Chapter7-4 : If you don’t feel grateful to your parents, it’s because you take no joy in having been
The most complex problems in human relations are those between parents and children.
If you’re having unresolvable problems with someone else, you can change your workplace or move house—in short, live apart from him or her.
Even in the case of a husband and wife, if things become unbearable, there is always the possibility of separating.
But not with parents and children—no matter where you go, that doesn’t change: it is a relationship that does not end.
There seem to be quite a few people who cannot feel grateful to their parents, people whose inability to forget their resentment or dislike of their parents is a real problem for them.
There are all kinds of parents, so there are plenty of cases where the parents are partly responsible for their children’s resentment and inability to feel gratitude.
But Shakyamuni Buddha teaches us that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to our parents.
He speaks, famously, of the Ten Types of Major Debts of Gratitude to Parents, but I want here to focus on just four of the ten:
1) The Debt of Gratitude to Parents for Our Protection in the Womb
This refers to the fact that we have been nourished and protected inside our mother’s body for nine months before birth.
Some women suffer so much from morning sickness that they lose a great deal of weight.
Even so, calcium is being taken from the mother’s blood in order to form the teeth and bones of the unborn child; and if her blood alone cannot supply enough calcium, nature dissolves part of the mother’s bones and transfers it to the child.
No wonder the effects can be the same as suffering from a major illness.
Yet even then, the mother calms her mind, refrains from too much activity, and prays for the healthy development of the child within her.
2) The Debt of Gratitude to Parents for Their Suffering at the Time of Our Birth
This refers to the terrible pains that accompany childbirth.
The term for the pain of giving birth in SinoJapanese suggests a military metaphor: For a woman, giving birth is like a soldier going into battle.
3) The Debt of Gratitude to Parents for Forgetting All Their Pain Once the Child Is Born
This refers to the fact that when the mother sees her newborn child, she forgets her sorrow and pain up until then in her joy at the successful birth.
Our names reflect the feelings and hopes of our parents for us at the time of our birth.Misaki: Beautiful Bloom; Kenta: Healthy First Boy; Sachie: Happy Blessing; Naoto: Honest Man.
Everyone’s name reflects the hope that the child will grow up to be happy and good.
No one names their child Waruo (Bad Guy) or Guchiko (Grouching Girl), after all!
4) The Debt of Gratitude to Parents for Nourishing Us After Our Birth
The newborn baby cries, demanding its mother’s milk, regardless of the hour.
As a result, for a short time after the baby’s birth, the mother can get hardly any proper sleep.
From the above, you can see that you are here now because you were protected inside your mother’s body, born in the midst of her great pain and suffering, given a name replete with hopes for your future happiness, and nourished at the expense of your mother’s need for rest.
Everyone has incurred these debts of gratitude, and yet we all forget about them, erasing them from our memories.
But the fact that you are here, living now is the irrefutable evidence of those debts to your mother.
Why, then, do we sometimes resent our parents, who have given us life and raised us from childhood?
The reason is that we are not able to find joy in the fact that we were born and are now alive.
“Life is so miserable, I wish I’d never been born,” we think, resenting our very births.
That’s why we can’t feel grateful to our parents.
But if, on the contrary, we can experience a life filled with joy, then feelings of gratitude to our parents will well up within us.
This is what Shakyamuni Buddha teaches.
And he goes on to tell us to live by planting the seeds of happiness, so that can happen.
If indeed we can live happily, as the Buddha has taught us, then certainly the relationship between parents and children will be transformed.
Without my parents, I would never have been born.
If I hadn’t received the gift of life, I could never feel how fortunate I am to have been born, and to be alive!
That is why we are told to Know the Debt of Obligation to Our Parents.