Sense of Insecurity :In the past, there was no such thing as a legal registration of marriages. A man and woman mutually decided to accept each other as husband and wife and thereafter they lived together. Their marriage was carried out in the presence of the community, and separation was rare. The most Important thing was that they developed real love and respected their mutual responsibilities.
A legal registration of marriage is important today to ensure security and to safeguard property and children. Due to the sense of insecurity, a couple performs legal marriages to ensure that they are legally bound not to neglect their duties and not to ill-treat each other. Today, some couples even draw up a legal contract on what would happen to their property if they are divorced!
Husband and wife :According to Buddhist teaching, in a marriage, the husband can expect the following qualities from his wife:
— family obligations
— the provision of meals
— to calm him down when he is upset
— sweetness in everything
In return, the wife's expectation from husband is:
— good companionship
— moral support
Apart from these emotional and sensual aspects, the couple will have to take care of day-to-day living conditions, family budget and social obligations. Thus, mutual consultations between the husband and wife on all family problems would help to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in resolving whatever issues that may arise.
The Past:In the past, since the social structure of most communities was different from that we find today, a husband and wife were interdependent on each other. There was mutual understanding, and the relationship was stable because each knew exactly what his or her role was in the partnership. The "love" that some husbands and wives try to show others by embracing each other in public does not necessarily indicate true love or understanding. In the past, although married couples did not express their love or inner feeling publicly, they had a deep even unspoken understanding and mutual respect for each other.
The ancient customs which people had in certain countries that the wife must sacrifice her life after her husband's death and also the custom which prevents a widow from remarrying is foreign to Buddhism. Buddhism does not regard a wife as being inferior to a husband.
Modern Society :Some women feel that for them to concentrate on the upbringing of the family is degrading and conservative. It is true that in the past women had been treated very badly, but this was due more to the ignorance on the part of men than the inherent weakness in the concept of depending on women to bring up children.
Women have been struggling for ages to gain equality with men in the field of education, the professions, politics and other avenues. They are now at par with men to a great extent. The male generally tends to be aggressive by nature and the female more emotional. In the domestic scene, particularly in the East, the male is more dominant as head of the family whilst the female tends to remain as passive partner. Please remember, "passive" here does not mean "weak." Rather it is a positive quality of "softness" and "gentleness." If man and woman maintain their masculine and feminine qualities inherited from nature and recognize their respective strengths, then, that attitude can contribute towards a congenial mutual understanding between the sexes.
"I believe in the proper education of woman. But I do believe that woman will not make her contribution to the world by mimicking or running a race with man. She can run the race, but she will not rise to the great heights she is capable of by mimicking man. She has to be the complement of man."
Parental Responsibilities :The basis of all human society is the intricate relationship between parent and child. A mother's duty is to love, care and protect the child, even at extreme cost. This is the self-sacrificing love that the Buddha taught. It is practical, caring and generous and it is selfless. Buddhists are taught that parents should care for the child as the earth cares for all the plants and creatures.
Parents are responsible for the well-being and up-bringing of their children. If the child grows up to be a strong, healthy and useful citizen, it is the result of parents' efforts. If the child grows up to be a delinquent, parents must bear the responsibility. One must not blame others or society if children go astray. It is the duty of parent to guide children on the proper path.
A child, at its most impressionable age, needs the tender love, care and attention of parents. Without parental love and guidance, a child will be handicapped and will find the world a bewildering place to live in. However, showering parental love, care and attention does not mean pandering to all the demands of the child, reasonable or otherwise. Too much pampering would spoil the child. The mother, in bestowing her love and care, should also be strict and firm in handling the tantrums of a child. Being strict and firm does not mean being harsh to the child. Show your love, but temper it with a disciplined hand — the child will understand.
Unfortunately, amongst present-day parents, parental love is sadly lacking. The mad rush for material advancement, the liberation movements and the aspiration for equality have resulted in many mothers joining their husbands, spending their working hours in offices and shops, rather than remaining at home tending to their off-spring. The children, left to the care of relations or paid servants, are bewildered on being denied tender motherly love and care. The mother, feeling guilty about her lack of attention, tries to placate the child by giving in to all sorts of demands from the child. Such an action spoils the child. Providing the child with all sorts of modern toys such as tanks, machine guns, pistols, swords and such like equipment as an appeasement is not psychologically good.
Loading a child with such toys is no substitute for a mother's tender love and affections. Devoid of parental affection and guidance, it will not be surprising if the child subsequently grows up to be a delinquent. Then, who is to be blamed for bringing up a wayward child? The parents of course! The working mother, especially after a hard day's work in an office to be followed by household chores, can hardly find time for the child that is yearning for her care and attention.
