika in Lokavagga – The World, both from Dhammapada. The first one without morality and virtue had negative results, and the other was the opposite.
The Story of the Son of Mahādhana:
The son of Mahādhana did not have any education while he was young. When he came of age married the daughter of a rich man, and she also had no education. Here both sides of the parents did not do their duties and obligations as parents, and among the five duties, only the fifth one was fulfilled. (In due time both sides handed over the inheritances to them), and without the other factors, it became useless and harmful.
Therefore, some wise parents, even they were rich, not leaving wealth behind for their children; but they only gave them good education; such as morality, virtue, professional works, etc., so that they could stand on their own feet in life. When the parents on both sides passed away, they inherited a lot of money and very rich. Both of them were ignorant and only spending the money by wasting it (just only for sensual pleasure). They just ate and drank had a good time by squandering their money. It was very sure that they squandering their wealth with bad companions. Ignorant and foolish people were easily cheated by others.
After they had spent all and later sold their fields and the house. Later they became very poor and helpless because they did not know how to make a living and became beggars and begging on the streets. Wealth and power are like very poisonous snakes for the fools, and it becomes a real treasure to the wise. The problems in society are there are more fools than the wise.
One day the Buddha saw him leaning against the wall of the monastery and eating the leftovers given by the novices; seeing him and the Buddha smiled. Ven. Ānanda asked the Buddha for the reason of his smiling. Then the Buddha answered to Ven. Ānanda;
“Ānanda, look at this son of a rich man; he had lived a useless life, aimless life of pleasure. If he had learned to look after his riches and in the first stage of his life would have been the top ranking rich man. If he had become a monk, could have been an arahant and his wife an anāgāmi (the non-returner). If he had learned to look after his riches in the second stage of his life, he would have been a second ranking rich man.
He could have been an anāgāmin; and his wife a sakadāgāmi (the once-returner), etc., if he had become a monk. However, he lost all the riches, and also all the chances of realization of the paths and fruits because he had done nothing all the three stages of his life.” In this story, we can see the importance of the four wheels mentioned in the Wheels Discourse already described at directing oneself rightly which related to the present life and its actions.
The Story of Kāla, Son of Anāthapiṇḍika:
Kāla, the son of Anāthapiṇḍika always kept himself away, whenever the Buddha and his company of monks came to their house. Anāthapiṇḍika was worried that if his son kept on behaving in this way would not get any benefit. So he used money as a bait to change his son. He promised to give him 100 coins if the son consented to go to the monastery and keep the sabbath for one day. So Kāla went there and returned home early the next day without listening to any Dhamma discourse.
Next time, Anāthapiṇḍika said to his son; “My son, if you learned a stanza of the Buddha's teaching, I will give you 1,000 coins on your return.” So, Kāla went to the Monastery again. This time he tried to learn something from the Buddha. The Buddha gave him a short stanza for learning by heart, and at the same time made him forgot it. Thus he had to repeat it so many times that in the end came to understand the full meaning of the Dhamma and then attained the Path and Fruit of a stream-winner (sotāpanna).
Early on the next morning, Kāla followed the Buddha and the saṅgha to his house. His father offered the rice gruel to the Buddha and the saṅgha. After that, the father brought 1000 coins and gave him, in front of the Buddha, but he refused to take it. Then the Buddha told Anāthapiṇḍika; “Dāyaka, your son had attained the Fruition State of a stream-winner which is much better and greater than the richest off of a universal Monarch, the status of celestial beings and Brahmā-gods.”
These two stories in the time of the Buddha gave us food for thought, on the parents’ duties and obligations to children. If they neglect it and the children will be like the son of Mahādhana and going downhill in their lives. It was a nuisance for the family and society. The two outcomes were like heaven and earth. For the parents to behave like Anāthapiṇḍika, they first should have the qualities of good and skillful parents. They must have the education and training from their parents, with experiences and learning (suta).
Therefore, fundamental education and training should begin at the family level. The ancient Chinese Sages understood it very clear and not much different from the Buddha. The systems and skillful means in the Chinese texts were more in details and rich experiences. At least it might have over 3,000 years of Chinese history. In the Sigālovāda Sutta, the first duty and obligation of a wife are doing her duties well. The wise of the past had a lot to say on these duties and obligations.
They had the clear-cut right views on these matters. One of the very important duties of a wife is as a mother. A very important duty of a mother is educating and training her children in the right and wholesome direction. Nowadays, a lot of mothers neglect this duty and obligation. Instead, their children are educating and training by many kinds of media; such as video games, TV, movies, internet, music, etc. There are a lot of unwholesome and unhealthy contents in them.
Only someone knows the Buddha's teachings, and the sages will know the harmfulness of these things. Why are there nowadays more youth problems in families, schools and societies than before? Because mental pollution are increasing like the other external pollution. External pollution are the reflections of the human mind. A skillful mother comes from a good wife. And a good wife comes from a good daughter. She is not selected by votes, but with the upbringing of educating and training in the right and wise direction. We should not forget that there are more fools than wise in the world.
Most people do not take ethics, morality, and virtues as very important and fundamental for human beings. Therefore, they think, speak, and act foolishly out of delusion (moha). These are the foundation of all goodness to arise. These good and wholesome qualities of the mind are not invented by sages and the Buddha. They discovered and penetrated it with wisdom. These are parts of nature, mind laws, and also affect the physical world. They have the universal characteristic, such as the law of kamma. They are also closely related. They also represent human standards and status. Human beings are the masters of their destiny.
