CHAPTER 4, THE PURPOSE OF LIFE IN THE FAMILY AND IN SOCIETY
We may regard the family as having two axes: a vertical axis
running through the generations from grandparents to parents to
children, and a horizontal axis including members of the same
generation: husband and wife, brothers and sisters. Furthermore, the
ultimate vertical axis is the relation between the family and Ultimate
Reality, recognizing God as the Ultimate Parent. Happiness and harmony
in the family are thus directly related to the good character,
truthfulness, and God-directedness of the individual: of the parents
first and also of other family members. Good family relations, in turn,
are productive of good citizens who are able to apply the lessons of
family relations to relations with their elders and superiors,
co-workers, and subordinates, in school, business, government, and other
community affairs. The passages in this section deal with the various
relations in the family all together. The following two sections gather
passages on the vertical axis of parents and children and the horizontal
axis of husband and wife, respectively.
Supporting one's father and mother, cherishing wife and children and a
peaceful occupation; this is the greatest blessing.
Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 262
Lord, give us joy in our wives and children, and make us models for the
Islam. Qur'an 25.74
May in this family discipline overcome indiscipline, peace discord,
charity miserliness, devotion arrogance, the truth-spoken word the false
spoken word which destroys the holy order.
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 60.5
There are five relations of utmost importance under Heaven...
prince and minister; between father and son; between husband and wife;
between elder and younger brothers; and between friends.
Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 20.8
What are "the things which men consider right"? Kindness on the part of
the father, and filial duty on that of the son; gentleness on the part
of the elder brother, and obedience on that of the younger;
righteousness on the part of the husband, and submission on that of the
wife; kindness on the part of elders, and deference on that of juniors;
with benevolence on the part of the ruler, and loyalty on that of the
minister;--these ten are the things which men consider to be right.
Confucianism. Book of Ritual 7.2.19
Natural mildness should be there in the family. Observance of the vows
leads to mildness.... Right belief should there be amongst family
members. Crookedness and deception cause unhappiness in the family.
Straightforwardness and honesty in one's body, speech, and mental
activities lead the family to an auspicious path. Purity, reverence,
ceaseless pursuit of knowledge, charity, removal of obstacles that
threaten equanimity, service to others -- these make the family happy.
Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 6.18-24
The moral life of man may be likened to traveling to a distant place:
one must start from the nearest stage. It may also be likened to
ascending a height [of public responsibility]: one must begin from the
lowest step [one's family]. The Book of Songs says,
When wives and children and their sires are one,
'Tis like the harp and lute in unison.
When brothers live in concord and at peace
The strain of harmony shall never cease.
The lamp of happy union lights the home,
And bright days follow when the children come.
Confucius, commenting on the above, remarked, "In such a state of things
what more satisfaction can parents have?"
Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 15.2-3
Thus I have heard, the Buddha was once staying near Rajagaha in the
Bamboo Wood at the Squirrels' Feeding Ground. Now at this time young
Sigala, a householder's son, rising betimes, went forth from Rajagaha,
and with wet hair and wet garments and clasped hands uplifted, paid
worship to the several quarters of the earth and sky: to the east,
south, west, and north, to the nadir and the zenith.
And the Exalted One early that morning dressed himself, took bowl
and robe and entered Rajagaha seeking alms. Now he saw young Sigala
worshipping and spoke to him thus,
"Why, young householder, do you worship the several quarters of
earth and sky?"
"Sir, my father, when he was dying, said to me: 'Dear son, you
should worship the quarters of the earth and sky.' So I, sir, honoring
my father's word, rise and worship in this way."
"But in the religion of an educated man, the six quarters should
not be worshipped thus."
"How then, sir, in the religion of an educated man, should the
six quarters be worshipped? It would be an excellent thing if the
Exalted One would so teach me the correct way..."
"How, O young householder, does the educated man serve the six
quarters? The following should be looked upon as the six quarters:
parents as the east, teachers as the south, wife and children as the
west, friends and companions as the north, servants as the nadir, and
religious leaders as the zenith.
"In five ways should a child minister to his parents as the
eastern quarter: 'Once supported by them, I will now be their support;
I will perform duties incumbent on them; I will keep up the lineage and
tradition of my family; I will make myself worthy of my heritage.'
"In five ways parents thus ministered to, as the eastern quarter,
by their child, show their love for him: They restrain him from vice,
they exhort him to virtue, they train him to a profession, they contract
a suitable marriage for him, and in due time they hand over to him his
"Thus is the eastern quarter protected by him and made safe and
"In five ways should pupils minister to their teachers as the
southern quarter: by respectfully greeting them, by waiting upon them,
by eagerness to learn, by personal service, and by attentiveness to
"In five ways do teachers, thus ministered to as the southern
quarter by their pupils, love their pupil: They train him in what they
have been trained; they make him hold fast to moral precepts; they
thoroughly instruct him in the lore of every subject; they speak well of
him among his friends and companions; they counsel him for his safety
"Thus is the southern quarter protected by him and made safe and
"In five ways should a wife as western quarter be ministered to
by her husband: by respect, by courtesy, by faithfulness, by handing
over authority to her, by providing her with adornment.
"In five ways does the wife, ministered to by her husband as the
western quarter, love him: Her duties are well performed, she is
hospitable to their relatives, she is faithful, she watches over the
wages and goods which he brings home, she discharges all her business
with skill and industry.
"Thus is the western quarter protected by him and made safe and
"In five ways should one minister to his friends and companions
as the northern quarter: by generosity, courtesy, and benevolence, by
treating them as he treats himself, and by being as good as his word.
"In five ways do his friends and familiars, thus ministered to as
the northern quarter, love him: They protect him when he is off his
guard, and on occasions guard his property; they become a refuge in
danger; they do not forsake him in his troubles; and they show
consideration for his family.
"Thus is the northern quarter protected by him and made safe and
"In five ways does a noble master minister to his servants and
employees as the nadir: by assigning them work according to their
strength, by supplying them with food and wages, by tending them in
sickness, by sharing with them unusual delicacies, by granting them
leave at times.
"In five ways, thus ministered to by their master, do servants
and employees love him: They rise before him, they lie down to rest
after him, they are content with their wages, they do their work well,
and they carry about his praise and good fame.
"Thus is the nadir by him protected and made safe and secure.
"In five ways should the layman minister to saints, priests, and
religious leaders as the zenith: by affection in act and speech and
mind, by keeping open house to them, and by supplying their temporal
"Ministered to as the zenith, monks, priests, and religious
leaders show their love for the layman in six ways: They restrain him
from evil, they exhort him to good, they love him with kindly thoughts,
they teach him what he has not heard, they correct and purify what he
has heard, they reveal to him the way of heaven.
"Thus by him is the zenith protected and made safe and secure."
Buddhism. Digha Nikaya iii.185-91, Sigalovada Sutta
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Doctrine of the Mean 20.8: These are the Confucian Five Relations. They
are further explicated in the following passage. Book of Ritual 7.2.19:
Cf. I Ching 37, p. 260. Tattvarthasutra 6.18.24: Cf. Acarangasutra
1.35-37, p. 739; Tattvarthasutra 9.6, p. 169.
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