Dharma in Family LIfe | Thubten Chodron http://thubtenchodron.org The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Wed, 18 Jan 2017 00:20:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Các vấn đề trong cuộc sống http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/10/quan-dicua-phat-giao-ve-cac-moi-lien-he/ Sun, 25 Oct 2015 22:42:48 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=64144

Hỏi: Phật giáo quan niệm thế nào về tình yêu và hôn nhân?

Trả lời: Trong kinh Sigalovada, Đức Phật giảng về những phương cách mà hai nhân tố trong một cuộc hôn nhân cần quan tâm đến. Căn bản đó là sự tôn trọng lẫn nhau, sự quan tâm chân thành, kiên nhẫn, và trao đổi cởi mở là những yếu tố quan trọng trong các mối quan hệ dài lâu.

Để duy trì các mối quan hệ tình cảm lành mạnh, chúng ta cần nhiều thứ hơn là chỉ có tình yêu. Ta cần phải thương yêu đối tượng như là một con người và như một người bạn. Sự thu hút về giới tính mà tình yêu thường dựa vào là một yếu tố không đầy đủ để thiết lập một mối quan hệ dài lâu. Sự quan tâm sâu sắc và tình thương yêu cũng như trách nhiệm và lòng tin cũng cần phải được vung trồng.

Couple sitting together.

Hoạt động tình dục trước hôn nhân… cần có trách nhiệm để không gây hại cho mình và người. (ảnh chụp bởi Nam Nguyen)

Chúng ta không hoàn toàn hiểu hết bản thân, thì nói gì đến người khác. Đối với chúng ta, họ còn bí mật hơn nhiều. Do đó, đừng khư khư cho rằng bạn biết tất cả về đối tượng của mình vì hai người đã ở bên nhau quá lâu. Nếu bạn ý thức rằng đối tượng vẫn là một huyền bí đối với mình, bạn sẽ tiếp tục lưu tâm, để ý đến người đó. Sự quan tâm muốn tìm hiểu đối tưọng này là chìa khóa đưa đến một mối quan hệ vững bền.

Sự tin tưởng lẫn nhau cũng rất quan trọng, nên cần được xây đắp bởi cả hai đối tượng bằng cách quan tâm đến nhau và có bổn phận thực hiện những lời hứa của mình. Với sự thay đổi về trách nhiệm của nam nữ trong xã hội ngày nay, các cặp vợ chồng cần chia công việc chăm lo gia đình và nuôi dạy con cái một cách công bằng, với sự đồng ý của cả hai. Sau đó mỗi người phải làm tròn bổn phận của mình, nhờ đó phát triển thêm sự tin tưởng giữa hai người.

Lòng tin cũng được xây đắp bằng cách chân thật với nhau. Do đó, tốt nhất là tránh làm những việc mà chúng ta phải che giấu về chúng. Nếu có lầm lỗi, hãy xin lỗi. Mặt khác, chúng ta cũng nên tha thứ cho người đã biết lỗi, và hãy bỏ qua những tình cảm bị tổn thương hay ý muốn trả thù. Tha thứ cho ai đó không có nghĩa là chúng ta chấp nhận hành động của họ. Đúng hơn, chúng ta chỉ để cho lòng sân hận qua đi.

Sự thực hành tâm linh và việc khiến cho Pháp trở thành trung tâm của một mối quan hệ sẽ khiến cho vợ chồng trở nên gắn bó về nhiều mặt. Khi cả hai đều muốn vung trồng các đức hạnh nơi bản thân và giúp người phối ngẫu cũng làm như thế, thì mọi sinh hoạt hằng ngày của họ cũng trở nên tốt hơn. Hãy xem người bạn đời của mình như là một người có Phật tánh. Sau đó ngay cả khi bạn đời của mình không được tốt đẹp, bạn cũng sẽ nhìn người đó như tạm thời bị vô minh che lấp nhưng vẫn có những điều tốt và những khía cạnh tuyệt vời trong họ.

Một số người muốn có những mối liên hệ hôn nhân, một số không muốn. Sự lựa chọn nào cũng tốt. Các bậc cha mẹ áp lực con cái phải lập gia đình hay tạo dựng gia đình là điều không nên.

Hỏi: Phật giáo quan niệm thế nào về vấn đề ly dị? Làm sao chúng ta có thể sử dụng giáo lý của Đức Phật để đối mặt với những trạng thái tâm lý bất ổn nơi con cái và bản thân chúng ta khi ly dị xảy ra?

Đáp: Đối với Phật giáo, hôn nhân và ly dị là những vấn đề thế tục. Nếu người tại gia muốn lập gia đình, đó là sự lựa chọn của họ. Nếu họ muốn ly dị, đó cũng là lựa chọn của họ.

Tuy nhiên, để tránh ly dị, giải pháp tốt nhất là chuẩn bị thật tốt cho cuộc hôn nhân. Đôi khi các phim ảnh cho chúng ta thấy những hình ảnh không thực tế về những mối quan hệ lãng mạng, dễ dẫn người ta đến việc có những đòi hỏi hay mong đợi vô lý. Tốt hơn hết nên coi hôn nhân như là một sự hợp doanh chứ không phải là sự lãng mạng có thể trường tồn mãi mãi. Hãy bỏ thời gian để tìm hiểu về đối tưọng thật kỹ – quan sát người đó ở trong nhiều hoàn cảnh khác nhau và ở những thời điểm khác nhau – trước khi kết hôn và bắt đầu đời sống gia đình. Sự xung đột là tự nhiên thôi, vì thế hãy phát triển thói quen trao đổi, tạo sự truyền thông tốt và các kỹ thuật để giải quyết những khác biệt cùng nhau. Hãy xem người phối ngẫu của mình là quý báu và nuôi dưỡng những đức tính tốt ở nơi người đó.

Ly dị là điều đau khổ cho tất cả mọi người liên quan, và nó cần có thời gian để lắng đọng. Thông thường có người sẵn sàng làm lại cuộc đời, còn người kia thì không, vì thế sự kiên nhẫn và chịu đựng là rất cần thiết. Nếu hai vợ chồng có con cái, điều quan trọng là không nên nói xấu về người vợ/chồng trước đó của mình, vì điều đó ảnh hưởng xấu đến con cái. Có thể bạn không cần có sự liên hệ lâu dài với người đã chia tay, nhưng con cái của bạn cần có sự liên hệ cả đời với cả hai cha mẹ. Đừng đem con cái vào cuộc, khiến chúng phải đứng về phía người này để chống lại người kia. Thay vào đó hãy hợp tác với người phối ngẫu, người đã chia tay để tạo nên một không khí tốt cho con cái. Có Phật tử đã nói với tôi rằng việc giữ được năm giới dành cho người cư sĩ và chánh niệm để tránh mười điều ác đã giúp cô rất nhiều trong thời kỳ ly dị. Thay vì uống rượu để làm chai đi nỗi đau, cô đã đối mặt với hoàn cảnh. Thay vì lừa dối và nói quá về những gì người chồng trước của mình đã làm, cô thành thật và công bằng. Chánh niệm để tránh chỉ trích chồng cô với người khác, cô đã gìn giữ ngôn ngữ của mình. Cô thực sự hàm ân và dựa vào sự thực hành giáo lý để đối mặt với những thăng trầm trong giai đoạn ly dị.

Hỏi: Quan điểm của Phật giáo về đồng tính ở người nam và người nữ như thế nào? Điều gì được coi là những hành vi tính dục không khôn ngoan?

Đáp: Kinh điển Pali không nói gì về sự đồng tính như là những hành vi tính dục không khôn ngoan. Đối với người xuất gia, tất cả mọi hành động tính dục đều là nguồn gốc của sự thất bại. Kinh không nói rõ về giới tính của người nào. Va-xu-ban-du, một vị thầy đến sau Đức Phật vài thế kỷ, đã không tán đồng đồng tính. Với tư cách cá nhân, tôi nghĩ điều gì quan trọng nhất là động lực phía sau của việc chúng ta sử dụng tính dục của mình như thế nào. Nói cách khác, nếu người ta dùng tính dục một cách không khôn ngoan hay không tử tế, thì không quan trọng là điều đó xảy ra đối với người cùng giới hay khác giới.

Có vài người trong nhóm Phật giáo của chúng tôi ở Seattle là người đồng tính. Họ nói với tôi rằng họ biết họ đồng tính khi còn rất trẻ. Như thế, đó không phải là do họ đã huân tập. Đó chỉ là nghiệp của họ đã phát ra như thế nào mà thôi. Tôi cảm thấy rằng việc chỉ trích hay bài bác chống lại những người đồng tính là ngược lại với hành vi của tình thương yêu và từ bi mà Đức Phật rất muốn tất cả những người theo Ngài phải vung trồng.

Vấn đề này nói rộng hơn sẽ liên quan đến giới thứ ba, là giới liên quan đến những hành vi tính dục không khôn ngoan. Tôi không nghĩ rằng giới này quan tâm về những chi tiết như điều đó đã xảy ra ở đâu, khi nào, và với ai mà chúng ta có thể có những mối liên hệ tính dục. Giới này thực ra nghiêng về những hành vi và động lực cơ bản của ta, là chúng ta có sử dụng tính dục một cách khôn ngoan và tử tế hay không. Nếu tính dục bị sử dụng bừa bãi – thí dụ, người có thể truyền bệnh qua hoạt động tính dục, khi không có những biện pháp ngăn ngừa khi giao hợp với người – đó là sử dụng tính dục không khôn ngoan vì hành động như thế có thể làm hại người khác hay hại chính mình. Nếu người ta lợi dụng người tình vì những lợi ích của riêng họ, hay để thỏa lòng tự mãn, thì đó là việc sử dụng tính dục không khôn ngoan vì điều này có thể đưa đến kết quả là người kia sẽ cảm thấy bị xúc phạm hay bị sĩ nhục. Hoạt động tính dục với trẻ con thì rõ ràng là không khôn ngoan vì điều đó rất nguy hại cho đứa trẻ. Nếu là những người lớn có trách nhiệm, người ta phải suy nghĩ cẩn thận về những gì họ làm, và có thái độ tử tế đối với người tình của mình. Họ sẽ sử dụng tính dục một cách khôn ngoan, tử tế, dầu cho họ có là người đồng tính hay không.

Thật ra câu hỏi căn bản mà người ta cần phải tự hỏi là “Tôi sử dụng tính dục của mình như thế nào?” “Tôi có luôn luôn nhìn vào thân thể của người khác và phán đoán họ qua đó không?” “Tôi có thật sự nhìn vào trong tâm của đối tượng và chấp nhận họ như là một con người? Hay là tôi luôn luôn lột trần họ trong tâm mình vì tôi có rất nhiều năng lượng tính dục?” “Tôi có tôn trọng người tình của mình và đối xử với họ một cách khôn ngoan và tử tế không?”

