The Sutra As Spoken By The Buddha On The Profound Kindness Of Parents&Difficulties In Repaying Them
|Namo Fundamental Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha |
南 無 本 師 釋 迦 牟 尼 佛
Sutra Opening Gatha
開 經 偈
The Dharma, infinitely profound and subtle,
Is rarely encountered even in a million kalpas.
Now we are able to hear, study, and follow it,
May we fully realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.
The Sutra As Spoken By The Buddha On The Profound Kindness Of Parents And The Difficulties In Repaying Them
Translated by the Chung Tai Translation Committee
From the Chinese translation by
Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva, 5th Century
Prior English translations by Upasika Terri Nicholson
and the Buddha Text Translation Society were used as
base texts and other translations were used as references.
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1. Thus I have heard.
Once, the Buddha dwelt at Shravasti, in Jeta Grove, the Garden of Anathapindada, the benefactor of orphans and the solitary, together with a gathering of great bhikshus, two thousand five hundred in all, and with bodhisattvas and mahasattvas, thirty-eight thousand in all.
One day, the World Honored One led the great assembly on a walk toward the south. Suddenly, they came upon a pile of bones beside the road. The Tathagata then turned to face the bones, with head and four limbs to the ground, and prostrated to them respectfully.
Ananda placed his palms together and asked, “World Honored One, the Tathagata is the great teacher of the Triple Realm and the compassionate father of the four kinds of births; you are respected and revered by all. What causes you to pay respect to a pile of dried bones?”
The Buddha told Ananda, “Although all of you have joined the Sangha for a long time and are my foremost disciples, your knowledge is still not extensive. This pile of dried bones could have been my parents or ancestors in many past lifetimes. That is the reason I bow to them now.” Then the Buddha said to Ananda. “Now divide this pile of bones into two groups. If they are the bones of men, they are heavy and white in color. If they are the bones of women, they are light in weight and dark in color.”
2. Ananda said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, when men are alive in the world, they adorn their bodies with robes, belts, shoes, hats, and other fine attire, so that we clearly see them as men. When women are alive, they put on cosmetics and apply fragrances from plants or musk; with these adornments we clearly see them as women. Yet, once they are dead, all that remains are a pile of bones. What makes them different?”
The Buddha answered Ananda, “When men are alive, they enter temples, listen to teachings on the sutras and precepts, make obeisance to the Three Jewels, and recite the Buddha’s name, therefore when they die, their bones will be heavy and white in color. Many women in the world are lacking in knowledge and easily swayed by emotion. They give birth to and raise children, feeling that this is their natural duty. Each child relies on its mother’s milk for life and nourishment, and that milk is a transformation of the mother’s blood. Each child drinks eight hundred and forty liters of its mother’s milk. The mother becomes haggard and worn because of this, and therefore her bones turn dark in color and light in weight!”
When Ananda heard these words, pain pierced his heart as if he had been stabbed and he wept bitterly. He said, “World Honored One! How can we ever repay our mother’s love and devotion?”
The Buddha told Ananda, “Listen well, and I will explain it to you in detail. The mother bears the fetus in her womb for ten months. What a great hardship that is! In the first month of pregnancy, the life of the fetus is as precarious as a dewdrop on grass, for it may not last from dawn to dusk, there in the morning, evaporated by mid-day!
3. “During the second month, the embryo congeals like curds. In the third month it is like coagulated blood. During the fourth month of pregnancy, the fetus begins to assume a slightly more human form. During the fifth month in the womb, the five appendages: head, two knees, and two elbows start to take shape. In the sixth month, the fetus begins to develop the six sense faculties: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. During the seventh month, three hundred sixty bones and joints and eighty-four thousand pores are formed. In the eighth month of pregnancy, the mental faculty and the nine apertures are developed. By the ninth month, the fetus is able to assimilate the nutrients originally coming from peaches, pears, other fruits, vegetables, and the five grains. Inside the mother's body, the raw-transport organs push (food) downward (for digestion), while the ripe-transport organs move (nutrients) upward. This is like the great mountain standing on the surface of the earth, which has three names: Mount Sumeru, Karma Mountain, and Blood Mountain. This mountain is analogous to the mother's blood congealing to form the child's food. During the tenth month of pregnancy, the fetus is fully developed and ready to be born. If the child is destined to be a filial child, it will emerge with hands joined together and the birth will be safe and peaceful. The mother will remain uninjured by the birth and will not suffer.
