CARING FOR AGED PARENTS!

As parents age, it is inevitable that their bodies will gradually weaken and deteriorate in a variety of ways, making them increasingly susceptible to physical illnesses that can affect every organ in their system. As the realisation grows that there is no escape, the aging individual must try to find some way to come to terms with the disturbing new reality.

Filial piety is an important factor in caring for the aged in our traditional Asian society. As Asians it has long been the norm for us to accommodate and nurse the aged parents in our own homes as far as possible.


Do children owe any legal liability to care for old and disabled parents? Unfortunately the answer is 'No'. Parents simply have to depend on the goodwill of their children. Although we are proud about our values, and cultural heritage, unfortunately the number of elderly citizens with no savings and abandoned by their families is growing in Asia. The problem for us to consider is whether our values, including filial devotion and reciprocal love for children are being eroded because of a breakdown in traditional family relations and a changed economic and demographic profile.

Cramped flats and squatter houses are not places which are conducive to the accommodation of aged parents. There have been numerous cases in which old people have been neglected by their children or their relatives. This is a sad situation where good values and traditions are no longer practiced.
Welfare homes and their environment for the most part are also not places which are conducive to the accommodation of aged parents. Of all living alternatives, placement in an Old Folks Home is without doubt the most sensitive issue often provoking guilt through self accusations of ingratitude, lack of devotion or filial piety and abandonment.

A nursing home, although somewhat expensive, offers the most satisfactory alternative. Each person must decide for himself and understand that there are no perfect choices. While long term institutionalization is a painful issue, it is essential to provide appropriate care for a debilitated parent.
Placement in a nursing facility does not mean 'putting your aged parent away', or at least it shouldn't. Family involvement remains essential for proper care, from the first step of choosing the facility, to maintaining an ongoing relationship with the staff, to regularly visiting the parent and involving him or her in family matters. They need cheering up and to know that there are people who really care for them.

Certain irresponsible persons with ill or aged parents get them admitted into third class wards of hospitals, leaving false addresses and just disappear from the scene. This indeed is a most cruel way of disposing of one's own aged parents.

A caring attitude as well as concern for the aged parents must prevail if the older generation is not to be adversely affected by the rapid socio-economic changes of urbanisation and industrialisation. It has to be realised that the aged are more affected by these changes and the degradation of moral values in society. It should also encompass the responsible manner in which the elderly are treated, cared for, respected and honoured.

This aspect of caring for the aged parents requires collective responsibility. It will also instil respect for the elderly as there is no better institution to care for the aged parents other than the family itself.
In many discourses the Buddha has advised children to pay special attention to father and mother. There is an old adage which says: 'Take good care of your parents for you will never know how much you miss them when they are gone.

CAN WE CHANGE OTHERS WITHOUT CHANGING OURSELVES???

Man by nature is gifted with intelligence. From childhood to adolescence his perception of life would be one of youthful vigour with lofty ideals and aspirations. As he reaches manhood, the age of reason dawns on him, and with his mature outlook, he soon realises that his utopian ideals held by him during his youth would have to be cast aside, and that he would have to perceive life afresh in its true perspective. With advancing age, and with mellowed outlook in life, he finds he has to change and adjust his lifestyle accordingly. Even his lofty ambitions in life held eminently by him in his younger days, will eventually have to come to terms with the realities of change. Such is the inevitable life cycle affecting Man and his ambitions.


'When I was young I set out to change the world.

When I grew older I perceived that this was too ambitious, so I set out to change my state.

This too, I realised as I grew older, was too ambitious, so I set out to change my town.

When I realised that I could not do even this, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man I know that I should have started by changing myself.

If I had started with myself, maybe then I would have succeeded in changing my family, the town, or even the state and who knows, maybe the world.'

The most intelligent man and the real stupid man both do not agree to change the mind. (Confucius)

LISTEN TO THE ELDERS!