Thí dụ, dầu cho một người là đồng tính hay không, thì việc có nhiều mối quan hệ tình cảm với nhiều người cùng lúc là không khôn ngoan vì điều đó đem lại tai hại cho bản thân và cho gia đình. Thông thường, người ta nghĩ rằng chừng nào mà không có ai biết về điều gì đó và sự vụng trộm được giữ bí mật, cẩn thận, thì không có gì xảy ra. Tôi không thể nói với bạn là đã có bao nhiêu người nói với tôi rằng họ biết cha/mẹ của họ đã ngoại tình khi họ còn nhỏ. Trẻ con rất khôn ngoan, chúng đã biết điều gì xảy ra nhưng chúng không thể nói ra lúc đó. Tuy vậy, chúng có thể cảm nhận không khí căng thẳng trong gia đình vì người cha/mẹ ngoại tình với người khác. Nhũng hành động như thế về phía cha mẹ là rất tai hại cho trẻ con. Trước sau gì sự thật cũng sẽ phơi bày. Rất khó để giữ những điều như thế trong bí mật được lâu.

Ngoài ra, nếu bạn có gia đình và bạn có ý định ngoại tình với ai đó ở ngoài, điều này chứng tỏ rằng bạn và người phối ngẫu của bạn cần phải phát triển sự truyền thông tốt hơn trong gia đình, trong hôn nhân. Quan hệ với người khác không thể chữa được những vấn đề trong hôn nhân của bạn.

Hỏi: Vợ chồng xây dựng và duy trì một mối quan hệ lành mạnh hay một cuộc hôn nhân lành mạnh như thế nào?

Đáp: Nếu bạn đánh giá cao cuộc sống gia đình, và muốn giữ mái ấm gia đình, bạn cần phải trao đổi các vấn đề với người phối ngẫu và chấp nhận rằng có những khó khăn trong cuộc sống hôn nhân. Nếu bạn cần tư vấn, hãy tìm người tư vấn, hoặc là một mình hay cùng với người phối ngẫu. Hãy cố gắng trong việc phát triển mối quan hệ với người bạn đã kết hôn.

Hai vợ chồng cần cố gắng để giữ cho mối quan hệ của mình được tốt đẹp. Bạn cần phải thực sự tạo ra và duy trì một mối quan hệ tốt, chứ không chỉ mong đợi rằng mọi thứ rồi sẽ suôn sẻ vì giờ bạn đã kết hôn. Bạn cần phải học cách diễn tả, trao đổi với người phối ngẫu về những vấn đề đôi khi bạn khó nói hay khó nhận ra, như là lỗi của mình hay những khiếm khuyết về cá tính. Bạn cũng cần học lắng nghe người bạn đời nói gì và thật sự cố gắng để nghe người đó với trái tim của bạn. Hãy cố gắng kiên nhẫn khi người bạn đời của bạn có những khó khăn thay vì phản ứng hay chống đối. Mối quan hệ giữa hai người tốt đẹp ngay dầu chỉ có một bên biết làm thế nào để giữ bình tĩnh, vững chãi và không phản ứng khi người khác hành động đầy cảm xúc. Nếu bạn phản ứng mà không suy nghĩ rõ ràng, sáng suốt khi người bạn đời của bạn làm điều gì đó, thì không có sự trao đổi xây dựng nhiều. Nếu người bạn đời của bạn đang khó chịu về việc gì đó, hãy nghĩ, “Ngay bây giờ, công việc của tôi là lắng nghe và giúp vợ/chồng của tôi trầm tĩnh lại”. Muốn thế, chúng ta không thể bảo người kia phải làm điều gì nhưng phải dành cho người đó không gian để diễn tả điều mà họ đang cảm xúc và trao đổi, chia sẻ về những cảm xúc này một cách hợp lý. Hãy tỏ ra ủng hộ người kia thay vì phản ứng lại với những gì người đó đang phải trải qua. Tương tự, khi bạn cảm nhận một một cảm xúc mạnh mẽ như là giận dữ, hãy biết rằng bạn đang giận và cố gắng để trầm tĩnh lại trước khi nói chuyện vói người kia. Khi bạn trầm tĩnh hơn và tâm bạn sáng suốt hơn hãy nói với người bạn đời những cảm xúc của mình và có một cuộc trao đổi xây dựng. Điều đó có nghĩa là nói cho người bạn đời biết bạn đang cảm giác như thế nào thay vì giận dữ và khư khư giữ lập trường của mình.

Ngoài ra cũng cần quán sát bản thân và nếu bạn thấy rằng bạn có những thói quen xấu, hãy nhận thức điều đó, và cố gắng để sửa đổi chúng. Hãy trao đổi với người phối ngẫu, vì người đó cũng là một người bạn cho nên người đó có thể ủng hộ những cố gắng sửa đổi của bạn để trở nên tốt hơn. Tóm lai, hãy cẩn thận đừng tái diễn những thói quen xấu hay tiêu cực mà bạn có thể đã chứng kiến trong mối quan hệ của cha mẹ bạn.

Hỏi: Phật giáo quan niệm như thế nào về tình dục trước hôn nhân?

Đáp: Đức Phật không nói rõ ràng về vấn đề này. Cơ chế xã hội về hôn nhân rất khác trong thời kỳ Đức Phật còn tại thế. Hôn nhân lúc đó thường được gia đình chọn lựa và vì mục đích nối dõi. Nam giới có nhiều vợ hay thiếp và điều này được chấp nhận vào thời đó. Ở Tây Tạng, một phụ nữ có thể kết hôn với các anh em trong cùng gia đình; việc này là để giữ đất đai trong gia đình. Những loại hôn nhân như thế không được chấp nhận đối với đạo đức văn hóa hiện thời của chúng ta.

Về những hoạt động tính dục trước hôn nhân, tôi nghĩ là nếu người ta có trách nhiệm và cẩn thận để không gây hại cho bản thân và người khác về sinh lý hay tâm lý thì tình dục trước hôn nhân có thể được chấp nhận. Tuy nhiên tôi tin rằng điều này chỉ nên xảy ra trong một mối quan hệ có sự tôn trọng và quan tâm lẫn nhau. Lợi dụng người khác để thỏa mãn dục vọng của mình hay để tăng thêm ngã mạn thì chắc chắn không phải là hành động của lòng tử tế! Những người có đời sống tình dục phóng túng có thể nghĩ rằng điều đó không quan trọng và không có những ảnh hưởng gì ghê gớm. Nhưng nếu nhìn sâu vào tâm họ về lâu về dài, họ sẽ thấy rằng việc đó có một ảnh hưởng không tốt. Tương tự, nếu mới chỉ gặp người nào đó mà sẵn sàng đi vào giường với người ta, thường tạo ra những lúng túng và đau khổ cho cả hai người. Ngoài ra người ta cần phải dùng biện pháp ngừa thai nếu họ không muốn có con cái.

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Self-centeredness and marriage http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/06/pride-relationships/ Sat, 13 Jun 2015 21:33:01 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=57517

As far as husbands go I’m not the best and I’m not the worst. I would probably grade myself a strong B+. Of course, this is my opinion and not my wife’s. I have never forgotten our anniversary. And my presents are usually carefully selected, like a piece of jewelry or a romantic dinner, instead of something useful like a high efficiency vacuum cleaner.

Man vacuuming a blue rug.

All of our rocky moments were the result of self-centered thought rearing its ugly head.

We have been married for almost 20 years and I would say most of those years have been filled with true joy and happiness. But, like all marriages there are rocky periods. Before meeting the Dharma it was all too easy to look back and blame my partner for those unfortunate times. Now, however, I can clearly see that all of our rocky moments were the result of self-centered thought rearing its ugly head. And I was to blame for many of those instances that landed me in the dog house. All of us guys know about the dog house. We often have no clue how we got there or how we can extricate ourselves. The old saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is certainly applicable. In Dharma terms the dog house could be considered a form of duhkha.

My self-centeredness in our marriage has manifested itself in various disguises. There have been the obvious periods of selfishness when my goals and desires took precedence over our goals and desires. I used to be an avid hiker. Initially I went out into the woods in order to relax and commune with nature, relieving the stress of my professional career. However, being a goal-oriented person, I couldn’t leave it at that. Soon I found a list of hikes that I just had to do and hiking turned into an obsession. I was totally self-focused, and anyone or anything that interfered with my goal became the enemy, including my loving and caring wife.

As with many of us guys, self-centeredness can manifest as pride and arrogance. I have a problem with asking for directions. I will drive around for hours, not knowing where I’m going, but refusing to ask for directions. It makes my wife crazy. I can’t explain it but stopping and asking for directions just is not in my repertoire. Thank goodness we now have smartphone apps such as Google Maps.

There are two other corollaries to self-centeredness known as Learned Helplessness and Oppositional Defiance. I have mastered these behaviors, raising them to a high art form. Whenever I don’t want to do something I make believe I don’t know how to do it. Or in some instances I will go ahead and do something which I have been advised not to do just to be defiant. You would have thought that I grew out of that after the terrible two’s.

Here’s a case in point. Several years ago I was on disability leave from work. My wife was still working full time. I felt sorry for her that she had to work and then come home and clean and cook while I was just sitting around resting. I thought that the least I could do would be to help with some of those chores. I offered to vacuum the house. I knew how to turn on the vacuum cleaner but that was about all I knew about vacuuming. I had never vacuumed before. My wife was thrilled that I had offered and felt that I was very kind and considerate. In other words, points to keep me out of the dog house. There was one stipulation, however. I was to stay out of the formal living room. We had a very expensive Karastan Oriental rug in the living room which only required occasional and careful vacuuming. I agreed. So one Monday morning after my wife left for work I got our vacuum cleaner out of the closet. By the way, it was a brand spanking new vacuum cleaner only used once before. I proceeded to vacuum the entire house except the formal living room. I was very proud of myself. As I was putting the vacuum cleaner away some evil force possessed me. A little voice said “You can do it. Go in that living room and vacuum that Oriental rug.” Was it pride, arrogance, or oppositional defiance?

Well, I marched right in there with the brand spanking new vacuum cleaner and proceeded to vacuum the Karastan rug. Oops! What happened? I got a little too close to the tassels on the edge and before I could get the machine turned off it had ripped out a small portion of the tassels and broke the drive belt. I was in big trouble! How would I tell my wife and how would I explain what possessed me to do the exact opposite of what she had instructed? I wasn’t a two-year-old any longer. Or was I? I was in deep doo-doo.

I quickly called the vacuum cleaner company and ordered a new belt. Luckily, the motor was still working fine. But what about the rug? If you didn’t look too closely, it didn’t look that bad. But my wife really loved that rug, and I couldn’t hide what I had done. So I bit the bullet and called her at work confessing my misdeed. Needless to say it didn’t go well. Straight to the dog house, with no get-out-of-jail cards.