Parents who have no time for their children should not complain when these same children have no time for them when they are old. Parents who claim that they spend a lot of money on their children but are too busy should not complain when their "busy" children in turn leave them in expensive Homes for the Aged!
Most women work today so that the family can enjoy more material benefits. They should seriously consider Gandhi's advice for men to seek freedom from greed rather than freedom from need. Of course, given today's economic set-up we cannot deny that some mothers are forced to work. In such a case, the father and mother must make extra sacrifices of their time to compensate for what their children miss when they are away. If both parents spend their non-working hours at home with their children, there will be greater understanding between parents and children.
In his discourses, the Buddha has listed certain primary duties and functions as essential guidelines for parents to observe. One of the primary guidelines is, by precept, practice and action, to lead the children away from things that are evil and through gentle persuasion, to guide them to do all that is good for the family, for society and for the country. In this connection, parents would have to exercise great care in dealing with their children. It is not what the parents profess but what they really are and do, that the child absorbs unconsciously and lovingly. The child's entry to the world is molded by emulating parental behavior. It follows that good begets good and evil begets evil. Parents who spend much time with their children will subtly transmit their characteristics to their offspring.
The Religion of Compassion :Buddhism is the religion of compassion, and the parents should never forget to present it to the children as such. The Buddha taught the Dhamma out of compassion for the world. Parents should practice the "Four Sublime States of Mind" taught by the Buddha in raising their children. They are:
Metta — loving kindness or goodwill
Karuna — compassion
Mudita — sympathetic joy
Upekkha — equanimity or "even-mindedness"
These four states, well practiced will help parents remain calm throughout the difficult period of child-rearing.
This is the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings. These four attitudes of mind provide the framework for all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peacemakers in social conflict, the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle for existence; levelers of social barriers, builders of harmonious communities, awakeners of slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revivers of joy and hope long abandoned, promoters of human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.
Perhaps the greatest challenge that a married couple has to face is the proper upbringing of a child. This is another aspect which distinguishes us from animals. While an animal does care for its offspring with great devotion, a human parent has a greater responsibility, which is the nurturing of the mind. The Buddha has said that the greatest challenge a man faces is to tame the mind. Ever since a child is born, from infancy through adolescence to maturity, a parent is primarily responsible for the development of a child's mind. Whether a person becomes a useful citizen or not depends mainly on the extent to which its mind has been developed. In Buddhism, a good parent can practice four great virtues to sustain him or her and to overcome the great frustrations which are so closely related with parenthood.
When a child is yet a toddler, unable to express its needs, it is quite prone to indulge in tantrums and crying. A parent who practices the first virtue of loving kindness can maintain peace within herself or himself to continue to love the child while it is being so difficult. A child who enjoys the effects of this loving kindness will himself learn to radiate it spontaneously.
As the child becomes more mature as an adolescent, parents should practice karuna or Compassion towards him. Adolescence is a very difficult time for children. They are coming to terms with adulthood and therefore are rebellious, with a great deal of their anger and frustrations directed at their parents. With the practice of Compassion, parents will understand that this rebelliousness is a natural part of growing up and that children do not mean to hurt their parents willfully. A child who has enjoyed loving kindness and compassion will himself become a better person. Having not had hate directed at him, he will only radiate love and compassion towards others.
Just before he becomes an adult, a child will probably meet with some success in examinations and other activities outside the home. This is the time for parents to practice sympathetic joy. Too many parents in modern society use their children to compete with their associates. They want their children to do well for selfish reasons; it is all because they want others to think well of them. By practicing sympathetic joy, a parent will rejoice in the success and happiness of his or her child with no ulterior motive. He is happy simply because his child is happy! A child who has been exposed to the effects of sympathetic joy will himself become a person who does not envy others and who is not overly competitive. Such a person will have no room in his heart for selfishness, greed or hatred.
When a child has reached adulthood and has a career and family of his own, his parents should practice the last great virtue of equanimity (upekkha). This is one of the most difficult things for Asian parents to practice. It is hard for them to allow their children to become independent in their own right. When parents practice equanimity, they will not interfere with the affairs of their children and not be selfish in demanding more time and attention than the children can give. Young adults in the modern society have many problems. An understanding parent of a young couple should not impose extra burdens by making unnecessary demands on them. Most importantly, elderly parents should try not to make their married children feel guilty by making them feel that they have neglected their filial obligations. If parents practice equanimity they will remain serene in their old age and thereby earn the respect of the younger generation.