It is not necessary to have personal experience in certain things to understand whether they are good or bad. Here is a an analogy for you to understand this situation. A shoal of fishes come across an obstruction in the water with an unusually small opening. It is actually a trap laid by a fisherman to catch the fish.

Some fish want to go inside the fence and see what it is, but the more experienced fish advise them not to do so because it must be a dangerous trap. The young fish asks, 'How do we know whether it is dangerous or not? We must go in and see, only then can we understand what it is.' So some of them go in and get caught in the trap.


We must be prepared to accept the advice given by wise men like the Buddha who is enlightened. Of course the Buddha himself has said that we must not accept his teachings blindly. At the same time we can listen to some wise ones or other religious teachers. This is simply because their experience is more advanced than our limited knowledge regarding our worldly lives.

Parents usually advise their children to do certain things and not others. By neglecting the advice given by the elders, young people do many things according to their own way of thinking. Eventually when they get into trouble, they remember the elders and religious teachers and seek their help and sometimes even ask the religious teachers to pray for them.

Only then do they remember religion and seek some blessing and guidance. But they do not think the main purpose of a religion is to help us to follow certain noble principles to avoid many of our problems before they confront us. Early religious education trains the mind to cultivate the universal principles which support our way of life to live peacefully.

CHILDREN AND SEX EDUCATION!

Teaching children the facts of sex and sexual development needs to be done with care, sensitivity and in a holistic manner. Coping with changes in sexual development is an issue every child must face, and the challenge is even more critical for children during their early formative years. Educators and parents must therefore regard sexuality as part of human drives and needs that must be correctly channelled.

The necessity for giving correct information about sexual development to children is of paramount importance. Children nowadays are exposed to knowledge about sex through the mass media (often with gory details), books, through the Internet and also from their peers, and if they are not taught to differentiate between what is appropriate and what is not, they might end up exhibiting inappropriate behaviour. No parents will ever want their children to obtain information on sexual development from the gutter.

Parents can impart knowledge of sex to their children but such information needs to be tailored to the child's level of understanding -- in this case, the mental age, which may not correspond to the child's chronological age. Children are very innocent and can easily be victims of sexual abuse in the hands of unscrupulous adults. The child may not even realize that he is being used as an object to gratify the deviant sexual needs of adults.

One important area is the need to inform children as to what constitutes 'appropriate and inappropriate touching'. The importance of giving such awareness to children is stressed on parents. The child needs to know who is allowed to touch him or her and when, and where; what a doctor can touch, situations the child should avoid, and how best to stop inappropriate conduct in the classroom.
Parents themselves need to be aware that inappropriate touching could also happen between relatives. For instance, parents usually tell their children to 'beware of strangers', yet studies have shown that in child sexual abuse cases, the majority of abusers are in fact known to the child, or are members of the child's own family.

As with other children in society, children require open lines of communication with their parents. This would include openness in discussing issues connected with sex. If any untoward physical contact has occurred they should be comfortable in telling their parents about it, instead of being too ashamed or too afraid to reveal details.

Sex education is important because one cannot expect teenagers to follow rules blindly without knowing why they must follow them. One of the subjects they should be educated about is why they should abstain from sex until after marriage.Many people oppose sex education for children because they think that 'once you tell them about it, they will go out and abuse it.' It is significant to note that in Switzerland, sex education is taught in kindergartens and that country has the lowest number of teenage pregnancies in the world. What is vitally important is that children be taught responsible sexual behaviour from the time they are ready for such instruction. A sound sexual education will save the child untold stress from guilt, fear, remorse and retribution in the future.

DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN!

The Buddha says that if we are to understand anything, we must learn to 'see things as they are'. It is after such analysis of women in relation to men, that He came to the conclusion that there is no impediment in women to enable them to practise religion as men do and attain the highest state in life, which is Arahanthood or Sainthood, the highest level of mental purity. The Buddha had to face strong opposition in giving full freedom to women to practise religion.

