Home is the basic place in which we practice religious discipline, a place in which we can directly contemplate the cause of suffering and free ourselves of our selfishness.
Through our practice of the Buddha's teaching, our home can become a place in which we comfort immediate family members.
However, excessive reliance can easily develop among family members, and the attitude of insisting on one's viewpoint may arise by saying, "Don't you understand what I am saying?" or "I want you to see things my way." In other words, we tend to become selfish. That is why the home can be called the basic place in which we practice religious discipline, a place where we can directly contemplate the cause of suffering and free ourselves of our selfishness.
Just as the expression "Children naturally learn by observing their parents" tells us, such observation is a part of every child's growing up. The conduct of our children is a reflection of the conduct of their parents, and it is through their children that adults become aware of how to act as parents.
When we realize this, we can clearly see our attitude changing from "I've had so much trouble with this child" to "Thanks to this child, I have been able to become a good parent." How wonderful it is to be filled naturally with the sense of putting our hands together reverently in prayer at home if we can say to ourselves, "Thanks to my family, we are learning the Buddha's teaching and making it our own."
When we say "put our hands together reverently in prayer," or "worship," it is usually because the person or object we are venerating is precious to us. Whenever we put our hands together reverently before another person, the fact that we are venerating the other person is something for which we should both be grateful.
I feel that putting our hands together reverently has great significance. It demonstrates our gratitude for developing the mind of venerating others through the wondrous power of the teaching of the Buddha.
The Practice of Nonself
The third Kamakura shogun, Minamoto no Sanetomo (1192-1219), who was also a renowned poet, left us this poem in the Kinkai Wakashu (The Golden Pagoda-Tree Collection of Japanese Poetry): "Even the beasts in all directions / That cannot speak in words / Are concerned for their offspring. / How deeply this impresses me." Despite the fact that animals cannot express their feelings with language, as parents they show affection for their young--the poem was composed upon the writer's being moved by recognizing this.
This poem lets us know that the essence of life is common to all living beings. Parents shower affection on their children when raising them, seeking no reward for doing so. Intrinsically, the rearing of children can be called a practice of nonself, a realm of affection in which parents and children are united as one. When an infant cries from hunger, the mother--no matter how sleepy she may be--awakes to feed her baby and becomes the very embodiment of unconditional love.
Realizing that home is the place in which we practice the Buddha's teaching, let us bear in mind the feelings of all family members by demonstrating nonself, thus striving to train ourselves to disseminate the teaching to others.
This article was originally published in the January-March 2009 issue of Dharma World.
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