To this day my wife tells people the story about her husband’s stupidity and oppositional defiance. My vacuuming privileges have been revoked for life. She has learned a valuable lesson about being attached to a material object. But I am very careful not to try and put a positive spin on it. After all I don’t want to add salt to the wound. From my standpoint I can now see that little voice was my self-centered thought not wanting to be told what I could or could not do.

So far we have not gotten the rug fixed. I’m sure it would be quite expensive to do that. I think in some way it has formed a strange Dharma bond between us. Her attachment and my pride are two things we can both work on to improve ourselves and our marriage.

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Encouraging ethical behavior http://thubtenchodron.org/2014/04/teaching-ethics-to-children/ Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:45:32 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=17100

  • When children cause harm they usually feel either guilt (remorse) or shame
  • Remorse focuses on the behavior, shame focuses on the person
  • Remorse is a more beneficial response and should be encouraged
  • Parents need to practice the behaviors they wish to see in their children

Encouraging ethical behavior (download)

YouTube Video

Yesterday we were talking about bringing up moral children–and also moral adults–and how to give feedback. And that when you want to encourage somebody to have good self-esteem and to think of themselves as an ethical person or a generous person or something like that then it’s good to say, “Oh, you are a helpful person,” or, “you are a generous person.” But also to point out the behavior that they did that was particularly generous or helpful so that they’ll know what you’re praising them for. But just doing the behavior without referencing it to them as a helpful person or a generous person doesn’t have nearly the effect that it does when you talk about who they are as a, you know, “You’re an intelligent person, you’re a generous person,” whatever it is. “You’re a resourceful person.”

Okay, so then the article continues. This is an article from the New York Times.

Praise in response to good behavior may be half the battle, but our responses to bad behavior have consequences, too. When children cause harm, they typically feel one of two moral emotions: shame or guilt.

Here I think instead of guilt it means remorse. Because, to me, guilt and shame are quite similar, and I think you have to have more than those two options. I don’t even know if shame is a moral emotion. There’s different kinds of shame, but here… Let me continue the kind of shame that they’re talking about.

Despite the common belief that these emotions are interchangeable, research reveals that they have very different causes and consequences. Shame is the feeling that I am a bad person [in other words, something’s wrong with ME], whereas remorse is the feeling that I have done a bad thing. [So quite different.] Shame is a negative judgment about the core self, which is devastating: Shame makes children feel small and worthless, and they respond either by lashing out at the target or escaping the situation altogether.

Shaming somebody (whether child or adult), telling them they’re a bad person, they’re useless, they’re (not) worthwhile, they’re stupid, they’re incorrigible…does not help the situation. Because you’re talking about who the person IS, and that makes the person feel like, “I’m beyond hope because something’s really wrong with me.” Which is not the case at all. Because as we know, nobody is beyond hope, everybody has the Buddha potential.

In contrast, guilt is a negative judgment about an action, which can be repaired by good behavior.

We all make mistakes. We can have remorse or regret for our mistakes, and then we make amends. When there’s something going on between two people, it does not matter who started it. I remember when I a kid, whenever I had a quarrel with my brother, “HE started it!” And that was my defense against getting blamed because, you know, parents think, well whoever started it is the one at fault. Not so. It does not matter who started it. It does not matter what the story is. It matters what your response is. That’s the important thing. Somebody can tear you to bits, that’s their problem. Our responsibility is how we respond. Do we respond by getting angry? Do we respond by throwing something at the person? Do we respond by shouting and screaming? That behavior is our responsibility. It doesn’t matter what the other person did to trigger it. We have to be responsible for our own behavior. And not say, “But they said this, they said that, they did this, they did that…” Because as soon as we do that we make ourselves into victims. That means I have no free will, that every way I act, everything I feel is dictated by other people. And so we dig ourselves into a pit and make ourselves into victims, and no wonder we’re unhappy. So what the other person did is not part of your thing. You have to be concerned with what YOU did. We’ve got to be responsible, don’t we? Otherwise it’s ridiculous.

So the action that we have remorse for can be repaired by good behavior. So we take responsibility for what we did, we apologize, we do something kind, we repair the relationship. It does not matter whether the other person apologizes to us or not. That is their business. Our business is if we clean up our side. Do I apologize for what I did? Am I forgiving people? That’s what’s our business. If they apologize or forgive, that’s their business. It’s the same way with our precepts. My precepts are my business. I look out and see if I’m keeping my precepts. I’m not looking out, “How’s everybody else doing?” And in the meantime, being totally ignorant of if I’m keeping my precepts or not. Of course, if somebody does something outrageous then we have to go and talk to them and bring it up. But our primary thing is mindfulness and introspective awareness of THIS one (oneself). Not always, “What’s everybody else doing, how are they doing? Ahhhh! Look what you did.” That’s not going to work.

When children [Or adults] feel [remorse], they tend to experience remorse and regret, empathize with the person they have harmed, and aim to make it right.

Okay, so you can see how the feeling of remorse is something that’s very healing because it allows us to own our actions, regret them, empathize with the other person, and then want to do something to repair the relationship. So when a relationship has been damaged it’s not up to the other person only to repair the relationship. We have to repair the relationship, too. For example, if somebody comes to us and they want to talk, but we turn our back, or we won’t talk to them, that is our responsibility. And if we feel, “Oh, my relationship with so and so isn’t very good,” maybe we have to look at our part in it, because they wanted to talk to us and we turned our back, and we weren’t very friendly. So again, it’s not, “You did this, and you’re not nice to me, and you don’t understand me, and you didn’t apologize, and you you you you…” Because that is just going to make us miserable. It’s like, “What is going on inside of me, am I being responsible for my actions and my behavior?” Because that’s the only thing that we can every change.

In one study … parents rated their toddlers’ tendencies to experience shame and [remorse] at home.

How do you rate your toddler’s tendency to experience shame or remorse?

The toddlers received a rag doll, and the leg fell off while they were playing with it alone. The shame-prone toddlers avoided the researcher and did not volunteer that they broke the doll.

Yeah? Because doing so would mean that I’m a bad person.

The [remorse]-prone toddlers were more likely to fix the doll, approach the researcher, and explain what happened.

Interesting, isn’t it? So the person who feels shame backs away from the incident, doesn’t engage, and they sit there feeling awful and full of shame. The person with remorse tries to rectify the situation. So we have to look and, and if we ever feel shame, remember that’s not a helpful attitude, it’s a wrong conception, and shift our mind into regret and remorse.

If we want our children to care about others, we need to teach them to feel remorse rather than shame when they misbehave. In a review of research on emotions and moral development, one psychologist suggests that shame emerges when parents express anger, withdraw their love, or try to assert their power through threats of punishment.

Sound familiar? That’s what happened in MY family.

Children may begin to believe that they are bad people. Fearing this effect, some parents fail to exercise discipline at all, which can hinder the development of strong moral standards.

So if you don’t discipline the child, and you don’t say, “That’s inappropriate,” then the kid has no standards and they can’t function in society.

The most effective response to bad behavior is to express disappointment. Parents raise caring children by expressing disappointment and explaining why the behavior was wrong, how it affected others, and how they can rectify the situation.

So it’s not, “You’re a bad person.” It’s, “I know you can do better. I’m disappointed. I know you can do better. This behavior–” Again, talking about the action, not the person. “This behavior is unacceptable.” And, “Here’s how you can rectify it.” Or, with the child you teach them how to rectify it. When you get with somebody who’s older you say, “What do you think are ways to rectify it. What are your ideas how to make up for what happened?”

This enables children to develop standards for judging their actions, feelings of empathy and responsibility for others,

And here “responsibility for others” means recognizing that my behavior affects other people. So it’s not the meditation on how their behavior affected ME. It’s the meditation on how MY behavior affected them.

And it enables the children also to develop a sense of moral identity, and all these are conducive to becoming a helpful person. The beauty of expressing disappointment is that it communicates disapproval of the bad behavior, coupled with high expectations and the potential for improvement: “You’re a good person, even if you did a bad thing, and I know you can do better.”

“You’re a capable person, even though you made a mistake in this area, I know that you can do better in the future.” Or, “I know that you have the ability to sort this out.”

As powerful as it is to criticize bad behavior and praise good character, raising a generous child involves more than waiting for opportunities to react to the actions of our children. As parents, you want to be proactive in communicating our values to your children. Yet many of us do this the wrong way. In a classic experiment, a psychologist gave 140 elementary- and middle-school-age children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep entirely for themselves or they could donate some to a child in poverty. They first watched a teacher figure play the game either selfishly or generously, and then preach to them the value of taking, giving or neither. The adult’s influence was significant: Actions spoke louder than words. When the adult behaved selfishly, children followed suit. The words didn’t make much difference — children gave fewer tokens after observing an adult’s selfish bevior, regardless of whether the adult verbally advocated selfishness or generosity. When the adult acted generously, students gave the same amount whether generosity was preached or not — they donated 85 percent more than the norm in both cases.” [Interesting, isn’t it?] “When the adult preached selfishness, even after the adult acted generously, the students still gave 49 percent more than the norm. Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.

And so this goes for us also as Dharma practitioners. If we want people to learn, of course we teach, but they’re going to look at our behavior. And our behavior is going to speak much louder than all of our words.

Response to audience comments

Audience: Yesterday you talked about praising character to encourage ethical behavior, but doesn’t this prey on our tendency to set up identities?

Venerable Thubten Chodron: Yes, it does. So praising somebody’s character does prey on setting up identities. But the thing is, that for children they need a positive identity and adults actually need a positive identity, too. And then you can begin to see through and see how that identity is just conceptually constructed. But people need to have that… It involves grasping at the self. But it’s a helpful way to encourage the person. It’s like, acting virtuously still involves a view of the personal identity, but it sure beats the non-virtuous way. It’s the same here.

Purifying shame with the four opponent powers

The power of a practice like Vajrasattva to overcome shame is by seeing that shame was the response of a child and children don’t know how to think properly. And so to see, okay, I don’t need to stay stuck in that. The action was not appropriate but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. And we purify and then let it go.

Giving praise in the classroom

What you’re saying is as a teacher when you have a whole group of children it’s very good to point out the positive behavior rather than emphasizing the character of one child in front of the other children, but to teach all the children by just speaking of the behavior, whether it’s a good behavior or a bad behavior. And then in the case of good behaviors, maybe saying afterwards to the child, when there aren’t so many people around, “Oh, you were a very kind person to do that.”

Expressing difficulty skillfully

Okay so a comment here that saying, “I’m disappointed in you, again is referring to the character and it could be a subtler form of shaming. Rather than, “I was disappointed that you did that action.” Or, “I was disappointed that the kitchen wasn’t cleaned.” That’s a good way. “I was disappointed that the homework wasn’t done.” Something like that.