At the time of the Buddha, before He emancipated women, the customs and traditions were such that the women were considered as chattel, to be used by men at their pleasure. Manu, the ancient lawgiver of India, had decreed that women were inferior to men. Women's position in society was therefore very low, and it was restricted to the kitchen. They were not even allowed to enter temples and to participate in religious activities in any manner whatsoever.


As we have previously noted under the heading 'Birth Control', discrimination against females begins even before the child is born into this world! The widespread practice of female foeticide prevalent in many parts of the world today testifies to this horrifying fact. Further on, under the heading 'Women's Liberation Movement and its Effect on Family Life', the discrimination against women in affluent societies, particularly those aspiring for top managerial positions in the corporate sector, will be dealt with in detail

In developing and underdeveloped countries however, the situation can only be described as being far worse and more deplorable as the following accounts will reveal.

In India's ritualistic, male dominated society, widowhood is a terrible fate for a woman. There are numerous cases of widows (some still in their 20s) who were cast away from their families and shunned by society after their husband died.

Among superstitious families, a widow often is blamed by her in-laws for her husband's death and is even ostracised. There are few options left for widows. Hindus frown on remarriage for women, although there are no such barriers for men. Until modern times, widows were expected to jump on to the funeral pyre of their husbands according to a tradition known as sati. Although the practice was outlawed by the British several decades ago, the last known case occurred as recently as 1996. Most women in India have little to look forward to when they become widows.

One typical tragic example could be cited of a widow who underwent child marriage which is another custom prevalent in rural India. She laments: 'I was married off when I was only five years old. My husband, whom I never saw, was 13 and he died one month after the wedding. I am now a widow.'
According to the World Bank, 65% of Indian women older than 60 are widows. That figure rises to 80% women older than 70.

The All India Democratic Women's Association reports that in India where a woman's identity is determined by her being an appendage to a male, widowhood has much larger implications than just losing a husband.

The situation is no better even in some other neighbouring countries. For a long time, families regarded daughters as inferior to sons and treated them accordingly. A girl is generally seen as suitable only for household chores. She lives through a series of social practices which generate, breed and reinforce discrimination against her. She becomes an economic burden and a moral liability. Yet, she is expected to raise healthy, hardworking and educated children and be a good mother. Many little boys grow up thinking their sisters are inferior having seen them treated less well than themselves. These beliefs are reinforced by many members of the society, including women themselves.

Perhaps the single biggest issue is the lack of support and the restrictions girls face if they want to do something with their lives beyond the traditional roles assigned to them as domestic help, baby-sitters for younger siblings, cooks and cleaners. In effect, girls are under life-long training to be good wives when they grow up.

As a 16 year old girl from Rawalpindi, points out: 'Our society does not treat girls well. People here do not educate their girls because to them girls are not theirs. Girls are seen as belonging to their future in-laws' families and any investment in their future is futile. They go to their husbands' homes at a young age, usually anywhere from 13. The rest of their lives is spent looking after in-laws, and bearing and bringing up children to prolong and strengthen their husband's family line'.

We need to eradicate this type of thinking and make education compulsory and free so that it does not become an issue' she says. 'Girls should also be able to have jobs, working in places where no one disapproves and preferably with other girls so parents can't object. I have always regretted that I was born a girl. Sometimes when I was not allowed to do something I would go to my room, cry and pray to God to make me a boy'.

The Girl Child Project in such countries is slowly changing all this by developing a core of young girls to act as catalysts in creating local awareness of the problems of girls and the discrimination they face.

The issue of education crops up almost invariably. Many girls have had to fight for their right to education. Some were helped in this fight by their untutored mothers who believed that their own lives would have been better if they had had some schooling.

In many societies a woman's place is in the home; a married woman owes her first allegiance to her duties as wife and mother. There is no such thing as 'women's lib'. Even in some progressive societies women are humiliated. For example in public places, they are required not only to sit apart from the men, but out of their view -- that is, behind them. When women are placed at the back of a room or hall, it acts as a subtle indication that their expected role is 'behind' and not 'together with' that of the men.

