Chapter7-3 : Aren’t you, perhaps, brusque toward your family members or partner? Let’s treat those w
People often tell me that they cannot feel gratitude toward the people closest to them.
By this they mean that they can’t feel gratitude toward their parents, husband, wife, children, or long-term boyfriend or girlfriend.
We take pains to deal politely with our neighbors, bosses, and customers because we don’t want to be disliked by such persons.
But if it’s someone close to us, small things won’t make them dislike us or cause us to lose their friendship—or so we like to think—and thus we become careless and lazy about those relationships.
Often we forget to say even a word of thanks or appreciation.
It is important to feel confident that we are not disliked, but loved.
However, if we take excessive advantage of such relationships, things can start to go very badly, even among members of the same family.
Shakyamuni Buddha compares the persons we should be kind to to three different fields.
These Three Fields include the Field of Compassion (referring to those who are in serious need), the Field of Gratitude (referring to those to whom we are morally or spiritually indebted), and the Field of Respect (referring to those worthy of our respect).
When you show kindness to persons in these Three Fields, happiness will come to you many times over as a result. When autumn comes, we can harvest incomparably more rice than the amount of rice seeds we planted in the spring.
That is why the Buddha used fields as a metaphor here.
The Field of Gratitude refers to those to whom we are morally or spiritually indebted, to those who have supported us in some way.
The Buddha is teaching us to act with greater care toward who are close to us and have supported us than we do toward complete strangers.
Yet we often do just the opposite.
The Sutra of the Weightiness of the Debt We Owe to Our Parents, a scripture that explains in detail our obligations to our parents, contains the following passage:
One who, having taken a wife, then turns his back on his parents is like one who has no sense of obligation; and one who dislikes his brethren is like one whose heart is filled with resentment.
When your wife’s relations come to visit, you welcome them into your hall and serve them a feast; you invite them into your room and enjoy their company.
Ah, how perverse are sentient beings!
They distance themselves from those with whom they should be intimate and become intimate with those who should be kept at more of a distance!
The meaning is that people, once they have married and have their own household, tend to treat their parents as if they were strangers and to distance themselves from their brethren as if they had quarreled.
And yet when their wives’ relatives come for a visit, they fall all over themselves to welcome them.
But treating shabbily those who have supported you for a long time and paying a great deal of attention to those known only for a short time—doesn’t this seem kind of backwards?
It’s certainly true that the closer you are to people, as with parents, spouses, and family members, the more you become aware of their negative points; and it thus becomes difficult to behave as courteously to them as you would to strangers.
The very fact that they are close to you leads you to think, “They didn’t do this for me; they didn’t do that for me.”
But those who are close to you are the ones with whom you have the strongest ties, both in terms of time spent together and of emotional ties.
If you don’t regard your relationship with them as important, I dare say you will have to experience constant loneliness and pain.
If, on the other hand, you take good care of those who are close to you and have supported you, then your days will be filled with the joys of gratitude.