4. “However, if the child is going to be defiant and heartbreaking to its parents, then it will injure its mother’s womb, pull on the mother’s heart and liver, and straddle her pelvis. The birth will feel like a thousand knives churning inside or like ten thousand blades piercing the mother’s heart. These are the agonies the mother bears in childbirth. To explicate further, there are ten types of kindness bestowed by the mother on the child: The first is the kindness of providing protection and care while the child is in the womb. The second is the kindness of enduring the pain during childbirth. The third is the kindness of forgetting all the pain once the child is born. The fourth is the kindness of swallowing the bitter and saving the savory for the child. The fifth is the kindness of lying in dampness while keeping the child dry. The sixth is the kindness of suckling and raising the child. The seventh is the kindness of washing away the child’s filth. The eighth is the kindness of always being concerned and worried when the child travels afar. The ninth is the kindness of deep caring and sacrifice. The tenth is the kindness of enduring love and devotion.
(一) The Kindness of Providing Protection and Care While the Child Is In the Womb: The deep karmic bonds from past kalpasHave led to conception in the mother’s womb;As the months pass, the five organs develop;The six senses are formed in seven weeks.The mother’s body feels as heavy as a mountain, All her movements tear at herLike the hurricane that destroys the world The mother’s fine clothes are no longer worn,While her vanity mirror gathers dust.
5. (二) The Kindness of Enduring Pain During Childbirth:The pregnancy lasts for ten months, As a difficult labor approaches;Each morning the mother feels seriously ill,Each day she is drowsy and sluggish. Her fear and agitation are difficult to describe,Tears of worry fill her heart. In sorrow she tells her family, That she dreads death will overtake her!
(三) The Kindness of Forgetting All the Pain Once the Child Is Born:On the day the loving mother gives birth, It’s as if her internal organs were torn open; She nearly faints from exhaustion of body and mind,Blood gushes as from a slaughtered lamb.But upon hearing that the child is healthy, She is overcome with boundless joy;Yet the joy soon ceases and grief returns, As agony wrenches her heart and guts.
(四) The Kindness of Swallowing the Bitter and Saving the Savory For The Child:The kindness of parents is deep and profound, Their care and affection never cease; Tirelessly the mother feeds the savory to the child, While swallowing the bitter herself without complaints.Her love is immense and difficult to contain, Her kindness is profound and so is her compassion; Only wanting the child to be nourished, The loving mother ignores her own hunger!
6. (五) The Kindness of Lying in Dampness While Keeping the Child Dry:
The mother is willing to lie in dampness, Moving the child so he can be dry;Her breasts satisfy his hunger and thirst, Her sleeves protect him from the wind and chill. Her head rarely touches the pillow, Constantly pampering to make the child happy;Wishing the child to be safe and secure, The mother seeks no comfort for herself!
(六) The Kindness of Suckling and Raising the Child:The compassionate mother is like the great earth, The stern father is like the heavens; One shields from above; the other supports from below,Such is the immense kindness of parents. Never angry or impatient,They don’t complain even when their limbs cramp.The children are their own flesh and blood, All day long they care for and cherish them! (七) The Kindness of Washing Away the Child’s Filth: Once beautiful with delicate features, Her spirit was vibrant and strong; Her eyebrows were like fresh willows, Her complexion put a red lotus to shame. In her devotion she neglects her lovely face, As endless cleansing chafes her delicate fingers. With concern solely for her sons and daughters, A mother lets her own beauty fade.
7. ( 八) The Kindness of Always Worrying When the Child Travels Afar:The death of loved ones is truly hard to bear, Separation in life also leaves a deep wound;When the child travels afar, the mother agonizes overHow he is faring in a faraway land.Day and night, her heart is with her child, She sheds a thousand streams of tears;Like an ape weeping for its beloved young, Her heart is broken into pieces!
(九) The Kindness of Deep Caring and Sacrifice:The kindness and affection of parents are profound,And truly difficult to repay;They willingly suffer on their children’s behalf. If the child labors hard, the parents are distraught.If they hear that he has traveled afar, They worry he will lie in the cold at night; Even a moment’s pain of their dear children, Will cause the mother prolonged distress!