Some people believe that women are prone to evil. Therefore, it would be better to get them do more domestic work so that they can forget their natural evil attitude.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!

The problem of domestic violence affecting families, particularly in the lower income group, and in certain, cases even in affluent societies, has reached alarming proportions. It has become necessary for the Government to legislate action, resulting in the recent passing of the Domestic Violence Act by Parliament in June 1996.

Evidence shows that a battered wife in many cases still loves her husband despite all the abuses, which she puts down to his alcoholism, gambling, womanising and constant financial problems. This is the reality of the problem of domestic violence faced by a large number of women today. Many a battered wife just endures it because she firmly believes that any retaliation on her part might end in her losing custody of her children, and her right to inherit the matrimonial home and to enjoy any form of financial security.

The public generally holds the view that domestic violence is a matter that does not warrant any outside intervention. For instance, neighbours will quickly come to a woman's aid if they hear her scream that she is being burgled, but when she screams from her husband's constant battery, others are reluctant to intervene as they consider it a personal family matter. Until very recently this view was also held by the police. Under the Domestic Violence Act however, police duties now include escorting the abused spouse home to collect her belongings, if necessary. What abused wives ask for is protection under the law, and not so much that their husbands be punished.

The Act gives protection to the abused spouse without breaking up the family. Under the Act one would be able to get a court order barring the abusive spouse from the matrimonial home, providing maintenance to the abused spouse and children as well as giving her custody of the children. The Act makes domestic violence a punishable offence.

BIRTH CONTROL!

Planned parenthood or voluntary parenthood under the Family Planning Programme refers to the regulation of conception within the family and is often referred to as birth control. Planned parenthood refers to the regulation and spacing of offspring by legal and ethical means, depending on the health, economic condition and circumstances of husband and wife.

One must take into consideration the fact that a controlled birth rate is conducive to sane living. Rapidly increasing population is a dangerous trend that creates problems in the wake of people marching towards sufficiency and secure living.

In Asia, where generations of people continue to live in sub-human conditions, it is appropriate to take advantages of Family Planning, in so far as it does not come into conflict with communal problems. A country that is able to support itself enjoys the greatest freedom.

There is no reason for Buddhists to oppose birth control. They are at liberty to use any of the old or modern methods to prevent conception. Those who object to birth control by saying that it is against God's law to practise it, must realise that their concept regarding this issue is not very reasonable. In birth control what is done is to prevent the coming into being of an existence, and hence there is no killing involved.

BREAST FEEDING OF THE CHILD AND ITS ADVANTAGES!

The modern attitude of working mothers towards their children tend to erode the time honoured filial piety which children are expected to maintain. The replacement of breast feeding by bottle feeding is yet another cause. When mothers breast feed and cuddle babies in their arms, the tender affection between mother and child becomes much greater. A breast feeding mother, through her maternal instinct, often experiences a tremendous satisfaction from knowing she is providing her baby, as nature had intended, with something of her very own which no one else can give. The influence a mother has on the child thus grows and becomes much more pronounced. Under such circumstances, filial piety, family cohesion and obedience are invariably enhanced.

A variety of arguments have been advanced to convince mothers that 'breast is best'. The reasons include both physiological and psychological advantages for the infant and the mother as well. The protein and other ingredients in human milk differ qualitatively from the protein in cow's milk. Breast milk is sterile and is not subject to contamination. Breast fed infants are more resistant to infections and communicable diseases. They are also less susceptible to allergic reactions. It is also cheaper to breast feed an infant than to purchase formula milk for bottle feeding. Breast feeding offers a superior psychological intimacy that results in emotional and cognitive advantages over other feeding methods. Breast-feeding also facilitates the development of mother-infant relationships and bonding.
Breast feeding the new born is more practical and less time-consuming than bottle feeding. There is no need for bottle sterilisers and washing. The milk supply is ready whenever the baby needs it. Babies who are breastfed have been found to cry less in the later months of the first year compared with those who are bottle-fed. Remember, nothing is more rewarding than the love between parent and child. Making time for your baby is definitely worth it.