Audience: I read a study that was conducted on pre-teens, and they found that when their parents told them to rectify behavior that wasn’t skillful, the pre-teens were often harder on themselves than their parents were.

VTC: People do tend to be much harder on themselves than other people are on them.

Setting high expectations wisely

Another thing is, expressing high expectations of some kids make the kids totally neurotic. Because, “How am I ever going to live up to that.” So I think what it means instead is expressing, “I know that you’re a capable person.” Not that, “I expect you to always behave this way.” But, “I know you’re a capable person,” or, “I know you’re a resourceful person.” Or, “I know that you’re a patient person.” Or something like that. Because we tend to think of expectation with reward. And I don’t think that’s how they were meaning it here. It’s not, “Okay, you gave your brother or sister the ball, now you get an extra dessert.” It’s not like that. Instead of parents setting high expectations like, “You’re GOING to do this.” It’s, “I aspire for you to do this, I know you have the potential.” Something that’s going to encourage the child without making the child feel like if they don’t do it then they’re a disaster.

But what’s very interesting is, in the thick of a moment what do we do? We usually repeat what we’ve heard our parents say. And I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they made a vow before they had kids that they would not speak to their kids the way they were spoken to, and then they say, “I am in the middle of dealing with my 3-year-old, and out of my mouth comes the same words that were said to me that shamed me or made me feel horrible” or whatever it is. So it’s like, to really slow things down sometimes, and not feel like we have to respond exactly immediately. Take, sometimes, even just one second. It’s not even that we have to go away for two days… But some days… You know, in the middle of a heated situation to just pause for a minute and then, okay, how am I going to talk to this person.

So when the parent, or whoever it is, the teacher, says, “I’m angry,” or, “I’m upset, I need a time out to calm down.” That it gives the child a chance to reflect on their own behavior, and sometimes the child will come to the parent and then say, “I didn’t do that in a good way. I could have done that better.” Or whatever it was.

But it’s interesting how in the heat of a moment we feel like, “I’ve got to respond immediately otherwise the world is going to fall apart!” Like, “Somebody said this and that so I have to, right this very moment, stop it.” Then we get really uncontrolled, don’t we?

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Raising a moral child http://thubtenchodron.org/2014/04/encouraging-morality-in-children/ Fri, 18 Apr 2014 00:54:15 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=17092

  • Parents are more interested in their children becoming compassionate and helpful than becoming high achievers
  • How parents respond to good behavior in their children is important
  • Separating the person from the behavior

Raising a moral child (download)

YouTube Video

We have another article from the New York Times. A different author. It was called “Raising a Moral Child.” Which I think is quite interesting. Not only for children, but I think for adults, how do you encourage people to be ethical? So again, I’ll read you a little bit and comment on it. So this person says:

What does it take to be a good parent? We know some of the tricks for teaching kids to become high achievers. For example, research suggests that when parents praise effort rather than ability, children develop a stronger work ethic and become more motivated.

Yet although some parents live vicariously through their children’s accomplishments, success is not the No. 1 priority for most parents. We’re much more concerned about our children becoming kind, compassionate and helpful. Surveys reveal that in the United States, parents from European, Asian, Hispanic and African ethnic groups all place far greater importance on caring than achievement. These patterns hold around the world: When people in 50 countries were asked to report their guiding principles in life, the value that mattered most was not achievement, but caring.

Despite the significance that it holds in our lives, teaching children to care about others is no simple task. One study found that parents who valued kindness and compassion frequently failed to raise children who shared those values.

Are some children simply good-natured–or not? For the past decade, I’ve been studying the surprising success of people who frequently help others without any strings attached.

That’s a worthwhile thing to study, I think.

Genetic twin studies suggest that anywhere from a quarter to more than half of our propensity to be giving and caring is inherited.

I’m not sure I buy that.

That leaves a lot of room for nurture, and the evidence on how parents raise kind and compassionate children flies in the face of what many of even the most well-intentioned parents do in praising good behavior, responding to bad behavior, and communicating their values.

By age 2, children experience some moral emotions–feelings triggered by right and wrong. To reinforce caring as the right behavior, research indicates, praise is more effective than rewards. Rewards run the risk of leading children to be kind only when a carrot is offered, whereas praise communicates that sharing is intrinsically worthwhile for its own sake.

So, I think that’s quite interesting. That if you always raise kids–or even adults, with the whole idea of conditioning–and you have your carrot out in front, some material something that people can get, that that runs the risk of people only being kind if they can get something. Whereas praise makes people feel good about themselves because of thinking, “I’m a good person.” And that’s the kind of child you want to raise. And in any setting. Even adults. Even here, too. You want people to be kind and caring not because Buddha said so, not because otherwise you have to do whatever, but because you feel like it’s an intrinsically good thing to do.

But what kind of praise should we give when our children show early signs of generosity?

So there are different kinds of praise.

Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child–that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.

So saying, “That was a helpful thing to do” talks about the action. Saying, “You’re a helpful person” talks about the child as a human being.

But is that the right approach? In a clever experiment, some researchers set out to investigate what happens when we commend generous behavior versus generous character. After 7- and 8-year-olds won marbles and donated some to poor children, the experimenter remarked, “Gee, you shared quite a bit.”

The researchers randomly assigned the children to receive different types of praise. For some of the children, they praised the action: “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” For others, they praised the character behind the action: “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person.”

Which one do you think worked better? How many people think the first one? The second one? About half and half.

A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities.

Okay, here I want to pause. Because I can see that, that praising, they internalize it as part of their identities, but I think it’s also important with children, and with adults, that you also state what the action was that they did. Because otherwise so many things transpire, they’re not really sure what it was they did that you’re approving of. So I think it’s very important to say, (for example), “When you cleaned up your room, that was a very nice thing to do and you’re a very considerate person because you know that it makes everybody in the house happy.” Something like that. So I think it’s good if you put in both of them. So you make sure that the person knows that what they did was something that you recognize as valuable. Otherwise, especially with little kids, it’s like, “What did I do?” I think, on the contrary, when you’re trying to discipline kids, that’s when you should really emphasize the action and not the character. And say, “That action was harmful, that action hurt somebody’s feelings.” But usually what parents do is they say, “You’re a bad person. You’re a bad boy. You’re a bad girl.” And that makes the kid feel very bad about themselves and makes them feel like they’re defective inside. When all you’re really trying to do is discourage the particular behavior. So it’s good to consider that. I think negative feedback, don’t talk about the person. Because anyway, we believe that everybody has Buddha nature. So telling somebody they’re a bad person or a good person is really inaccurate. There just talk about the deeds. And it seems like with praise that they’re saying the kids respond better when you talk about their character, but I actually think you have to talk about the behavior, too. So that they know what it was they did.

A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person. This dovetails with new research that finds that for moral behaviors, nouns work better than verbs. To get 3- to 6-year-olds to help with a task, rather than inviting them “to help,” it was more effective to encourage them to “be a helper.”

So instead of saying, “Please help me,” say, “Please be a helper.” Interesting

Cheating was cut in half when instead of, “Please don’t cheat,” participants were told, “Please don’t be a cheater.” When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.

So how does that apply to us? “Please don’t cheat” versus “please don’t be a cheater.” When you say something to somebody and they say, “I don’t think that’s true,” that sounds very different than saying, “You’re a liar.” Doesn’t it? Somebody says, “You’re a liar,” and that’s, you know… And what’s more affrontive? “You’re lying!” or “You’re a liar.” Which one would strike you. “You’re a liar.” Yeah? So that’s talking about our character. Rather than “you’re lying” is just the behavior. So it’s also showing when we give feedback, we talk about the action. If we have to give negative feedback. Talk about the action because it’s going to be much easier for the other person to understand what we’re saying than if we do something that brands their character.

And when you look at it. You know, when people are very angry at somebody else, do they talk about the actions or do they talk about somebody’s character? They talk about the character, don’t they? And they call people a name. “You’re a jerk. You’re an idiot. You’re this and that.” They call people nouns instead of saying, “You did this, and that action is disturbing to me.” So it’s interesting to look– Also, this can really help us, I think, when we get angry, is instead of just labeling the person as “that person is a liar, that person is a cheat, that person is blah blah blah…” To think of “that person did this behavior.” And I think if we look at the behavior then also the intensity of our anger isn’t so much. What do you think? Where as soon as we say “that person is so–” We sometimes use adjectives, too. “Oh, that person is just ridiculous.” So there is a case of adjectives. But it’s not, “That person is ridiculous, that person can’t be trusted, that person is blah blah blah…” That also is very different than saying “that person did this action.” Because even you’re not using a noun there, you’re using an adjective. You’re branding it as if the whole person were that, rather than discussing a particular action that they did.

So it’s something to look out for in ourselves when we get upset with something. Are we upset with the person or are we upset with the behavior? We usually get upset with the person. But it’s actually the behavior that we should be upset with, isn’t it? It’s not the person. The person has Buddha nature. In another situation the person can act totally differently and they’re our friend and we like them. So it’s always the behavior that’s objectionable. So this mind that, again, creates friend and enemy, which are nouns and categories, really hinders us from forgiving people and accepting apologies and so on. And instead we just give a label which could be a noun or it could be an adjective: can’t trust them, whatever it is. But whenever we do that it actually impedes us from connecting with that person and having an attitude of loving-kindness, or even acceptance or even forgiveness. It’s interesting, isn’t it? To see how we describe things in our mind. And how when we give certain labels we make it much more difficult for ourselves to forgive. And that actually can be very very dangerous because we have–in both our root and auxiliary bodhisattva vows–precepts about accepting others’ apologies. When somebody apologizes and we don’t accept their apology because ‘that person’s a jerk, can’t trust that person’–you know, we’ve described it that way to ourselves–we are breaking our bodhisattava vows by not accepting others’ apologies. So who does that hurt? Us. So very important if we find ourselves resistant to accepting others’ apologies that we really look at our own mind and how we’re describing things to ourselves. Because in fact we’re harming ourselves.

Okay, I’ll just do one more paragraph, then the rest tomorrow.

Praise appears to be particularly influential in the critical periods when children develop a stronger sense of identity. When some researchers praised the character of 5-year-olds, any benefits that may have emerged didn’t have a lasting impact: They may have been too young to internalize moral character as part of a stable sense of self. And by the time children turned 10, the differences between praising character and praising actions vanished: Both were effective. Tying generosity to character appears to matter most around age 8, when children may be starting to crystallize notions of identity.

But I think it plays a role even as adults. If somebody says to you: “You’re a really kind person.” Rather than: “Thank you for doing this or that.” You feel much better about yourself, don’t you? You’re able to develop a better sense of self-esteem that way. So it’s good to remember this when we’re giving people feedback.