(十) The Kindness of Enduring Love and Devotion:The kindness of parents is deep and profound, Their mercy and concern never cease;Sitting or standing, their hearts are with their children,Near or far, the parents’ thoughts follow them. Even if a mother is a hundred years old, She will still worry about her eighty-year-old child, Do you know when this love will end? It only ceases when her life is over!”
8. The Buddha told Ananda, “I see among the living, even though born as human beings, many who are foolish and ignorant in their thoughts and actions. They do not think of their parents’ great kindness and beneficence. They are disrespectful, ungrateful and unrighteous. They lack benevolence and compassion; they are neither filial nor compliant. During the ten months while the mother bears the child, she feels discomfort every time she rises and sits, as if she were carrying a heavy burden. Like a chronic invalid, she is unable to keep her food down. When it is time for the birth, she undergoes great pain and suffering. As the child is being born, her own life is at risk, as blood flows all over the floor, like a pig or lamb being slaughtered. After enduring these sufferings and the child is born, the mother swallows the bitter and saves the sweet for him; holding, carrying and nourishing the child, washing and scrubbing away its filth, enduring both cold and heat; she does not withdraw from any hardships nor reject any hard work. She lets her child lie on the dry spot and sleeps on the damp spot herself. For three years she feeds the baby milk, which is transformed from her own blood.
“As children grow to maturity, parents continually instruct and guide them in the ways of propriety and morality. They help with their marriage arrangements, and assist in acquiring assets and jobs. Bearing and bringing up children involve tremendous difficulty and hardship, but parents never speak of their own beneficence. When a child becomes ill, parents are worried and afraid. Frequently the mother is so worried that she becomes sick herself. Only when the child is well does she recover.
9.“In this way, parents raise their children, hoping that they will soon grow to be mature adults. Yet after the children grow up, they often are unfilial in return. When speaking with their elders and relatives, they display no obedience. They are impolite in their manner of speech, even glaring at them with hostility. They insult and bully their uncles and aunts, they scold and fight with their siblings, they disrupt family harmony, and have no respect or sense of propriety. Even though they are educated, they do not heed instructions or obey the rules; they seldom follow the guidance of their parents. They breach agreements with their own brothers. They come and go from home without even reporting to their parents. Their speech and actions are arrogant and they act on impulse without consulting others. When their parents admonish or punish them, or when their uncles point out their mistakes, children are often protected by elders who take pity on them because of their youth. Gradually, as they grow up, they become increasingly rebellious and abusive; they do not admit to wrongdoing and become defiant and hateful. They forsake family and friends and befriend evildoers; bad habits eventually become second nature, and they come to believe what is wrong to be right.
“Such children may be enticed by others to run away to other towns, defying their parents and leaving home and family. In the course of time, they may work in business or politics, get married, and all these hinder them from returning home for long periods of time.
10. “Or, living in other towns, these children may not be prudent and find themselves plotted against, accused of doing evil, or involved in lawsuits. They may be unfairly punished or locked up in prison. Or they may encounter illness, become entangled in difficulties and hardships, be confined and suffer from starvation and emaciation, and have no one to take care of them. Or they may be scorned and disliked by others, and abandoned on the streets. Thus their lives may come to an end, and no one bothers to save them. Their bodies swell up, rot, decay, and are scorched by the sun and blown by the wind. Their bones are scattered in foreign soil. They will never again be happily reunited with their relatives and kin or be able to repay their parents’ beneficence. They will never know how their aging parents constantly mourn for and worry about them. The parents’ eyes become blurry and turn blind from weeping. Or, choked with grief, they become very ill. Constantly thinking of their children, they languish and pass away; but even when they become ghosts, their spirits are still unable to let go of the children. “Some children may not aspire to learning, but instead become involved in gangs or improper endeavors. They may be villainous, crude, and stubborn, delighting in practices that are utterly devoid of benefit. They may become involved in fights and thefts, setting themselves at odds with the local community by drinking, gambling, and debauchery. They drag their brothers into their evil ways to the further distress of their parents. They leave home early in the morning and return late at night. They never ask about the welfare of their parents or whether they are warm or cold.
