Thus have I heard? At one time the Buddha was staying at Vulture Peak in Rājagṛha, surrounded by a large gathering of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas, by monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen as well as by gods, dragons, and all kinds of deities. In one mind they listened to the Buddha preach the Dharma, gazing at the Buddha's face without blinking.
The Buddha said, “Everyone born into this world has a father and mother for his parents. Without a father one cannot be born, without a mother one cannot grow up. First everyone grows in his mother's womb for ten months.
When the time of birth arrives, he comes into the world, dropping onto the grass. Then father and mother bring him up, laying him in a crib and holding him in their arms. When the parents saying ‘Hai, hai,' he smiles, saying nothing. As soon as he becomes hungry he needs to eat, and without his mother he is not fed. As soon as he becomes thirsty he needs to drink, and without his mother he cannot suckle. Even if the mother herself is hungry, she will nurse him, giving him all the sweet things while she herself eats untasty food. At bedtime, she places him in a dry spot while she herself lies in a wet place.
Really, I assure you that (the child) is treated with love and brought up receiving manifold favors and care from his parents. Especially the mother fosters him with great affection, and she takes him out of his crib stained by his own filth and cleans him without paying any attention to the dirt under her fingernails, which comes from his filth.
“I say firmly that the amount of milk a baby sucks from his mother comes to as much as eight koku (hu) and four to (tou) (i.e., approximately one thousand five hundred and twelve liters). This incomparable affection of the mother can be likened to the endlessness of the sky. Alas! How can we repay our mothers for bringing us up?”
|(Courtesy: UNICEF Bhutan)|
Thereupon his disciple Ānanda asked the Buddha, “World-honored One! I sincerely ask you to preach on how one can repay one's parents' affection.”
The Buddha said to Ānanda,
“Listen attentively to my words and think them over carefully. I will explain it to you in great detail. As the parents' favors are like the vastness of the sky, how can we repay them? If a child full of affection and filial piety toward his parents accumulates pious acts, copies Buddhist sutras, produces an ullambana tray on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and offers it full of food and drink to the Buddha and his disciples, then he can attain numerous merits and repay his parents' kindness. Moreover, if someone makes copies of this holy sutra, disseminates it among the people, at the same time keeps it for himself and recites it, then he is a person who repays his parents for their favors.
“You must know how to requite the favors of your parents. Every day, the parents go out to work. Usually the mother draws water from the well, cooks for and serves another family, works a mortar for hulling, and operates a stone mill. While doing all this, she constantly worries that perhaps her baby is crying or mewling back home, looking for her. When she returns home, the baby catches sight of his mother, waggles his head in joy in his crib or crawls on his belly while crying for his mother. Bending toward the baby she kneels down, stretches out her hands, and wipes the dust off the child. Then she kisses him and gives him the breast (to suckle).
Seeing her child, the mother is full of delight; seeing his mother, the baby is full of joy. Their mutual affection is merciful and compassionate, and nothing could be more precious than this affection.
“In due course, the child grows to be two or three years old. Now he is able to walk, going here and there according to his own will. He does not know when it is time to eat without his mother's attention. Occasionally the father and mother may be invited to dinner and entertained with (a meal) of biscuits and meat. The parents don't eat the food but bring it home and give it to their child. Nine times out of ten, the child is very pleased with the food his parents bring home to him. But it may sometimes happen that the parents return home without anything for the child, and then he cries and fusses because he has received no present. Such a troublesome baby is very unfilial and deserves the punishment for rebelliousness (i.e., having his body torn to pieces).
On the other hand, a filial child does not cry and fuss upon not receiving a present. He is always obedient to his parents and of gentle nature.
“When later on the child grows up and begins to keep company with his own friends, his parents comb his hair and arrange it nicely. If he desires to wear good clothes, the parents will wear inferior clothes in order to furnish him with new and good items.
When he finally begins to go out on his own, whether on private or public business, the parents think of him north to south, following him with their hearts east to west, inclining their heads to one side [in concern for him everywhere he goes and whatever he does].
“When the child reaches marriageable age, he marries a woman from another family. After marriage he is very happy with his wife, enjoying pleasures in their private room. While the daily life of the newlyweds is full of sweet talk, he treats his parents coldly. Though both his father and mother are now old and do not have much energy, he has no wish to see them all day long or have any intimate conversation (with them).
“In due time, one parent dies and (the other now) lives all alone. Lonely after the death of their spouse, the parent may now be compared to a traveler without kin who is staying in another person's house. Having no warm clothes to protect himself against the cold in winter, he encounters numerous difficulties. In addition, an aged and depressed parent may become infected with lice and cannot sleep either day or night. At last he heaves a great sigh of disappointment with life, repines at his own misfortune, and says, ‘What actions in a past life have caused me to have such an unfilial child?'
“When the parents call on their child asking for a favor, he becomes furiously angry (with them). Not only he but his wife and (their) children abuse his parents, laughing scornfully with their heads down. In this case the wife is unfilial as well, and (such an unfilial child) deserves the punishment of having his body torn to pieces again.
Treating one's aged parents in the way described here is equal to the five grave sins expounded in the Buddhist sutras.
“When some urgent problem arises and the parents call on the child for help, he will only respond one time out of ten. Thus he is constantly disobeying his parents, shouting out furiously and full of scorn, ‘you had better die soon! Why are you still in this world?'Hearing such words from their child, the parents grieve and suffer intense agony. With eyes swollen from weeping, they cry, ‘As a baby you would have been lost without us, you could not have survived. We brought you into this world but perhaps it would have been better if we had never had a child.'”
Continuing his sermon, the Buddha told Ānanda, “If any good man or woman, for the sake of their own father and mother, keeps, chants, and copies even one passage or one verse from this sutra, which in its full title is called the ‘Great Perfect Wisdom Great Vehicle Sutra on the Profundity of Filial Love,' if only one passage or one verse reaches their ears and eyes, then the five rebellious sins will be erased completely. Nothing sinful will remain forever. They will now see the Buddhas, hear the Buddhist teachings, and soon be able to attain liberation.”
At this time, Ānanda rose from his seat. Wearing the upper robe over his left shoulder to show his respect, he knelt on his right knee, joined his palms, and said, “World-honored One, what is the title of this sutra? How should we receive and keep it?”
Thereupon the Buddha told Ānanda, “This sutra is entitled the ‘Sutra on the Profundity of Filial Love.' Any sentient being can bring blessings to his parents. When he copies this sutra, offers incense, prays to the Buddhas, worships them, and makes offerings to the Three Jewels, such as providing alms food for the community of monks, then it may be known that he indeed repays the kindness of his father and mother.”
Having thus heard the Buddha preach this sutra, Indra, Brahma, the gods, human beings, and all other sentient beings present at that time were greatly pleased and awakened the aspiration for enlightenment (Bodhicitta).
Their joyful cries shook the earth and their tears streamed down like rain.
Worshiping the Buddha, they fell prostrate on the ground and bowed to the Buddha's feet. Thereafter they upheld the Buddha's teaching and delightedly practiced it.