The Ancient Book said: ”All the scriptures take filial piety and righteousness for first priority”. Today you have taken refuge in Buddha as home practicers, you are urged to obey your Patriarch and Master's teachings and accomplish your filial piety and righteousness.
The Buddha Master of the Western Peace used to advise His disciples: In order to accomplish filial piety and righteousness, only if you devote yourselves, you can expect to accomplish the duties:
1. Debt of gratitude towards Parents and Ancestors
2. Debt of gratitude toward the country
3. Debt of gratitude toward the Three Jewels
4. Debt of gratitude toward Compatriots and Mankind (or donors for the monks)
1.-DEBT OF GRATITUDE TOWARD PARENTS AND ANCESTORS: First able to see the world, having our bodies to grow from childhood to adulthood, developing adequate intelligence, in this years-long period, we owed our parents so much for their hardship. But our parents were born thanks to our ancestors, therefore, if we are grateful to our parents, we must also be to our ancestors.
In order to repay our parents, while they are alive, if they teach us the right thing, we must conscientiously obey them lest we should disaffect them. If our parents do something unethical, we must try our best to dissuade or stop them. Besides, we must do our best for their wellbeing, keep our siblings in harmony and familial happiness to their satisfaction. We pray for their longevity. If they passed away, pray for them to be reborn on Buddhaland, free from the cycle of rebirth.
As for our ancestors, do not defile nor defame our pedigree. If our ancestors have done something wrong, leaving descendants with grief, we must resolve to practice and sacrifice our lives for righteousness and to clear our ancestors’ names.
2.-DEBT OF GRATITUDE TOWARD THE COUNTRY: When we are born, we owe our bodies to our parents and ancestors, but for livelihood, we must owe it to our land. Enjoying every inch of her land and produce, to facilitate our living and to preserve our posterity, we are obligated to defend her against any invader.
Support her when it is in dire straits. Make her prosperous and strong. Rescue her when she is under foreign dominance. Only if she has been secure in borders, prosperous and strong, we can feel settled and warm.
Sacrifice wherever you can for her sake. If you have not been ready for a major task, and if you have no chance to help her, avoid making a mistake that may lead to harm her, and never assist the enemy to damage her. That’s the way we repay our country.
3.-DEBT OF GRATITUDE TOWARD THE THREE JEWELS: What are These? They are Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The human owe birth-giving and raising to their parents and their livelihood to the country. These debts are on the physical or material plane. Spiritually, they owe perspicacity to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Buddha is a perfectly good, perfectly beautiful, utterly compassionate, one who resolves to salvage the worldly from their suffering sea. Thus, He passed His Dharma, that is, exhortations, on to the Sangha who then propagate this Tao over the world.
The sangha has no one else but Buddha's great disciples. As He always guides and salvages sentient beings from their delusions and sufferings, so must we revere Him and believe in His mission by following His exhortations that sangha members tell us. Our ancestors grasped Buddha's miracles and compassion toward the worldly, revered and worshipped Him, acted according to what He taught, and built up the Tao for further development, constructed the sublime structure of Morality, shining forever with the posterity.
Thus, our obligation is to follow the forebears’ vows and moral conduct, so that we may have perspicacity to walk on the path to deliverance, guiding the disadvantaged and, in particular, continuing to make inroads in the noble Path so that the spirit of compassion and empathy may be sowed througout the mass people. Thus, we will not betray the great legacy of Lord Buddha and forebears, and will not be guilty toward posterity.
4.-DEBT OF GRATITUDE TOWARD COMPATRIOTS AND MANKIND: As soon as the human being is born, s/he has found her/himself relying on the help from people around and, the older she is, the heavier the reliance becomes. Our survival rests on their grains of rice, our warmth on their fabric, our safety against all kinds of weather on their the accommodation. Happiness or disaster, they share them with us.
They and we have the same skin color, the same language. We and they gather into one: that is the Nation. Who are they? They are those whom we call compatriots. Compatriots and we belong to the same race, to the same lineage, share the glorious pages of history, support each other in cases of emergency, and espouse the duties to procreate the best possible generation for the country’s future.
Compatriots and we are so intimately interrelated that we cannot separate from each other, and there will be no circumstance under which there exists only one without the other. Therefore, we must try to help them so that we repay them the debt of gratitude which we always owe them.
Not only that, apart from our compatriots, we have a world in which people are laboring to provide for us what we may need. They are mankind, those who live with us on the planet Earth. Without mankind, how will our people turn out to be? Can we be self-sufficient? Can we provide for ourselves enough?
In brief, we can be alone to deal with storms, hot and cold weather, diseases, natural and social disasters, in which case it is hard for us to survive, isn’t it? Certainly, it is impossible. Therefore, we must resort to mankind, that is, relying on other peoples, thus we must acknowledge their generosity.
Think about them, as well as we think of ourselves and our own race of people. Moreover, Buddha’s compassion and mercy which we recognize is very far-reaching. This sentiment has no border, regardless of skin color, race, wealth, social class and so forth, but is put into one: Mankind, Sentient Beings.
Thus, it is not justifiable to cause damage to other peoples for our private interest or in the name of our own people. On the contrary, place in humanity, compassion, tolerance, and see ourselves having the obligation to help them in times of emergency.
Debt of Gratitude toward Donators (1)
As for the votaries who take refuge in Buddhism, apart from the above-mentioned debts, they also owe to their donators the debt of their direct support by kindly providing for them all their necessities. They need the grain of rice, the fabric, even the medicine, for their living. In brief, they must depend on the entire support from the kind-hearted. Toward the living beings, they owe a very heavy debt of gratitude, therefore they must guide the living on the path to the Truth in order to repay the care and attention of the believers.
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