Other types of living beings do not have this chance and opportunity. Therefore, the right and fundamental education are very important for everyone. Parents are the first teachers of children and more important than school teachers. So it has to begin early in family life.
We may classify education into four types from the teachings of ancient text of the Chinese sages.
- Education on family life and society: These are on human relationship within family, such as—between parents and children, husband and wife, among siblings. On human relationship in society, such as—between friends, senior and subordinate, etc. All these are based on the standards of ethics, morality and virtue, etc. We can also see these kinds of teaching in the Siṅgāla Sutta—Advice to Lay People, Dīgha Nikāya (DN 31 Sigālovada Suttantaɱ, Sīgālasuttaṃ, Siṅgālasuttaṃ); and there are similarities between them.
- Education on the law of kamma: This is the province of Buddhism. The subject on the law of kamma is profound, deep, related to all living beings and fathomless, except for a Buddha. It is one of the inconceivable phenomena and the province of a Buddha. Therefore, except a Buddha, no one can fully penetrate it. Even we can say that it is the perfect knowledge of a Buddha. If he was only giving the teaching on the law of kamma and no other teaching, still no one equals or greater than him. This law of kamma governs all kinds of living beings.
Why most living beings during their wandering in the round of existence encountered many different kinds of sufferings? The main answer is they do not know the law of kamma and never heard about it. Even the majority of Buddhists, they know about it superficially, not profound and clear enough. Therefore, they cannot use it well enough in their daily life. Even though most Buddhists encounter the teaching and not receive many benefits which should be.
- Worldly educations: Many kinds and types of education of the world; schools, universities, professions for a living and ordinary knowledge, etc.
- Religious education: It relates to all the major religions and does not include the cults. With careful and wise contemplation; whatever people religions or faiths and the cultural background may be the education on law of kamma should be in the first place. Because it is the universal law and all living beings are under these laws. All beings cannot escape time and space; it is the same as with the law of kamma; all human actions; wholesome, unwholesome, and mixed are under this universal law.
After studying and contemplating on laws of kamma, its working principles will have clear knowledge on it. And then study, contemplate and practice ethics, morality, and virtue become more effective. If a human being can study, contemplate, and practice these two educations (law of kamma and ethics) in their daily life, the human world will be like heaven on Earth.
In the Sigālovāda Sutta, on the duties and obligations of a husband to a wife; the third one is by being faithful to her. In the same way, a wife to a husband is by her fidelity. Faithfulness and fidelity between husband and wife are very important for the family and also to society. Some of the problems in family and society are connecting with infidelity between husband and wife. It will create unhappy marriages and harmful to family members, especially children.
Then this affects society. A lot of youth problems are connecting to broken marriages. Because it affects the mind of children and they cannot have proper education and training. Why nowadays more youth problems and crimes than before? According to some researches, if there are more and more broken marriages, create more and more youth problems and crimes. Most people only take adultery as sexual misconduct, but there are also other sexual misconduct harmful to oneself, and then to society. Even these sexual misconduct are like entertainment in some media.
One of the most important things woman folks should contemplate is the problem of abortion in the world today. Nowadays most people think it very lightly. This is one of the serious misconduct by some mothers-to-be and mothers. This is the act of murdering one’s own offspring. Even though not serious than matricide, this action make human beings inferior than animal. Some animals even give up their lives for protecting their offspring.
There was a true story happened in China long time ago. I am sure there were also many real stories about female animals protecting their offspring around the world. A Chinese scholar invited some of his friends for lunch. His favorite dish was the eel meat. He put some eels which were alive into the boiling pot. And then a strange thing happened in front of them. One of the plumb eels curved its part of the long body above the boiling water.
The scholar was very curious about this phenomenon, so he took out the eel and cut it, opened the curved body. What they found out was many small eels (offspring) were inside. This is the noble motherly love and compassion. It is the natural instinct for all mothers. From that day onwards, this man became a vegetarian. For a mother it is too cruel for killing her own child who is very innocent. Whatever reason terminates the embryo is just one’s own fault and the outcome of indulgence in sexual pleasures and sexual misconduct. Murdering one’s own baby is not the right way to solve social problem, but to restraint in sexual misbehavior.
We should not forget the natural law of action ⇌ reaction. In future life to come your offspring will be your real enemies and the same thing will happen to you. Nowadays, they even are making law allowing to murder one’s own child in many countries. This is the most stupid and foolish thing human beings can do it. It seems human beings are in competition for killing animals (i.e., for foods, games, etc.) and murdering one’s child. Competitions are American syndrome (taṇhā) which leads to sufferings.
How many animals are killed every day around the world for foods alone. In the same way, how many babies are murdered by their mothers around the world everyday. The Buddha said human births were rare if compared with other births (the four woeful planes of existence). Therefore, mothers to-be and mothers should develop love instead of lust. Husbands should also in the same way develop love towards their wives and not with lust. Then human world will become a Heaven.
revised on 2020-09-08; cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36849#p36849 (posted on 2019-10-09)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
- Content of Publications of Ven. Uttamo
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