During the early days following birth, breastfeeding provides the baby with the benefits of colostrum. Colostrum is the Pre-milk substance secreted by the breasts until milk is produced, usually about the second or third postpartum day. Colostrum is rich in all of the baby's essential needs.

Breast milk provides all the nutrition and vitamins the baby needs for at least the first six months after birth. Breast milk contains immunology factors that help prevent a host of diseases and allergies. Except in extreme circumstances, as in the case of mothers who suffer from AIDS and who can transmit the sickness to their babies, there is no real substitute for mothers' milk.

Also, physical contact with the mother evidently adds to the satisfaction of feeding. Authorities in various fields of child development have insisted that the breast is the only satisfactory way of feeding an infant. Breast feeding is recommended as many physicians believe it offers an advantage to the baby, physiologically as well as emotionally, because of the definite advantages that result from the mother's own satisfaction in nursing her baby. The baby needs affectionate handling, plenty of time and a relaxed atmosphere, just as much as the milk itself.

These traditional traits are for the good and well-being of children. It is up to the parents, especially the mother to provide them with love, care and affection as their rightful dues. The mother is responsible for the child being good or wayward. The mother can thus reduce juvenile delinquency!'
Those who lead their lives by going against nature, must face the consequences either physically or mentally'.

PROBLEMS OF UNWED MOTHERS!

Media reports of unwed mothers abandoning or discarding their babies at rubbish dumps, bushes or into toilets, drains and streams are just too dreadful for any caring, right-thinking member of society to condone. With such reports appearing almost every other day, the public is alarmed, saddened and have called for remedial measures to check the growing problem which has reached alarming proportions.

Some abandoned babies survive only because they are found in time by garbage collectors, residents or passers-by, although they had been exposed to such dangers as stray dogs, rats, ants and the elements of cold/heat. One wonders how these mothers can abandon their babies, as even animals are known to be fiercely protective of their offspring. It has to be remembered that not all babies born out of wedlock are from young girls. Adult women too are guilty of this terrible practice.
Parents should try to understand their children. They should ensure that their children will turn to them whenever they have a problem.

People who abandon their babies need help. They need counselling. We should not simply blame the West every time some problems crop up here. No doubt our youngsters are getting more and more westernised in their thinking, outlook, lifestyle and actions. Here is where the role of parents comes in.

Some parents are too busy working that they unintentionally neglect their children. Hence, parents should spend more time to instil discipline and educate their children on what is wrong and right.
We need a humane approach in dealing with the problem of unwed mothers which could start with the family where parents and children do not communicate well. When it happens to a daughter, she is afraid of being penalised, of not being accepted by the family and society as well as the social stigma attached to her; and she has nobody to turn to for advice or help. She is already paying for her mistake by shouldering the burden alone. Her parents also do not accept her and society condemns her and as a result she becomes desperate.

To overcome this problem, family development efforts must be stepped up where couples will be trained to be better parents, and young people will be responsible for themselves through programmes on sex education. Religious bodies and religious counsellors can greatly assist the government to fight this terrible social desease.

LIVING TOGETHER OUTSIDE MARRIAGE!

Living together before getting married, or cohabiting as it is more commonly known, is a cosy option among young people in the West, and is progressively catching on in .many Asian countries. It is said that about half of the couples in the United States and Britain would have lived together before marriage. One can learn about it in the movies and in the papers. In the conservative East, on the other hand, living together before marriage is still very much a taboo. The mere mention of the subject is enough to be frowned upon particularly by the elders. We must add however that as the world is shrinking so fast many of these values are being adopted in the East as well, especially in urban areas.


In the United States, where living together out of wedlock is becoming increasingly acceptable, one out of three marriages results in divorce.

Tragic cases do occur in situations where couples live together out of wedlock, for example when the female partner gets pregnant and the male partner later disclaims responsibility. This often leads to the problem of unwed mothers.