[In response to audience] So from Romper Room: “Do be a do be and don’t be a don’t be.” And you remember kids of your generation saying that they decided to be a “do be” rather than a “don’t be.” I guess that’s also what you’re encouraged to do. You’re encouraged to just drive yourself crazy producing things or do be like do be a helper.

Continued in Encouraging ethical behavior

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Virtue board http://thubtenchodron.org/2013/11/teaching-children/ Thu, 21 Nov 2013 17:54:33 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=6176

Julia holding a big sunflower she brought as an offer to the Abbey.

It’s very rewarding to teach virtuous qualities to children in a way that they can understand and enjoy.

I’m watching seven children this summer and am trying to teach them different virtues. So I made a “virtue board” for the kids from an old cookie sheet that I painted with chalkboard paint. Every day I put up a new virtue that everyone is expected to work on. Today’s virtue was Empathy. Feeling as sentient beings feel … it’s the beginning lesson of inter-relatedness for these children.

Yesterday, one of my little friends was about to bury a ladybug. He’s 7 years old, and something about burying things is fun to him. I nearly had a heart attack knowing he was about to kill this lady bug. I took a deep breath and we had a wonderful conversation about not burying it, and about saving it instead. It never occurred to him that burying the ladybug might kill it, harm it, scare it. But when I asked him to imagine someone putting him in a hole and covering him with dirt, he completely changed his perspective.

It’s such delight when these kids get it. They’re so ripe for so many beautiful things! What a treasure this experience is for me. This inspiration comes from all of you among others. Again, inter-relatedness. Thank you!!!

This article is also available in Spanish: El pizarrón de la virtud

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El pizarrón de la virtud http://thubtenchodron.org/2013/08/ensenar-ninos/ Fri, 09 Aug 2013 09:44:02 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=9927

Julia holding a big sunflower she brought as an offer to the Abbey.

Es muy gratificante enseñar las cualidades virtuosas a los niños de una manera que ellos puedan entender y disfrutar.

Este verano estoy cuidando a siete niños y tratando de enseñarles diferentes virtudes. Así que, con una vieja charola para hornear hice un “pizarrón de la virtud” que pinté con gises para pizarrón. Todos los días escribo una nueva virtud en la que espero que todos trabajen. La virtud de hoy fue la empatía. Sentir como los seres sintientes sienten … es la lección inicial de interrelación de estos niños.

Ayer, uno de mis pequeños amigos estaba a punto de enterrar a una catarina. Tiene 7 años de edad y por alguna razón le parece divertido enterrar las cosas. Casi me da un ataque cardíaco cuando supe que estaba a punto de matar a esa catarina. Respiré profundamente y sostuve una maravillosa conversación con él para que en lugar de enterrarla mejor la ayudara y le salvará la vida. Nunca se le ocurrió que enterrar a la catarina podría matarla, dañarla y asustarla. Pero cuando le pedí que imaginara que alguien lo ponía en un agujero y lo cubría con tierra, cambió por completo su perspectiva.

Es un gran placer cuando estos chicos entienden. ¡Ellos están llenos de tantas cosas maravillosas! Esta experiencia ha sido un gran tesoro para mí. La inspiración viene de todos ustedes. Una vez más, interrelación.¡¡¡Gracias!!!

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Teaching children by example http://thubtenchodron.org/2011/06/model-behavior/ Sat, 18 Jun 2011 17:22:09 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=6169

Child holding an apple with an equal sign carved into it.

We teach our children loving-kindness, forgiveness, and patience not only by telling them, but by showing it in our own behavior. (Photo by Purple Sherbet Photography)

Dharma practice isn’t just coming to the temple; it’s not simply reading a Buddhist scripture or chanting the Buddha’s name. Practice is how we live our lives, how we live with our family, how we work together with our colleagues, how we relate to the other people in the country and on the planet. We need to bring the Buddha’s teachings on loving-kindness into our workplace, into our family, even into the grocery store and the gym. We do this not by handing out leaflets on a street corner, but by practicing and living the Dharma ourselves. When we do, automatically we will have a positive influence on the people around us. For example, you teach your children loving-kindness, forgiveness, and patience not only by telling them, but by showing it in your own behavior. If you tell your children one thing, but act in the opposite way, they are going to follow what we do, not what we say.

If we’re not careful, it is easy to teach our children to hate and never to forgive when others harm them. Look at the situation in the former Yugoslavia: it is a good example of how, both in the family and in the schools, adults taught children to hate. When those children grew up, they taught their children to hate. Generation after generation, this went on, and look what happened. There is so much suffering there; it’s very sad. Sometimes you may teach children to hate another part of the family. Maybe your grandparents quarreled with their brothers and sisters, and since then the different sides of the family didn’t speak to each other. Something happened years before you were born—you don’t even know what the event was—but because of it, you’re not supposed to speak to certain relatives. Then you teach that to your children and grandchildren. They learn that the solution to quarreling with someone is never to speak to them again. Is that going to help them to be happy and kind people? You should think deeply about this and make sure you teach your children only what is valuable.

This is why it’s so important that you exemplify in your behavior what you want your children to learn. When you find resentment, anger, grudges, or belligerence in your heart, you have to work on those, not only for your own inner peace but so you don’t teach your children to have those harmful emotions. Because you love your children, try to also love yourself as well. Loving yourself and wanting yourself to be happy means you develop a kind heart for the benefit of everybody in the family.

Bringing loving-kindness to the school

We need to bring loving-kindness not only into the family, but also into the schools. Before I became a nun, I was a schoolteacher, so I have especially strong feelings about this. The most important thing for children to learn is not a lot of information, but how to be kind human beings and how to resolve their conflicts with others in a constructive way. Parents and teachers put a lot of time and money into teaching children science, arithmetic, literature, geography, geology, and computers. But do we ever spend any time teaching them how to be kind? Do we have any courses in kindness? Do we teach kids how to work with their own negative emotions and how to resolve conflicts with others? I think this is much more important than the academic subjects. Why? Children may know a lot, but if they grow up to be unkind, resentful, or greedy adults, their lives will not be happy.

Parents want their children to have a good future and thus think their children need to make a lot of money. They teach their children academic and technical skills so that they can get a good job and make lots of money—as if money were the cause of happiness. But when people are on their deathbed, you never hear anybody wishfully say, “I should have spent more time in the office. I should have made more money.” When people have regrets about how they lived their life, usually they regret not communicating better with other people, not being kinder, not letting the people that they care about know that they care. If you want your kids to have a good future, don’t teach them just how to make money, but how to live a healthy life, how to be a happy person, how to contribute to society in a productive way.

Teaching children to share with others

As parents, you have to model this. Let’s say your children come home and say, “Mom and Dad, I want designer jeans, I want new rollerblades, I want this and I want that, because all the other kids have it.” You say to your children, “Those things won’t make you happy. You don’t need them. It won’t make you happy to keep up with the Lee’s.” But then you go out and buy all the things that everybody else has, even though your house is already filled with things you don’t use. In this case, what you are saying and what you are doing are contradictory. You tell your children to share with other children, you don’t give things to charities for the poor and needy. Look at the homes in this country: they are filled with things we don’t use but can’t give away. Why not? We’re afraid that if we give something away, we might need it in the future. We find it difficult to share our things, but we teach children that they should share. A simple way to teach your children generosity is to give away all the things you haven’t used in the last year. If all four seasons have gone by and we haven’t used something, we probably won’t use it the next year either. There are many people who are poor and can use those things, and it would help ourselves, our children, and the other people if we gave those things away.

Another way to teach your children kindness is to not buy everything that you want. Instead, save the money and give it to a charity or to somebody who is in need. You can show your children through your own example that accumulating more and more material things doesn’t bring happiness, and that it’s more important to share with others.

Teaching children about the environment and recycling

Along this line, we need to teach children about the environment and recycling. Taking care of the environment that we share with other living beings is part of the practice of loving kindness. If we destroy the environment, we harm others. For example, if we use a lot of disposable things and don’t recycle them but just throw them away, what are we giving to future generations? They will inherit from us bigger garbage dumps. I’m very happy to see more people reusing and recycling things. It is an important part of our Buddhist practice and an activity that temples and Dharma centers should take the lead in.

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Baby blessing ceremony http://thubtenchodron.org/2011/06/children-in-dharma-community/ Sat, 18 Jun 2011 16:46:13 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=6158

Program

  1. Parents welcome their babies
  2. The community welcomes the babies
  3. Children’s aspirations for the parents
  4. Parents’ aspirations for the children
  5. Chanting and blessing
  6. Dedication

Parents welcome the babies

My dear child,

As your parents, we welcome you to this new life and wish you everything good in it. Even though we were strangers not long ago—we do not know who you were just two years ago—we love you. We will do our best to provide for you materially, give you a good education, and care for you in all circumstances.

As your parents, we will have a caring relationship and communicate well with each other, for we know that is the best way to let you know that this world is a loving place. We will live ethically so that you will learn good habits from observing how we live. We will work to subdue our anger and to learn good skills for resolving conflicts so that you will have good role models for this. We will smile, laugh, and share our affection so that you will feel comfortable doing the same.

You do not belong to us. You belong to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. You belong to all sentient beings in this universe. We want to enable you to share your love and talents with others and the world. Similarly, we also belong to the world, and we will take the love we have for you and spread it to all living beings everywhere, because love is not something that is limited in quantity. By loving you and loving each other, we will learn how to love all other beings as well.

You have come into this world with your own karma. We cannot control everything you do or everything that happens to you. We will do our best to nurture your positive predispositions and help subdue your negative ones. We will do our best to protect you, knowing that as much as we would like to, we cannot prevent you from ever experiencing suffering. You will learn through your own life experiences, and we will do our best to give you the skills to make wise decisions and to handle situations creatively and with kindness.

We will do our best to raise you so that you will be aware of your own Buddha nature—the basic purity of your mind that is your potential to become a fully enlightened being. The seeds of love, compassion, generosity, ethical discipline, patience, joyous effort, concentration, wisdom, and other wonderful qualities already exist in your mind. We will help you to cultivate this aspect of your Buddha nature too. We want you to have a self-confidence that is based not on transient, superficial factors, but on a deep awareness of your own inner goodness.

We know that we and you will make mistakes in life and that sometimes we will be in conflict. But realizing that all of us have this precious Buddha potential, we will still respect each other and do what we can to help each other.

We have given you this human body and pray that you will have a precious human life, one in which you not only meet the Dharma and fully qualified spiritual masters, but also have trust in the Three Jewels—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—and practice the Dharma.

The community welcomes the babies

Venerable Chodron holding a baby.

May you develop a kind heart in all that you do. May you realize the three principal aspects of the path and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

Our new and dear Dharma friends in baby bodies,

We are delighted to welcome you to this life and to our Dharma community. Please know that you always have friends, teachers, and playmates here. Our community is a place where you can give and receive the Dharma, friendship, and help.

