Ven. Aggacitta continues with the series of sermons on blessings as expounded in the Mangala Sutta. The next two blessings are:
caring for parents
supporting wife and children.
Ven. Aggacitta elaborated on only the first of the two, as the second blessing, expounded in the Sigalovada Sutta, is too long to be dealt here.
Parents, because they are endowed with metta, karuna, mudita and upekkha, are worthy of their children’s gratitude.
An expectant mother, motivated by metta, refrains from certain types of food and actions that she feels might harm her foetus. In caring for the newborn baby, the parents put up with inconveniences and disruptions in their lives because of karuna. When the child grows up, the parents feel a lot of mudita as they take pride in their child’s achievements. Then when the child grows into a successful adult with his own family and a promising career, the parents are free of worries and are filled with upekkha. The Buddha holds parents in high esteem because they are a child’s first teachers.
How then, can children repay their parents? Even if a child carries his mother and his father on both his shoulders for a hundred years, he still has not repaid his debt to his parents.
If children, who are knowledgeable in and practise the Dhamma can bring their parents who are not Buddhists into the Dhamma, then the children have repaid their debt. It is also the duty of children to provide for the needs of their parents in their old age.
Ven. Aggacitta recounts some instances, from the scriptures, of parents who really took good care of their children. Anathapindika was the foremost male supporter of the Sasana during the Buddha’s time. But he had a son who was not interested in going to the monastery or to listen to Dhamma talks. One day, Anathapindika promised his son a hundred kahapanas (ancient Indian coins) if he could go to the temple and keep 8 precepts for just one day. The son went to the temple and just hid himself in one corner. Then he came home and insisted on collecting his money even before having breakfast. The father next promised him a thousand kahapanas if he could listen to a discourse and memorise just one line of a verse from it. The son listened very carefully, attained the first stage of enlightenment, and did not want his promised reward.
Another story is that about the Buddha and his son, Rahula. After his enlightenment, the Buddha went back to his home where his former wife sent their son to the Buddha to ask for his inheritance. The Buddha decided to give him spiritual wealth, something that would last him beyond this lifetime. He asked Ven. Sariputta to give samanera ordination to Rahula.
Even animals are grateful to their parents. There is a story of a parrot, our Buddha-to-be in a past life, who regularly collected a padi stalk to bring back to its old parents as a way of repaying its debt to them. Even animals know filial piety, what more humans?