Buddha on Family

“Family” according to Buddhist social philosophy refers to the grouping of people living under the same roof. Typically a family, in this context, will consist of a married couple and their children and sometimes one or more grandparents. These people are tied by the same genetic material. We are all members of a family from the time of our birth till we die.

From this central meaning the concept is extended to include wider relatives, neighbours, friends, neighbours, community, society and ultimately to all humanity and all sentient beings.

Traditionally Buddhists regard the family unit as the core of the community and society and without a solid core made up of moral and ethical values, the community and society will suffer. If, at the family level, there is adherence to the Buddhist beliefs and teachings, then the community and society also adhere to them.

Those who see worldly life as an obstacle to Dharma see no Dharma in everyday actions; they have not yet discovered that there are no everyday actions outside of Dharma.
            Thirteenth Century Zen Master Dogen

The Buddha talked of many ways that family life can lead to happiness and blessings:

  • Respecting and supporting one’s father and mother;
  • Loving one’s spouse and children;
  • Developing generosity and a sense of duty;
  • Selflessly helping relatives and acting blamelessly; and
  • Developing reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude and listening to the Dharma.

Many times it is easier said than done to maintain a sense of gratitude, loving-kindness, compassion, patience and a sense of calm, when we live in a family. We can read and study the Buddha’s teachings and think we ‘get it’, but when the frictions of family living rub on us we find we have not internalised the teachings – we are not as engaged as we would like to be.

Family Buddhism aims to support us all to use this ‘family rub’ to work towards our own enlightenment and the enlightenment of others. The focus is primarily on mindfulness and compassionate communication and on how to integrate compassion and wisdom in our family life.

What more wonderful blessing could we have than to have a human life and be part of a human family? What more wonderful opportunities to practice the Dharma and sow beneficial karmic seeds, could we have?