May you develop a kind heart in all that you do. May you realize the three principal aspects of the path—the determination to be free; the loving, compassionate bodhicitta; and the wisdom realizing reality. May you quickly attain enlightenment and be able to benefit all living beings.

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes.
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes.
May all sentient beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment, and anger.

Children’s aspirations for the parents

Homage to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions.

To my kind mother who kept me in her womb for many months. To my kind father who supported my mother physically and mentally. May my wish for my kind parents be fulfilled—that they don’t fall sick and that their lives be filled with joy and peace.

Right after I was born you warmed me with the heat of your body. You cleaned my runny nose, poop, and pee without disgust. You fed me and made sure I was safe. I wish that this good relationship between my parents and myself may increase.

As a baby, when I was thirsty, I didn’t know how to drink. When I was hungry, I didn’t know how to eat. When I was cold, I didn’t know how to put on clothes. When I was hot, I didn’t know how to take off my clothes. When I had a bug on my face, I didn’t know how to brush it away. I always turned to my parents for help. Now I know how to drink, eat, and do many other things. I won’t forget how my parents took care of me when I was little. I wish that I may always be ready to care for my parents when they need me.

My parents look at me with loving eyes, care for me with a compassionate heart, and call me sweet names. I wish to return the loving looks, the care, and the tender names.

Sometimes I have a bad temper, am moody, or greedy. Sometimes I nag and pester my parents and think only of myself. My parents are faced with the unpleasant task of having to discipline me, so that I will learn how to be a good member of society. I wish to be good-natured and appreciative of the kindness that surrounds me and to be kind to my parents and others in return.

Parents’ aspirations for the children

May these children live long, meet the Dharma, benefit others, and live a meaningful and fulfilling life. May they have good health physically and mentally. May they develop a kind and loving heart towards all living beings. May we help each other on the path to enlightenment in this and all future lives.

Chanting and blessing

Everyone chants the mantra of Chenrezig (the Buddha of Compassion)—om mani padme hum—visualizing Chenrezig above the head of each baby. Light flows from Chenrezig into the babies, purifying, protecting, and bringing all realizations of the path to enlightenment. While everyone is chanting, the leader blesses the babies by touching symbols of Buddha’s body, speech, and mind (Buddha image, sutra, and stupa or bell) to each baby’s head.

Dedication

Due to this merit may we soon
Attain the enlightened state of Guru Buddha,
That we may be able to liberate
All sentient beings from their sufferings.

May the precious bodhi mind
Not yet born arise and grow.
May that born have no decline,
But increase forever more.

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Planned parenting http://thubtenchodron.org/2009/05/father-mother-bodhicitta/ Fri, 15 May 2009 17:48:10 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=6186

Request to Avalokiteshvara:

Please quickly free me and all mother and father sentient beings
Of the six realms from the ocean of cyclic existence.
Please enable the profound and extensive peerless
Bodhichitta to quickly grow in our mindstreams.

We are all one big family

Father carrying a baby.

We are one family because every single sentient being has treated us with kindness numberless times. (Photo by Hobo Mama)

Thinking that yourself and all the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, asuras, and suras, are all one big family, recite this prayer. It is actually true that you are one family because everyone has been your mother, not just one time, but numberless times from beginningless rebirths. And when they were your mother, they gave you numberless kindnesses. They gave you a body numberless times, not just a human body but also the bodies of all the different kinds of animals, pretas, and so forth. They did this each time you were born from a womb or born from heat and moisture, like bugs, lice, and the rest which are born from the heat of the body. Even with a human body, each and every sentient being has given birth to you numberless times, such that even the numberless hell beings have been a human mother to you numberless times. After giving birth to you, they treated you with kindness. And all this is from beginningless rebirths. Each time they protected your life from hundreds of dangers every day, including when you were born as a human being. From beginningless rebirths, they gave you an education numberless times, including when they gave birth to you as a human being numberless times. When as a human being they were your mothers, they bore so many hardships for your well-being, and also created so much negative karma for the sake of your happiness. All this from beginningless rebirths. Each sentient being—each hell being, each hungry ghost, each animal, each human being, each asura, and each sura—has done that for you. Then expand on this thought to include when you were born as an animal, for example, how many insects, flies, and worms your bird mother killed in order to feed you.

Your child is a sentient being

All these mothers of old protected you, bore so many hardships for you, and created so much negative karma for you. It is truly unbelievable. Can you even begin to imagine their kindness? In fact, almost every single action of theirs was negative karma because it was done out of attachment. For this reason I advise people that the way to take care of a child is as a sentient being, rather than as “MY child.” At the beginning of a sadhana, a meditation, or a practice, when you generate bodhichitta toward all sentient beings, you should think that your child is one of those sentient beings. Likewise, when you dedicate your merit to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, you should think that your child is one of them.

You should have the same motivation to take care of your child as you would for any other sentient being. Your child is a sentient being from whom you have received every happiness that you have experienced from beginningless rebirths, from whom you receive all your present happiness, and from whom you will receive every single happiness, not just one, in all your future lives. Your child is also a sentient being from whom you receive liberation from samsara, and from whom you receive the realizations of the whole entire path up to enlightenment. With that recognition, with that understanding, think of your child as being the most precious and kindest being in your life. Of course, it is the same for all other sentient beings, exactly the same, but you have a particular karmic connection with the one that is your child and are responsible to take particular care of it. However, you should do so with the consideration that it is a sentient being.

In short, when you do a sadhana or begin a practice and generate the motivation of bodhichitta wishing to attain enlightenment for all sentient beings, keep in mind that your child is one of those sentient beings. In this way you will have a totally different attitude toward him or her. You will not have the slightest negative attitude. The black thought of the eight worldly concerns will not be there, whereas the unbelievably good thought of cherishing a sentient being will be there. On the other hand, with the eight worldly concerns, if your child treats you well you will take care of him, whereas if he goes against your wishes your attitude changes and you might even end up abandoning him, leaving him or her to die.

With bodhichitta your child becomes the most precious being in your life

If you have bodhichitta, you will feel that your child is the most precious, the kindest, being in your life. In general, this is the case for all sentient beings, but you should keep in mind that your child is one of those sentient beings. By doing so, you will take care of it with a healthy, positive mind, rather than with negative emotional thoughts and the pain of attachment. Consider your child to be the most precious, kindest being, and remember that you are responsible for take caring of him. Rejoice in this thinking, “How wonderful it is that my life is beneficial, that I am able to take care of at least one sentient being. How wonderful it is that my limbs can be useful for looking after one sentient being, to cause happiness to even just one sentient being. How wonderful this is.” Rejoice in this way. With bodhichitta, you can rejoice in a positive way. I don’t know whether this is possible with attachment, but with bodhichitta your rejoicing definitely becomes positive and pure.

When you encounter difficulties, when your child does not listen to you, when you cannot control him, when you have a job and many things to do, and you become disappointed and parenting becomes very difficult for you, then it is good to rejoice thinking: “My life is beneficial for at least one sentient being. My limbs are beneficial for the happiness of this one sentient being.” If you can rejoice like this, there will be no difficulties in your mind or in your heart. With this positive wish to help your child, the thought of being annoyed or exhausted by your child will not arise.

Bodhichitta is the best attitude

Of course, you should have exactly the same attitude when working in an old folks home, or when you are being paid to look after children. This is the best attitude to have when doing your job. In this way, everything that you do, every hardship that you undergo, every single service that you do to take care of others, becomes purification because of your bodhichitta motivation and the thought that they are so kind, so precious. It purifies the negative karma that you have been collecting from beginningless rebirths. It becomes a great purification and a great means to collect extensive merit. It becomes an incredible practice. In this way, your service to others will include the practice of all six perfections or paramitas: charity, morality, patience, perseverance, concentration, and wisdom. Here wisdom refers specifically to the understanding that the I, the action, and the child are empty, that they exist only as merely labeled by mind.

Therefore, the motivation for going to work to take care of old people or to take care of children should be exactly the same as the motivation you have for taking care of your own child. You should think: “This person is the most precious, the very kindest, one.” Then whatever service you do, whatever hardships you bear, all of it will become an unbelievable means of purifying the negative karma you have collected from beginningless rebirths, as well as an unbelievable means of collecting extensive merits. Everything you do will become a cause for you to attain enlightenment. Everything you do to take care of your child will become a quick path to enlightenment because with bodhichitta you collect extensive merit. It is recounted that even though Buddha Maitreya generated compassion and bodhichitta much earlier than Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha Shakyamuni actually became enlightened first because his compassion was much stronger than Maitreya’s compassion. Due to his compassion, Buddha Shakyamuni was able to collect much more extensive merit and purify far greater negative karma accumulated in the past. For example, when in one life as brothers they came across a family of five tigers dying of starvation, Maitreya did not offer his body to them whereas Buddha Shakyamuni did. This is why Buddha Shakyamuni became enlightened before Maitreya. It is the same for you in that if you are able to generate strong compassion for your child, and instead of being involved with attachment practice the Dharma, your child will give you enlightenment. Similarly, if you are working in an old folks home, you will receive enlightenment from that old lady or that old man. The same is true of taking care of an animal, it becomes a quick way to achieve enlightenment.

We see having children as blissful

In brief, we need to learn how to take care of children. Whether you are a mother or father, or even if you are not a parent but are involved in taking care of a child, the attitude is the very same: you should take that child as your main object of meditation. That person with whom parents spend so many years of their life is a very important object of meditation. By saying this, I am not suggesting that everyone make children! My point is that if you are going to make children, you should be really careful. Before making a child, you yourself should receive some education about how to make a child’s life most beneficial. Of course, each child has its own particular karma so there is no guarantee that he or she will do everything you say. However, as parents you have much influence over your child because normally a child spends a lot of time with its parents. Because of this, parents have a huge responsibility in terms of what the child will grow up to be. But the problem is that people usually don’t think about this. They don’t plan what they will do with that new life after giving birth to it. They think of a child as being only bliss, a total dream, without one single problem.

We also see relationships as blissful

It is exactly the same for marriage in that you think: “If I can be with him or her, then that’s it. That is all I need in life.” You never think of there being problems. You just see a life filled with beauty and bliss. You never think of problems, but think of bliss: “If I could only live with this person, I could say good-bye to the rest of the world, even it were to be destroyed by fire.” It is very, very interesting to examine how the mind thinks, how attachment thinks, the particular “trip” of attachment. Your attachment sees only beauty, only bliss. That person is the most beautiful, fantastic, and best thing in your life. Even before you meet that particular person, you have the hope to meet him or her and you imagine how it would be to be together with that person. You make up a whole series of stories, creating a visualization or dream of how it will be. You think only about all the nice things that will happen. At this point you don’t need to actually spend any money, whereas afterward, in order to meet that person, some people are willing to spend even thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars to meet that person and then give billions and zillions of gifts to make the relationship happen.