11. “They do not look after their parents either in the morning or evening, from the first day of the month to the last day. They never make the beds for their parents or know if they have slept well. They are not concerned about their parents’ daily needs, nor do they help them throughout the day. As the parents advance in age and their appearances become feeble and emaciated, they feel ashamed to be seen in public and have to endure abuse and oppression.
“Some parents are widowers or widows. They are left alone in empty houses, feeling like guests in their own homes. They may be cold and hungry, but no one takes heed of their plight. They often weep from day into the night, sighing and lamenting. It’s only right that children should happily provide for aging parents according to their wishes, but irresponsible children will do no such thing. Instead they feel embarrassed about their own parents and are afraid of being laughed at and ridiculed if they are seen with them.
“On the other hand, they lavish wealth and food on their own wives and children, not minding the toil and weariness involved.Without a sense of shame, they acquiesce with all the wishes of their wives and concubines, but when their parents and elders reproach them, they react with total disregard. It may be the case that daughters were quite filial to their parents while unwed, but become progressively less filial after they marry. If their parents show even the slightest signs of displeasure, the daughters become upset and resentful toward them. Yet if their husbands scold or beat them, they bear it willingly.
12. “Even though their spouses are of other families and surnames, the love between them is deep and their attachment is strong, yet they hold their own flesh and blood at a distance. They may follow their husbands and move to other towns, leaving their parents behind and not even miss them. They cut off all communication with their parents, not sending them a word.
The parents feel anxious as their hearts are left hanging without a single moment’s peace. In every thought they yearn to see their children, just as one who is thirsty longs for something to drink. Their loving concern for their offspring never ends. The parents’ beneficence and virtue are boundless and limitless. If one has made the mistake of being unfilial, it is almost impossible to describe the retribution!”
Upon hearing the Buddha speak about the depth of one’s parents’ kindness, some in the assembly threw themselves on the ground, some beat their chests some struck themselves, some had blood flowing from all their pores, and some fell unconscious to the ground for a long time before they regained consciousness. The people lamented loudly,
“How terrible this is! How painful this is! Now we see that we are real sinners. Like those who travel in the dark night, we have been so blind. We now understand our wrongdoings and our very insides are torn to bits. We only hope that the World Honored One will pity us and save us. Please tell us how we can repay the profound kindness of our parents!”
13. At that time the Tathagata, in a profound and deep Brahma voice with eight pure qualities, spoke to the assembly.
“All of you should know this. I will now explain this matter to you in detail.
“If a person were to carry his father on his left shoulder and his mother on his right shoulder, until their weight bore through his skin to the bones and through the bones to the marrow, and if that person were to circumambulate Mount Sumeru for a thousand kalpas until the blood that flowed from his feet covered his ankles, that person would still not have repaid the deep kindness of his parents!
“If a person who, during a period fraught with famine and starvation, sacrificed his own body by slicing his flesh off into pieces as many as dust particles to feed his parents, and did this through hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repaid the deep kindness of his parents!
“If a person who, for the sake of his parents, took a knife and cut out his eyes and made an offering of them to the Tathagata, and continued to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repaid the profound kindness of his parents!
“If a person who, for the sake of his father and mother, used a sharp knife to cut out his heart and liver, unafraid of the pain even as his blood flowed all over the ground, and if he continued in this way for hundreds and thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repaid the profound kindness of his parents!
14. “If a person who, for the sake of his parents, was stabbed by a hundred thousand swords all at once so that they entered one side of his body and came out the other, and if this continued for hundreds and thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repaid the profound kindness of his parents!
“If a person who, for the sake of his parents, was beaten until his bones protruded and broke and the marrow came out, and this continued for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repaid the profound kindness of his parents!
“If a person who, for the sake of his parents, had to swallow molten iron pellets and continued to do this for hundreds and thousands of kalpas, until his body was seared completely, that person still would not have repaid the profound kindness of his parents.
”At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak about the kindness and virtue of parents, everyone in the assembly wept bitterly and felt piercing pain in their hearts. They reflected but did not know what to do, were deeply remorseful, and spoke with one voice to the Buddha, “World Honored One, we are all sinners! How can we repay the deep kindness of our parents?”
