Buddhism for the Younger No. 5


To our dear young ones

sons and daughters

nieces and nephews

grandsons and granddaughters


Child Care and Growth of Love

Do we know enough about the identity of our own children? Who are they, why are they are, where do they come from, who are accountable for their proper growth and development?

We have already spoken about prenatal care, both of the mother and of the unborn child. Once children arrive, Buddhism shows great concern about the healthy rearing of children in the home. Four segments of child care and growth of love are specifically indicated in our Buddhist literature in Pali with meticulous care [See Cattàri Saïgaha-vatthåni at A.N. II.p.32]. Buddhist ethics pertaining to this area appear to be built on the belief that love, marital relations, sex and procreation are closely integrated issues. Buddhism looks upon children as the inestimable wealth of the people, i.e. of the human community [puttà vatthu manussànam S.N. I. p.37].

This wealth is what people acquire on their own choice. According to Buddhist thinking, it may not be incorrect to say that children arrive on the family scene as propagators of the species. Therefore it is logical that they must be made to come in terms of parental needs. It is also admitted that for the successful fulfillment of this role, both parents have to play an indispensable and indisputable joint role, both in the production and the care of the children. This human body, as far as we know up to date, owes its origin solely to the mother and the father [màtàpettika-sambhavo].

Rearing of children therefore is an obligation we owe to our children. It has to be much more than their physical growth. The physical growth of the child within the mother's womb appears to be designed to take place even without a willed direction of the mother. We produce below what we consider, according to Buddhist teachings, to be very precise and very bold new thinking at world level on this issue of 'the mother and the unborn child'.

" The single-celled fertilized ovum, or later developing embryonic human being within her uterus, cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be considered part of her body. This new living being has a genetic code that is totally different from the cells of the mother's ody. He or she is, in truth, a completely separate growing human being and can never be considered part of the mother's body.

Does she have a right to her own body? Yes. But this is not part of her own body. It is another person's body."

[ ABORTION By Dr. & Mrs. J.C. Willke. Hayes Publishing Company, Inc.
Revised Edition September 1990.p.25]

This idea of the identity of the growing up child within the uterus of the mother, with complete independence from her, seems to be amply supported by the story of Trisha Marshall reported by Prof. Peter Singer. Twenty-eight year old Trisha was shot in the head on 19 April 1993. She was declared brain dead. At the time she was seventeen weeks pregnant. A respirator, together with other medical assistance like nutrients passed down a tube through her nose and into her stomach, kept her bodily functions continuing. She continued to live for three and a half months. On 3 August, a baby boy was delivered by a cesarean birth. A doctor from the hospital described the baby as 'cute'. [ Peter Singer - Rethinking Life & Death 1994. p.9ff.].

Once out of its insulated living in the mother's womb, a child has to be fitted, as its legitimate right, into a life in the home. A child must have a mother that suckles its young.

Parents are said both to produce and look after their progeny [àpàdakà and posakà]. Once out in the world, out of the mother's womb, custodianship of children does and must necessarily devolve on the parents, including we should imagine, both the physical and mental nurture. The four segments of child care referred to earlier cover these very comprehensively.

Provision of adequate and satisfactory food and clothing by the parents in terms of the needs of the children is the first requirement as obligations of the parents. This [No.1] goes under the name of dàna = providing or gifting [basically of food and clothing]. Buddhist family ethics lists this as very high-ranking virtue in which parents should never fail. Care of the family in this sector referred to as putta-dàrassa saïgaho is deemed a success-generator or maïgala in the household life.

Coming next and closely tied up with it in spirit is the loving care expressed in words by parents towards their children and is termed 'loving words' or peyya-vajja [No.2]. Harshness of word directed by parents towards children, for whatever reason, would naturally alienate the younger from the older. Senseless cruelty of expression in the home as the outcome of the rage of the mother or the father is not to be offered as substitutes for firmness and sternness of expression in bringing about restraint and discipline in a home full of growing up children.

Children would invariably feel a lack of security, both physical and emotional, in the home in which they live and in the hands of people in whose midst they are destined to grow up. One may speak in favour of the choice of single-parent homes in such circumstances but Buddhism would maintain that replacements for parental love is hard to find. Calculated austerity in the bestowal of love upon the growing up community would be looked upon as unpardonable niggardliness on the part of parents who themselves are perhaps victims of psychopathic aberrant behaviour, passed on from generation to generation.

Hence this insistence on love communicated to children through loving words. It is an indispensable lubricant in the smooth running of the home. Thus there arises the need for regular check-ups of the life-style in the home, for sins of omission and commission, through regular family get-togethers with parents and children. We shall take up items 3 and 4 in our next discussion.


May all beings be well and happy. May there be peace on earth and goodwill among men.

Sabbe sattà bhavantu sukhitattà