A HAPPY FAMILY According To Buddhism

It is true in every society that a family is the smallest social unit. If every family in a country is happy, the whole nation will be happy. What constitutes a happy family? A happy family is defined as one that is stable in terms of social, economic, psychological and physical aspects of life; and where there is warm affection and harmony among family members. A family which can strike a balance between these factors is indeed a happy family.

But when we look around us at the situation in most parts of the world, what do we see? Children loitering in the streets and video arcades. They play truant. Children are abused, wives are beaten and ageing parents are packed off to old folks homes regardless of their feelings. All these are tell-tale signs that all is not well at the most basic level of society: these are signs of social decadence.

It is a sad situation when good values and traditions are no longer practised. There is little interaction among members of the family and friends and the sense of responsibility towards other members of the family is weakening. Unhappiness in a family may be attributed to poverty, but having material wealth is no guarantee of happiness either, if it simply breeds selfishness, cruelty and greed.

A child learns affection and love from his parents and, together, they make a happy family unit. Through this microcosm of society, it learns about caring, sharing, compassion and concern for others. Throughout the ages religion has been an important force to organize these values into a system that is easily recognized and taught. Thus family and religion are vital components in impartirng and nurturing these values.

The family plays an important role in the development of its members. The best of Asian and Western cultures teach and practise respect for elders, compassion for the sick and needy, care for elderly parents and consideration for the young.

Children growing up in families practising these values will emulate them and act accordingly towards others. But given the vast technological advances in modern civilization we are fast losing these values. Something must be done to bring the family back together and save society.

We must protect and support family development as an institution in the light of the rapid demographic and socio-economic changes world-wide. Extended families are giving way to nuclear families. We can do little to stop this trend but the values of respect, concern and compassion must be preserved. Good values, both Eastern and Western, must be maintained despite changes in lifestyle brought on by modernisation, industrialisation and urbanisation.

The mother is an important figure in family development. As care, love, tenderness and compassion are her innate qualities, she imparts these sterling values to her children in their upbringing. The mother, because of her love, concern, compassion, patience and tolerance thus holds the family together. Her espousal of these values may be passed on to her children who are great imitators and who learn by examples. We must as a group reinstate the traditional function of the mother, although of course to suit modern needs and pressures.

Religion too, promotes good human values. Strong resilient families and the practice of religion are therefore necessary in the promotion of family development.

It could be said that a happy family is a group of people living amicably and peacefully together with emphasis on religion, discipline and parenthood to create a happy family atmosphere. Values like these should be upheld and religiously protected so that a family is not influenced by anti-social values and unacceptable norms.

Realistic and reasonable parents make for a happy family. And the only way parents can build a happy family is through the institution of marriage. It worked very well in the past. It can do so now, provided we make it relevant to the needs of today's living.

~ By Ven. K Sri Dhammananda

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