The Buddha told the disciples, “If you wish to repay your parents’ kindness, write out this sutra on their behalf. Recite this sutra on their behalf. Repent your transgressions and offenses on their behalf. For the sake of your parents, make offerings to the Three Jewels. For the sake of your parents, observe the precepts and fast. For the sake of your parents, practice giving and cultivate good deeds. If you are able to do these things, you will be known as filial children. If you do not do these things, you are people destined for the hells.”
15. The Buddha told Ananda, “If a person is not filial, when his life ends and his body decays, he will fall into the Endless Avici Hell. This great hell is eighty thousand yojanas in circumference; it is surrounded on all four sides by iron walls and covered by nets. The ground is also made of iron, with an immense fire burning fiercely. Thunder roars and bright bolts of lightning strike, molten brass and iron fluids are poured over the offenders’ bodies. Brass dogs and iron snakes constantly spew out fire and smoke, which burn the offenders, broil and char their flesh and fat. Alas, such suffering! Such pain! Difficult to take, difficult to bear! There are poles and hooks, spears and lances, iron halberds, iron chains, iron hammers, iron awls, trees of sword, and wheels of iron knives, like rain and clouds, falling from the air. The sinner is chopped, hacked, or stabbed, and undergoes these cruel punishments for kalpas without respite. Then they enter the remaining hells, where their heads are capped with fiery basins, while iron chariots roll over their bodies, passing both horizontally and vertically until their guts are ripped open and their bones and flesh are squashed and scorched severely. Within a single day, they experience thousands of deaths and rebirths. Such sufferings are a result of committing gross disobedience and not being filial toward parents when one was alive.”
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak about the virtue of parents’ kindness, everyone in the assembly wept sorrowfully and addressed the Tathagata, “How can we now repay the profound kindness of our parents?”
16. The Buddha said to his disciples, “If you wish to repay their kindness, then for the sake of your parents, copy and spread this sutra. This is truly repaying their kindness. If one can produce one copy, then one will get to see one buddha. If one can produce ten copies, then one will get to see ten buddhas. If one can produce one hundred copies, then one will get to see one hundred buddhas. If one can produce one thousand copies, then one will get to see one thousand buddhas. If one can produce ten thousand copies, then one will get to see ten thousand buddhas. From the power derived by copying sutras, buddhas frequently come to kindly protect these good people. These merits can immediately cause their parents to be reborn in the heavens, to enjoy all kinds of happiness, and to be free from the sufferings of the hells.”
At that time, upon hearing the words of the Buddha, Ananda and the rest of the assembly—the asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans, and others, as well as the devas, dragons, yakshas, gandarvas, wheel-turning sage kings, and the lesser kings, felt all the hairs on their bodies stand on end. They wept grievously and were unable to control themselves. Each one of them made a vow saying, “
All of us, from now and endlessly into the future, would rather our bodies be pulverized into tiny particles of dust for a hundred thousand kalpas, than ever go against the Tathagatha’s noble teachings. We would rather have our tongues be pulled out by iron hooks extending for a full yojana, and that for a hundred thousand kaplas an iron plough would run over them and blood would flow like a river, than ever go against the Tathagata’s noble teachings.
17. “We would rather have a hundred thousand bladed wheels roll freely over our bodies, than ever go against the Tathagata’s noble teachings. We would rather have our bodies be ensnared in an iron net for a hundred thousand kalpas, than ever go against the Tathagata's noble teachings. We would rather that for a hundred thousand kalpas our bodies be chopped, hacked, mutilated, and chiseled into millions of pieces so that our skin, flesh, joints, and bones would be completely disintegrated, than ever go against the Tathagata’s noble teachings.
”At that time, Ananda rose calmly from his seat and asked the Buddha, “World Honored One, what name shall this sutra have so that we may accept and uphold it?”
The Buddha told Ananda, “This is called The Sutra On The Profound Kindness Of Parents And The Difficulties In Repaying Them. With this name you should follow and uphold it.”
At that time, the assembly, the gods, humans, asuras, and others, hearing what the Buddha had said, were filled with great joy. They accepted and followed the teaching faithfully; and they bowed and withdrew.
The Sutra As Spoken By The Buddha On The Profound Kindness Of Parents And The Difficulties In Repaying Them
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