Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Family

One similarity between Jesus and the Buddha was that both advocated non traditional views of family. The Buddha left his family, including wife and child, to seek enlightenment, although when his son was old enough he had him join him as a monk. Jesus had his family around him and they played an important role in the early church, but he was clear that family ties meant nothing to him and were not to be regarded as important. One clue about this comes from the Buddha's advice to an untouchable (the lowest class in Hinduism) who wanted to follow him. Because the boy had younger siblings that he supported, the Buddha requested that he wait until they were able to support themselves and then join him (which he did). This shows that, although traditional family roles have no special meaning, we should be compassionate toward our families. We are all in situations where, due to our relationships, we have much more influence over some people than others. Life (or karma) presents us with certain opportunities where our actions, compassionate or otherwise, have a much bigger effect. Therefore, we have to treat these situations with extra care. Family can be viewed in this way. It is an opportunity where compassionate actions can have a profound effect. However, it is also the case that family can oppress and damage individuals. In the past, the family you were born into determined most things and you were stuck with it. Becoming a monk or a nun was, for most people, the only way out, which was important since families can be controlling and abusive. Now many of us have the option of divorce if things are not working out. Officially, the Catholic Church does not believe in divorce. Given Jesus's attitude toward family, I do not think this is right, especially when abuse is involved. To a certain degree it is admirable to tolerate personal suffering out of compassion for others. In families this often happens when two parents do not get along but stay together for the sake of the children. However, this type of situation is very tenuous, and requires careful judgement. If the effect of this on one or both parents can no longer be hidden from the children then it is time to consider another arrangement that is better for the children. Children are innocent and their well being should always be the top priority

So here is my understanding of this - Traditional family roles are not important but compassion is. We should make decisions concerning family based on compassion and not fixed views about what a family should be.

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