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Bodhisattva balancing botheration

zenguitarzenguitar Bad BuddhistNew England Veteran

Good morning (in some places), Sangha. Here I go again. ;) Let's say you have taken bodhisattva vows. Yet you also have a family.

How do you balance the needs of your family members (who of course come first) with the needs of all the other sentient beings in the entire universe that you are supposed to be helping achieve enlightenment? These needs will frequently come into conflict.

And if you do always put your family first, as most people rightly do, are you really a "bodhisattva" or just a nice person with admirable and yet entirely abstract goodwill towards all other sentient beings?

Comments

  • ToshTosh Veteran Veteran

    I think we need to be in it for the long game. By looking after your family, hopefully you will produce kind and caring children, who in turn will be kind and caring.

    Look upon it as 'yeast'; you know, you just need a little to produce a massive loaf of bread.

    My 'area of interest' is helping alcoholics get and stay sober. One of them recently had his first child (or rather his wife did), and isn't it lovely that I was part of his recovery and now his child has a sober father? I think it is.

    My priorities are sobriety, family, and A.A.; in that order. In reality it just means family, as you put it, comes first.

    But sometimes I have gotten it wrong and have suffered with what we call 'neglected wife syndrome'. Once, on a Friday evening, Mrs Tosh, before she departed from a marathon training run told me to 'walk the dog and make dinner'. Ten minutes after she left my phone rang and it was an alcoholic who wanted to kill himself. He had mental health problems compounded by alcoholism. So I said to my daughter, "When Mum comes back, tell her I've went to see a friend who is threatening to kill himself!"

    Subsequently Mrs Tosh returned, tired, soaking wet, and hungry - nothing had been done - and my daughter said "Oh, he's just went out to see a friend!"

    She left death threats on my mobile answering machine for that one.

    zenguitarBuddhadragon
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran

    You have to take care of the center or else your power in the periphery could crumble.

    zenguitar
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @zenguitar said:
    How do you balance the needs of your family members (who of course come first) with the needs of all the other sentient beings in the entire universe that you are supposed to be helping achieve enlightenment?

    Personally I always found the Bodhisattva ideal far beyond reach, and not personally useful.

  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran

    @zenguitar said:
    Good morning (in some places), Sangha. Here I go again. ;) Let's say you have taken bodhisattva vows. Yet you also have a family.

    How do you balance the needs of your family members (who of course come first) with the needs of all the other sentient beings in the entire universe that you are supposed to be helping achieve enlightenment? These needs will frequently come into conflict.

    And if you do always put your family first, as most people rightly do, are you really a "bodhisattva" or just a nice person with admirable and yet entirely abstract goodwill towards all other sentient beings?

    Again, your understanding of just what the vows entail and how they are expressed is lacking.

    Most of the effort put forward for sentient beings comes in the form of practice, where dedication of the merit of your practice to all sentient beings is important. In fact, from a viewpoint of the Bodhisattva, the only purpose of practice is for the benefit of beings.

    There are of, course other way in which the vows are manifest, through acts of kindness and benevolence, but none of this need interfere with the life and duties of a householder.

    Were you considering Bodhisattva vows?

  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran Veteran

    I'm puzzled. Why would the needs of your family conflict with the needs of everyone else?

    Buddhadragon
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @Chaz said:
    Were you considering Bodhisattva vows?

    Took 'em years ago. :smile: Currently trying to get back on track after years of selfish laziness.

  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @Cinorjer said:
    I'm puzzled. Why would the needs of your family conflict with the needs of everyone else?

    Here's a concrete example that I hope isn't too far-fetched. Let's say your child is threatened by a ferocious dog. The only way you can save the child is by severely wounding or maybe even killing the animal. Clearly here you would be putting your child's welfare above the dog's--rightly so. Yet the dog is a sentient being as well. Killing it is hardly leading it toward enlightenment, is it? Plus it breaks the First Precept.

    The problem is even worse if you consider a ferocious human being attacking your family instead of a dog. What do you do then?

  • robotrobot Veteran Veteran

    Hopefully Buddhism is not a path away from being human. A human man protects his family.
    Do what is obvious, at the time. If your child is being mauled and you are wasting time thinking about your vows, Buddhism has gone wrong for you.

    lobsterBuddhadragon
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @robot said:
    Hopefully Buddhism is not a path away from being human. A human man protects his family.
    Do what is obvious, at the time. If your child is being mauled and you are wasting time thinking about your vows, Buddhism has gone wrong for you.

    Thanks, that's what I would do. I'm just wondering how the bodhisattva ideal can work in the real world.

  • genkakugenkaku Veteran Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Perhaps the Bodhisattva ideal is better interpreted as taking responsibility for what you DO do as distinct from dithering about what a plaster saint MIGHT do.

    silverlobsterzenguitar
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    That IS how it works in 'the real world'.

  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran Veteran
    edited January 2015

    @zenguitar said:
    The problem is even worse if you consider a ferocious human being attacking your family instead of a dog. What do you do then?

    You do the same thing as if it was one of your family members attacking a dog or worse, someone else. You do what you can. Family has nothing to do with it. You do what's right. I love my family and would do almost anything for them. I will not lie for them or allow them to hurt other people if I can help it, any more than I'd do that myself or help a friend do it. I was brought up better than that. Fortunately, those are the same values my family was raised by. I understand not everyone is that lucky.

    And of course, if a dog attacks a member of your family or your pet perhaps, you might end up having to hurt or kill the dog to protect you. That's just life.

    zenguitar
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    Do what's in front of you :)

    Cinorjer
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran

    @zenguitar said:
    Took 'em years ago. :smile: Currently trying to get back on track after years of selfish laziness.

    Oh. Kewl. Renew the vows by taking them again.

  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    edited January 2015

    @zenguitar said:
    The problem is even worse if you consider a ferocious human being attacking your family instead of a dog. What do you do then?

    Well, you kill that being or do something else, instead.

    Yes, you'll break a precept and your karma will be horqued. It may take another lifetime or two to reach nirvana, but if you've taken the vows, you've also relinquished liberation for the time being, but that's karma, too.

    May all beings benefit.

    Didn't anyone explain the vows before you took them?

    zenguitar
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    @Chaz said:
    Oh. Kewl. Renew the vows by taking them again.

    Good idea.

    Didn't anyone explain the vows before you took them?

    Yep. And they said one thing I need to practice is patience (kshanti). Thankfully your posts give me ample opportunity to practice that perfection. :smile:

    And thank you everyone for your insights!

  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Ehipassiko & Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    I have a family.
    I have a life.
    I have neighbours, acquaintances, friends, people I like, people I dislike.

    Interaction in the world is not always smooth but I have not yet experienced something like a conflict of interests between my family's well-being, and whatever Buddhist practice I undertake to uphold that includes other sentient beings.

    A dog threatens to attack my son? Never been there, but I will sleep well at night with whatever decision I make to protect my son.

    What if your son attacks a dog? :)

    zenguitarsilver
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @DhammaDragon‌ said: What if your son attacks a dog? :)

    >

    Oh it can happen! My brother and I were little when one day, a German Shepherd wandered into our 'hood and nipped at him, and he turned right around and bit the dog! True story.
    :hushed:

    Buddhadragon
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