When parents practice these four virtues towards their children, the children will respond favorably and a pleasant atmosphere will prevail at home. A home where there is loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity will be a happy home. Children who grow up under such an environment will grow up to be understanding, compassionate, willing workers and considerate employers. This is the greatest legacy any parent can give to his child.
Parents in Modern Society:
One of the saddest things about modern society is the lack of parental love which children in highly industrialized countries suffer from. When a couple gets married, they usually plan to have a number of children. And once the child is born, parents are morally obliged to care for him to the best of their ability. Parents are responsible to see that a child is not only satisfied materially; the spiritual and psychological aspects are very important too.
The provision of material comfort is of secondary importance when compared to the provision of parental love and attention. We know of many parents from the not-so-well-to-do families who have brought up their children well and with plenty of love. On the other hand, many rich families have provided every material comfort for their children but have deprived them of parental love. Such children will just grow up devoid of any psychological and moral development.
A mother should consider carefully whether she should continue to be a working mother of a housewife giving all the affection and care for the well-being of her child. (Strangely, some modern mothers are also being trained to handle guns and other deadly equipments when they should be cuddling their children and training them to be good and law-abiding citizens.)
The modern trend and attitude of working mothers towards their children also tends to erode the time-honored filial piety which children are expected to shower on their parents. The replacement of breast-feeding by bottle feeding could also be another factor which has contributed to the erosion of the affection between mother and child. When mothers breast-feed and cuddle babies in their arms, the tender affection between mother and child is much greater and the influence the mother had on the child for its well-being, is much more pronounced. Under such circumstances, filial piety, family cohesion and obedience are invariably present. These traditional traits are for the good and well-being of the child. It is up to the parents, especially the mother, to provide them. The mother is responsible for the child's being good or wayward. Mothers can reduce delinquency!
Many parents try to keep their married children under their control. They do not give due freedom to them and tend to interfere with a young married couple's life. When parents try to control their married son or married daughter and want them to follow their way of life strictly, this will create a lot of misunderstanding between the two generations as well as unhappiness between the couple. Parents may be doing it in good faith due to love and attachment towards the children, but in so doing, they are inviting more problems to themselves and to the children.
Parents must allow their children to shoulder the responsibilities of their own lives and families. For example: if some seeds are dropped under a tree, plants might grow after sometime. But if you want those plants to grow healthy and independent you must transplant them to open ground somewhere else to grow separately, so that they are not hampered by the shade of the parent tree.
Parents should not neglect the ancient wisdom based on advice given by religious teachers, wise people and elders who have developed a knowledge of the world through their own trial and errors.
Divorce is a controversial issue among the followers of different religions. Some people believe that marriage is already recorded in heaven, thus it is not right to grant a divorce. But, if a husband and wife really cannot live together, instead of leading a miserable life and harboring more jealousy, anger and hatred, they should have the liberty to separate and live peacefully.
Responsibility Towards the Children:
However, the separation of the couple must be done in an atmosphere of understanding by adopting reasonable solutions and not by creating more hatred. If a couple has children, they should try to make the divorce less traumatic for the children and help them to adjust to the new situation. And it is most important to ensure that their future and welfare will be taken. care of. It is an inhuman attitude if the couple desert their children and allow them to lead a miserable life.
The Buddhist View:
In Buddhism, there is no law stating that a husband and wife should not be separated if they cannot live together harmoniously. But, if people follow the advice given by the Buddha to fulfill their duties towards each other, then, such unfortunate occurrences like divorce or separation will never happen in the first place.
In the past, where religious values were highly respected, there were greater efforts on the part of married couples — in the east as well as in west — to reach an amicable understanding to develop happy relationships based on respect, love, and regard for one another. Couples developed and made their marriages an important feature which they cherished in their hearts. Divorce cases were very rare, and were considered a disgrace because they indicated the selfishness of one party or the other.
It is a fact that until recently divorce cases were still rather rare in Buddhist countries. This is mainly because couples considered their duties and obligations towards each other, and also basically divorce is not approved by the community as a whole. In many cases, when married couples were in trouble, the community elders usually rallied round and played an important role to improve the situation.
Unfortunately, in the modern society of today, divorce has become such a common practice. In certain countries it has even become fashionable. Instead of regarding divorce as shameful or a failure to order their lives, some young couples seem to be proud of it. The main cause of the failure in marriage in modern society is the abuse of freedom and too much independence and individualism on the part of the partners. There must be a limit to their independent lives, or else both husband and wife will go astray very easily.
By Ven K Sri Dhammananda ( A Happy Married Life )