Ven Aggacitta answers the question related to whether or not children can gain benefits through their parents’ good deeds.
Question 2: The elders believe that meritorious deeds of parents can benefit children. We reap what we sow, but can we reap what our parents have sown?
Answer: Our Buddhist scriptures say, “Do good deeds and you reap rewards. Do evil deeds and you reap misfortune.” So, from the Buddhist perspective, each one is responsible for one’s own actions. Possibly the belief that meritorious deeds of parents can benefit children originated from China where people believe in feng shui, especially where burials are concerned. They believe that if the grave is not sited according to good feng shui practice, then the fortunes of the younger generation will be affected.
Q: There is an example of a group of devotees who have given strong support by providing service during meditation retreats. By doing so they give others the opportunity to develop wisdom. It is believed that consequently the children of these devotees have done well in their studies and have tertiary education. Can Bhante explain this?
A: These seem to be only very vague assertions. We would have to look at actual numbers to understand the truth of these assertions. Furthermore, these children could also have contributed their fair share of service by going along with their parents to help out. The role of parents is very important. They provide the impetus to the children to do good deeds. If the children also meditate, then this will bring them very good merits.
The Buddha said that we create our own kamma. Parents provide the initial prod by taking children to the temple, to volunteer service and so on. Still, it is the children’s own efforts that will bear fruits.
However, considering that merits can also be shared with the living and not only with the dead, the meritorious deeds of parents may also benefit their children in some ways that complement their children’s own efforts.