At the beginning of the relationship there is excitement, you meet each other more and more often and come to think: “If we could only live together that would be fantastic.” Then you either get married or begin to live together. When I was a child in Solo Khumbu, I remember attending some weddings of benefactors. The celebration went on for several days, during which the groom’s family received the bride from the other family. The tradition there is that marriages are arranged by the parents, perhaps similar to how it is done in Chinese families, although the son might also be consulted. For several days the wedding guests dance around a pillar playing cymbals, drinking a lot of alcoholic drinks made from rice and barley, and eating a lot of food. In the meantime, the wedding party sits to one side without dancing, as if they were doing a puja! Although the bride was all dressed up, I noticed that in many cases she would keep her face down and seemed to be crying for many hours, all day long. She was so sad to leave her home as she had had no choice in the matter, the marriage having been decided for her by her parents. I remember this is what happened in the Himalaya mountains of Nepal.

So then it finally happens, you manage to succeed in living together and even find a house. But now you begin to really see the person. Before you just met each other for an hour here and there, perhaps in a park or at a restaurant to have a meal together. Initially you were very attracted to each other, but now you begin to really see the other person. One day, two days, three days, four days pass, and gradually the anger starts to come. The other person behaves in a way that you don’t like. You begin to notice many different things, including the unpleasant smell of his or her body and his or her excrement. Gradually you come to see many mistakes. You begin to see the selfish mind of the other person, that he or she doesn’t want to do what you want, but wants to do what he or she wants. It starts from there and gradually increases more and more.

At the beginning, there weren’t any problems, only bliss. You were completely absorbed in bliss. Now that bliss is like a cloud or a rainbow disappearing from the sky, first there is just a trace left and then it is completely gone. As the days pass, there are more and more problems. Later, your greatest wish is expressed in the thought: “When can I become free from this person?”! Your way of thinking has become completely opposite to what you thought at the beginning, completely opposite. Now what you are praying for every day, what you are wishing for from the bottom of your heart, is to become free from this person. That becomes the most important thing for your happiness. Day and night, while you are out at work and when you return home, you think: “When am I going to be free?” Life becomes filled with tears and misery. You look for a way to make this happen, and as a result there is more and more fighting. While physically you still live together, life goes by in fighting and quarrelling. You blame each other saying “You did this. You did that.” Eventually either you leave or the other person leaves. Then, the very best thing becomes to never ever meet that person again! Whereas before the best thing imaginable was to meet the person, now the best thing, the happiest thing in your life, is to never again meet that person.

One time when I was staying in Singapore, an Indian family came to visit me. The parents couldn’t wait for their daughter to get married and so they asked me to pray for that to happen. I advised them to be careful, to take their time, to not rush, but I didn’t go into details like I have here. They had no idea what they were saying, they were as if totally hallucinated. For them, that their daughter get married was the biggest thing in their life, the most important thing in their life. This is because they had no idea what happens after that, that it is not always sun-shining bliss. So the parents, and not only the couple, never actually think about what will happen in the future. Even though you hear about or see so many problems, you still don’t think about what will come later on. However, at one point there will be many problems. If one of the people is wealthy, you also begin to fight over material things. There are so many problems. When the experience starts to become negative, you see more and more problems and at the same time your attachment diminishes more and more until all the excitement is gone. But even while that is happening, while that first relationship is still ending, you begin another relationship with someone else. Before the first one is completely finished, you start another one, thinking: “This person loves me more than that person.” You do exactly the same as before. You start another book: “This person is fantastic, he or she loves only me. If I can be with this person, there will be no problems, only bliss. No darkness, only sun-shining, happiness.” Then the same story starts all over again. But when you start to live together, once again it is the same. Gradually the other person learns more about who you are, and you also begin to see problems that you did not notice before. You find more and more mistakes in each other, and more and more lose interest in each other. So once again it is the same. Then again you find someone else and think: “This person loves me so much more than that person.”

Using a relationship to practice Dharma

It tends to happen that when you have a child, all the focus goes to the child. Whereas before the focus was on each other, when you have a child all the focus goes on him or her, and then you easily feel that the other person doesn’t love you any more. Then the problems start, the mind becomes unhappy. Because of this, it is important to use a relationship, your being together with someone, for your Dharma practice. This is basically the same as what I said earlier on about the way to take care of a child—to make sure that it becomes your Dharma practice and that there is nothing worldly involved in it. In particular, that it become the cause of enlightenment, given that the motivation is bodhichitta, cherishing that other sentient being, serving and dedicating your life to him or her, in the same way as you are supposed to do for all sentient beings.

So you should also use a relationship as a means to practice Dharma. You can use it to practice morality by, for example, taking the five lay vows and abstaining from killing, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from telling lies, and abstaining from having sex with someone who belongs to another person. In addition to the many moralities that you can practice, you can also engage in the practice of charity, the practice of patience, and the practice of perseverance, as well as concentration and wisdom. Like this, you use the relationship to practice the six paramitas in the same way as I mentioned in relation to your child. In particular, you can use a relationship to learn patience from the other person, the paramita of patience. If you can do that, it means that the person you are living with is giving you enlightenment. You use the relationship to practice Dharma. If you are able to use your life to practice Dharma, it becomes a very healthy life. Just as when taking care of a child, an old person, or your parents, likewise in a relationship you should see yourself as a servant and the other person, that other sentient being, as your boss. You see yourself as a servant serving that sentient being, freeing him or her from suffering and causing him or her happiness. This is the attitude of a bodhisattva towards sentient beings. They consider themselves to be a servant serving sentient beings, and see sentient beings as their lord.

In short, a relationship is exactly as I mentioned in the case of a child. From that person you have received every happiness that you have experienced from beginningless rebirths. Just that kindness is unimaginable, but, on top of that, you also receive all your future happiness from that person. In addition, you receive liberation from every suffering, which is even much more precious. Then, you also receive enlightenment from that person, so he or she is the most precious, most dear, person in your entire life. You can also think that that person has been your mother many times and at that time has given you the four types of kindnesses. By thinking of the extensive kindness you have received from that person, you will come to see yourself as his or her servant. In this way, your living together becomes Dharma. Everything you do in that relationship is done to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. With the attitude that the other person is the most precious and most kind, while you are his or her servant, your every single action becomes a means of collecting extensive merit. Because it is done with bodhichitta, you collect limitless skies of merit. Due to the thought to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, you think “I am going to offer service to this person, this most precious sentient being.” Everyday you collect limitless skies of merit and also purify the defilements that you have collected from beginningless rebirths. As a result, your life has so much hope in that you constantly create the cause for the biggest success—enlightenment—for all sentient beings. This motivation is better than that of the hearer-listeners and solitary realizers, in that even though they have achieved the path of merit, the preparatory path, and even the right seeing path, their motivation remains that of achieving their own liberation. Since they have no thought to benefit all sentient beings, your motivation is much more fortunate than that of even these meditators who have achieved high spiritual paths. Those people are living their lives only for the sake of their own happiness, for the sake of their own liberation from samsara.

Taking karma into account

Of course, past karma also has to be taken into account. Remembering this, you keep in mind that everything you expect to happen will not happen because things go according to past karma, your own and the other person’s. You should remember that everyday. That is very helpful. When you remember karma, there is not much suffering for your mind or in your life. When you relate events to karma thinking, “This is my karma” and “This is his or her karma,” the problem does not even become a problem because you accept the situation. Because it doesn’t bother you, there is peace in your heart. If, on the other hand, you don’t think of and don’t accept this fact, there will be mountains of problems in your life. You will feel like you are being crushed under mountains of problems. However, this is due to your mental projections, it is your way of thinking that makes you feel like that.

If you remember karma, then even if one day that person leaves you, there will be no problem at all. You will respect the decision of that person through remembering how dear, precious, and kind he or she has been due to being the source of all your past happiness. Since there is no clinging attachment, if the person wants to leave you, you will offer that person whatever is best for him or her. If the relationship begins with the thought of the other person’s kindness, then the end will also be good. If it ends with that thought, there will be happiness. If, on the contrary, the motivation at the beginning is mistaken, then at the end, when separation occurs, there will be huge suffering, such that you may even think to commit suicide.

If you can think in the way that I have explained here, you will be able to enjoy life. You will find satisfaction and fulfillment, and have a happy life. You will experience inner happiness and peace. If not, your heart will always be empty. No matter how much external excitement there is, how many things are happening around you, your heart will always be empty. In fact, this experience is common in life in the West as well as in samsara in general. In short, your life will be filled with misery.

A good plan

You need a good parenting plan, that is, a healthy, positive motivation for bringing up your child that is based on a good heart, rather than on attachment. Even though your karma and your child’s karma are not the same, how a child’s life turns out depends greatly on its parents. The parents’ character and their attitude toward life—their having a good heart, their living their life to benefit others, and their doing good things to benefit others in their daily life—provide a lot of potential for the child to develop in a positive way. The parents’ attitude becomes an incredible help and support enabling the child to grow up with a healthy, positive, Dharma mind: a mind that does not cause harm to himself or herself, to other sentient beings, including animals, and to the world, the country, the neighbors, and the family. Not only that, such a mind will bring so much happiness to sentient beings, to the world, the country, the neighbors, and the family. As the child learns from what the parents do, he or she receives a positive, beneficial influence, not a harmful influence. Then when that child has its own children, he or she will pass on that education—to live life in a way that is beneficial for others and to have a good heart. These children will be an example for their children, that is, for your grandchildren, whereby the lineage that is passed down from generation to generation is a good one. The most important thing is a good heart, as then there will be unbelievable benefit. You will do good things every day and that education will be passed on from parents to children. Because of this, parents can be of incredible benefit, they can help to transmit from generation to generation the attitude of a good heart, non-violence toward others, and the importance of being beneficial to others. If you do that, it will bring so much happiness to sentient beings from life to life, in this world, in your country, for your neighbors, and for your family. In your family life there will be much happiness and peace. Life will become very yummy.

The sixteen guidelines

In the FPMT we now have a project for secular education based on Buddhist principles called Essential Education. Long ago in the past, the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo made a set of Dharma rules for the whole of Tibet in order to ensure that everyone’s life be filled with goodness and that it not become a source of harm to others, but only a source of peace and happiness. Although Songtsen Gampo is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara, what he did was manifest himself as a thief and murderer. In other words, in order to educate people he manifested himself as a common criminal. He killed many people and piled their heads up in a heap. In reality, however, no one was killed, the bodies were just his manifestations meant to educate people.

There is a story about two monks who traveled on foot from very far away to receive teachings from Songtsen Gampo. When they arrived there they saw a big pile of heads on the ground and were totally disillusioned. They arose heresy, thinking that he had killed ordinary people. Their minds changed totally. Although in the end they met Songtsen Gampo, they didn’t receive any teachings from him, just a present of sack of earth or salt. Even though Songtsen Gampo was in reality Avalokiteshvara, they didn’t understand this. It was only when they returned home that they discovered that they had received a big sack of gold from him. But that is all they received, they didn’t receive any teachings from him. If they hadn’t arisen heresy toward Songtsen Gampo, they could have become enlightened. In short, I just want to mention that Essential Education has created a book based on the sixteen Dharmas of King Songtsen Gampo called Sixteen Guidelines for Life. Seven of these sixteen guidelines are a particularly important foundation for educating children.

Seven guidelines for educating children

Kindness and Delight

The first guideline is kindness. It encourages the practice of kindness day and night, not just with human beings but also with animals. The second is the practice of delight or joyfulness. When you see good things happen to others, whether their business is going well or they have found a beautiful house, feel happy and rejoice. This doesn’t mean that you want that thing for yourself, but that you think how wonderful it is that another sentient being has found happiness. Delighting in others’ good fortune will keep your mind always happy and at peace. You will have a healthy mind.

These two attitudes, kindness and rejoicing, can be taught even without explaining to the child that he or she is creating good karma. This is because even without telling someone that, he or she still creates good karma. In reality when you practice kindness and rejoicing, because you create good karma, it will bring success and happiness in your life. From one act of kindness or rejoicing, you will have success and happiness for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes because karma has the characteristic of expanding over time. This is the case for both karma, or action, that brings the good result of happiness, and for karma that brings the bad result of suffering. In either case the result expands—from one small karma, or one small action, you will experience results for hundreds of thousands of lifetimes. Therefore, in reality even if it is not appropriate to explain karma to children in, for example, a public school, in reality they create good karma from each act of kindness and rejoicing that will bring thousands of successes even in this life. For example, when you practice kindness, your mind will always be happy and healthy. Likewise, a rejoicing mind is a happy mind. When your mind is happy, your body becomes healthy, and even the chances of heart attack and other illnesses that come from anger and selfishness are greatly reduced. In fact, researchers have seen that angry people have far more chance of having a heart attack or stroke. I read an article by a doctor in a Delhi newspaper in which he said that in his experience heart attacks happen due to talking badly about other people. I think there is a lot to be learned from what this doctor said. If you put a negative label on a life situation, then it will appear negative. If you see your life or another person’s situation in a negative light, you will become unhappy. It will disturb your mind. In the long term this creates high blood pressure that can lead to a heart attack.

Patience

The third point is patience. Patience, the opposite of becoming angry, means that you do not harm yourself or others. The result of this is that it stops you from creating an unbelievable amount of negative karma. To stop harming yourself and others, including animals, and instead practice patience has the positive effect in future lives of your continuing to be patient and to not harm others. All this comes from the positive imprints left on your mind in this life. In addition, even in this life you will bring peace and happiness to your family, to your neighbors, and to the entire world. It has happened many times in the history of the world that people in powerful positions did not practice patience and instead killed many people, including children. Practicing and training your mind in patience now will help you in future lives to avoid becoming angry and to be more patient. Thus, the effect continues into future lives, whereby you have ever more patience and refrain from harming sentient beings. As a result, what sentient beings receive from you is first peace and then enlightenment.

Contentment

The next one is contentment. There is an unbelievable need for this quality given that the problem of so many young people is a lack of contentment. Because of this, they get involved in drugs and become unable to live a normal, ordinary life, never mind practice Dharma. Having entered into the vicious cycle of addition to alcohol and drugs, they become unable to hold down a job, and eventually totally destroy their entire life. Their life becomes completely submersed in problems for years and years, it is as though they are sinking in quicksand, unable to get out.

There are so many problems in the world due to a lack of contentment. We see even wealthy people, millionaires and zillionaires, who go to prison after they have been found to be embezzling funds. All this occurs as a result of a lack of contentment. Contentment is therefore very important for peace.

Forgiveness

When someone harms you or disrespects you, the best response is forgiveness. Forgiveness is extremely important. If you able to forgive others, it will bring peace in your heart and in the heart of the other person. There will be peace in your mind and in your life. Then, one by one, you will be able to bring peace to the rest of the people in the world, including your own family. If, on the other hand, you are unable to bring peace to the world, the purpose of your human life will be lost.

One time in the United States I saw an interview on TV with a mother whose daughter had been kidnapped, raped, and killed by a man, I don’t think she was a Buddhist, but when she was interviewed she said that she didn’t want that man to be killed, instead she forgave him. That attitude is so amazing. Although she did not seem to be a Buddhist, she had unbelievably good heart. Another time a man who had been shot six times was interviewed, and he too said that he did not want to kill the man who had shot him. He too was not a Buddhist, but still he was so kind and had such an incredibly good heart.

Humility

Then, when you do something that harms another person, for example, you insult someone or get angry with someone, you should immediately apologize for your mistake. That will bring peace in the heart of that person and he or she will not hold a grudge against you. Whereas with forgiveness you yourself do not hold a grudge against others, with humility the other person does not hold a grudge against you. This is one way that you can make a significant contribution to world peace.

Courage

The last one of the seven guidelines is courage. Many people have the tendency to think “I am hopeless,” whereby they put themselves down. It’s as if they have no potential, as if they have no qualities. With courage you can build up the strength that is needed to develop the qualities that will enable you to lead others to happiness. For this reason, courage is extremely important.

The reason why I am promoting these particular guidelines for children is that they can be used as a basis for educating them. These guidelines give a clear idea of how to bring up children such that instead of a child harming himself or herself and his or her family, he or she will be able from life to life to bring benefit to the world, to the surrounding people, and to his or her family. Other people will receive unbelievable benefit and happiness from the person who puts these guidelines into practice. That person will be able to so many good things for others.

Parents have an enormous responsibility

Because parents spend so much time with their child, they have incredible influence on him or her. However, even though the outcome has much to do with the parents, since the child still has his or her own individual karma, it doesn’t mean that the child will do everything that the parents say. The child may in fact not listen to his or her parents. Or due to strong karma from past lives, the child’s life may turn out to be something completely different from the education that he or she has received. In spite of this, parents need to take responsibility to help their children and need to have a clear idea about how to educate them. If they don’t have a clear idea about how to direct a child’s life in a positive way, then the child’s future will not be clear. In that case their having become parents will be a great loss. While many good things could have happened to the child, because the parents did not have a clear idea about parenting, the child’s whole life can turn into one of suffering and problems.

Parenting made worthwhile

The conclusion is that if a child can put even just the first of these seven guidelines, kindness, into practice with everyone he or she meets, the result on other people will be amazing. Each time that the child does something positive, then however much the parents suffered for that child, it will all become worthwhile. For nine months the mother carried the child in her womb, bearing all sorts of difficulties. Then after the child was born, the parents worked so hard to make money to build or buy a house. Long before that, the parents themselves went from kindergarten to primary school and then on to college in order to get an education that would enable them to find a job and make enough money to buy a house for their future children. They spend so many years sacrificing their life for their child before and after it is born. Just living with a child brings so much exhaustion, tiredness, worry, and fears, but now, whatever difficult times the parents went through in the past, it all becomes worthwhile. Therefore, my conclusion is that if a child is brought up with a clear plan for his or her life to be beneficial to sentient beings (or at least to this world, the country, the neighbors, the surrounding people, and the family), due to which he or she practiced good heart and refrained from harming others, or even just practiced the first guideline, kindness, then each time the child does this, however many years the parents spent worrying and suffering, it all becomes worthwhile.

There is an expression “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Likewise, if once a day a child practices good heart or does one act of kindness, this will keep difficulties away for the parents. All the unbelievable sufferings, worries, and fears that they experienced for that child will become worthwhile and the parents will be able to rejoice. They will see the results of the efforts that they made to educate their child. So you must do that, otherwise parenting will not become Dharma, it will done out of total attachment and nothing to do with Dharma. After your child is born, there will be so much suffering, worry, and fear, so much exhaustion and hard work, and in the end the child won’t have a good life. There won’t be any contentment. Life will become an experience of unbelievable suffering. Likewise, for the child there will be much suffering, his or her life will become only suffering. Everything will be very difficult and there will be no contentment. Besides the child’s own problems, there will be so much suffering for the parents and the entire family, so much extra worry and fear for the child. Your entire life will pass in only suffering. Then death will happen. This is how things go in samsara.

Make a good plan

The point here is that if you choose that particular way of life, that of having children, you must have a good plan as to how you can make it beneficial for the world and for all sentient beings, Even if all the guidelines cannot be practiced, at least you should try to educate your children in as many of them as possible. Then as parents you need to practice them yourselves in order to set an example for your children. In this way, your children will learn from you and will put these qualities into practice.

Transcribed and edited by Joan Nicell.

May Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche have a long life and may all his wishes be fulfilled.

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Guiding one’s child http://thubtenchodron.org/2006/04/skillful-parenting/ Tue, 25 Apr 2006 17:23:45 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=6181

In parenting, where is the line between guiding, shaping and being responsible for your child, and controlling them?

I think the line lies somewhere in our motivation. When we see the child as part of us, as an extension of us, that’s when I think the controlling mind jumps in. We have too much ego attachment to this child, so we want to make them what we’ve never been. We want to make them perfect. We aren’t perfect, so we say, “Let’s make this kid perfect.” They are young and moldable, so we say, “Let’s make them into what we were never able to become. Let’s give them everything we’ve never had, even if they don’t want it.”

Father walking hand-in-hand with two children.

Your role is like that of a steward’s; your role is to guide and shape the child. (Photo by Richa Yadav)

When our ego is too identified with the child, there’s not such a clear distinction between what is me and what is this other living being. A lot of controlling then comes in. But when you see that the child is a unique person that came into this life with karma and everything else from a previous life, that they have their own Buddha nature, then your role becomes more like that of a steward’s; your role is to guide and shape the child.

You’ve got to see what the tendencies and talents of the child are. Let’s say your child is good in music, but you want your child to be good in math, so you say, “Forget music. You’ve got to do math! You idiot, you didn’t do your arithmetic right. You can’t do anything right. I’m going to get you a tutor.” “Oh, what are the neighbors going to say? You did so poor in your test! Primary 1 and you got 50%. You’re a failure for your whole life!”

Oh, my goodness! This is just a little kid, and it’s just math! Maybe your kid is a musical genius. They learn some math, and even if they don’t get excellent marks in math, the world goes on.

You find out what your child is good in, what their own gifts are, and you nurture those. You might have a baby Mozart there, but if you try to make them into an Einstein, they’re never going to be one! And even if they aren’t Einstein or Mozart, who cares! They have some unique talents which, as a parent, you can nurture and bring out.

I think parenting is probably one of the hardest endeavors for people to be skillful at, the one they’re least trained for.

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