A HAPPY FAMILY

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.

THE FIVE DUTIES TO BE PERFORMED BY PARENTS TOWARDS THEIR CHILDREN

According to the Buddha there are five duties that should be performed by parents toward their children.

The first duty is to dissuade them from evil: Home is the first school, and parents are the first teachers. Children usually take their elementary lessons on good and evil from their parents. Careless parents directly or indirectly impart an elementary knowledge of lying, cheating, dishonesty, slandering, revenge, shamelessness and fearlessness towards evil and immoral activities to their children during childhood. Remember the habit of aping. Parents should therefore show exemplary conduct and should not transmit such vices into their children's impressionable mind.

- The second duty is to persuade them to be good: Parents are the teachers at home; teachers are the parents in school. Both parents and teachers are equally responsible for the future and well-being of the children, who become what they are made into. They are, and they will be, what the adults are. They sit at the feet of the adults during their im-pressionable age.

They imbibe what is imparted. They follow in their footsteps. They are influenced in thoughts, words and deeds. As such it is the duty of the parents to create the most congenial atmosphere both at home and in the school.

Simplicity, obedience, co-operation, unity, self-sacrifice, honesty, straightforwardness, service, self-reliance, contentment, good manners, religious zeal and other kindred virtues should be inculcated in their juvenile minds by degrees. Seeds so planted will eventually grow into fruit-laden-trees.

- The third duty is to give the children a good education: A decent education is the best legacy that parents can bestow upon their children. A more valuable treasure there is not. It is the best blessing that parents could confer on their children.

Education should be imparted to them, preferably from youth, in a religious atmosphere by training them to uphold noble human disciplines and humane qualities. This has a far-reaching effect on their lives.

- The fourth duty is to see that they are married to suitable individuals: Marriage is a solemn act that pertains to one's whole lifetime; this union should be one that cannot be dissolved easily. Hence, marriage has to be viewed from every angle and in all its aspects to the satisfaction of all parties concerned before the wedding.

Parents' observations of their children's life partners is important for their future married life. While parents must accept modern practices like dating and so on, children must know clearly that parents have a right to monitor their activities, know who their friends are. But there must be also a right to privacy and self respect.

According to Buddhist culture, duty supersedes right. Let both parties be not adamant, but use their wise discretion and come to an amicable settlement.

Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other repercussions. More often than not the infection is transmitted to progeny as well. It is said that in most cases people who perpetrate abuse of others were themselves the victims of abuse.

- The last duty is to hand over to them, at the proper time, their inheritance: Parents not only love and tend their children as long as they are still in their custody, but also make preparations for their future comfort and happiness. They acquire treasures through personal discomfort and ungrudgingly give them as a legacy to their children.



Parents who bequeath their wealth do not want their children to squander it but to benefit from the inheritance so that it will enhance their living standard. In all of this the bottom line is mutual respect, and concern for the welfare of both parents and children

THE BUDDHA'S ADVICE TO A COUPLE

I- THE WIFE:

In advising women about their role in married life, the Buddha appreciated the fact that peace and harmony of a home rested largely on a woman. His advice was realistic and practical when he explained a number of day-to-day characteristics which a woman should or should not cultivate. On diverse occasions, the Buddha counseled that a wife should:
- not harbor evil thoughts against her husband
- not be cruel, harsh or domineering
- not be spendthrift but should be economical and live within her means;
- guard and save her husbands' hard-earned earnings and property;
- always be attentive and chaste in mind and action;
- be faithful and harbor no thought of any adulterous acts;
- be refined in speech and polite in action;
- be kind, industrious and hardworking;
- be thoughtful and compassionate towards her husband;
- be modest and respectful;
- be cool, calm and understanding - serving not only as a wife but also as a friend and adviser when the need arises.
According to Buddhist teaching, in a marriage, the husband can expect the following qualities from his wife:
-love: A deep and abiding love is the most emotional and spontaneous expression of desire and self-fulfillment a husband expects of his wife. It is indeed the basis of an intimate life-long mutual relationship and the means of bringing into the world children whom they will love and cherish as long as they live. Here love is not limited to mere attachment (prema), but it is an all pervading quality of wishing for the genuine well-being of her husband.
- attentiveness: To be ever heedful, mindful and diligent, as well as to give her undivided attention to her husband's needs;
- family obligations: Besides fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the couple's own family, the wife should also honor and respect her in-laws and deserving relatives and treat them as she would her own parents;
- faithfulness: Is associated with chastity, fidelity and steadfastness of the wife. It also implies being trust worthy and giving her constant devotion to her husband;
- Child-care: Motherly love is the foundation of all love in the world. As a devoted mother she would through her maternal instincts, even venture out at the risk of her life, for the protection of her only child;
- thrift: As the wife is entrusted with the task of home management it is incumbent on her to be that household expenditure is kept well within the family budget provided by the husband. To accomplish this task, the wife has to economize on her expenditure and exercise thrift, even to the extent of being frugal in doing so;
- the provision of meals: As the mistress of the house, it is the duty of the wife to prepare good nourishing food for the family. The family meal is an important event each day as it develops goodwill and togetherness;
- to calm him down when he is upset: When the husband returns home in an agitated state, the wife has to express herself in a soothing manner so as to pacify and comfort him. This will ease the situation;
sweetness in everything: Besides expressing her endearing and tender feelings, the wife should also possess a charming disposition, be always cheerful, pleasant and comely.


II- THE HUSBAND

The Buddha, in reply to a householder as to how a husband should minister to his wife, declared that the husband should always honor and respect his wife, by being faithful to her, by giving her the requisite authority to manage domestic affairs and by giving her befitting ornaments. This advice, given over twenty five centuries ago, still stand good till today.
Over the centuries, male dominated societies have perpetuated the myth that men are superior to women but the Buddha made a remarkable change and uplifted the status of woman by a simple suggestion that a husband should honor and respect his wife. Such a remark may be common today, but when we consider it was made 2500 years ago, it is no less than revolutionary!
A husband should be faithful to his wife which means that a husband should fulfill and maintain his marital obligations to his wife, thus sustaining the confidence in the marital relationship in every sense of the word.
The husband being the bread-winner, has to invariably be away from home, hence he should entrust the domestic or household duties to the wife who should be considered as the custodian and manager of their property and as the home economic-administrator.
The provision of befitting ornaments to the wife should be symbolic of the husband's love, care and appreciation showered on her. This symbolic practice has been carried out from time immemorial in Buddhist communities.
Unfortunately today it is in danger of dying out because of the adverse influence of the modern way of life.
The wife expectations from the husband are:-
- tenderness: Being gentle and respectful to the wife on all matters when attending to her needs;
- courtesy: Being polite, obliging, civil and modest in his dealings and consultations with his wife;
- sociability: Being genial, friendly, communicative and compatible at all times with his wife in the company of their friends and visitors to their home;
- security: The principal objective a wife seeks in her marriage is security to be provided by her husband.
In this respect the husband is expected to be a tower of strength so as to withstand any form of external threat to the family and to provide them with adequate protection and safety at all times;
-fairness: As a responsible husband, he should be giving , compassionate and merciful as well as being charitable to deserving causes needing his assistance. As a father, he has to be just and reasonable to the demands of his growing children;
- loyalty: As an understanding husband, he should give his undivided loyalty to his wife and stand by her, through thick and thin, under any adverse situation confronting the family.
He should be steadfast in his principles and one whom the wife could, with complete confidence, depend upon in facing any untoward eventuality;
- honesty: Being a responsible husband, he has to be upright in his character and be frank with his wife on all matters affecting themselves and their children. He should not harbor any secrets from his wife as this will ultimately erode her trust and confidence in him;
- good companionship: The husband should possess an amiable personality and be able to mix with people from all walks of life. He should be knowledgeable so as to be able to engage in intelligent conversation at all levels of society and be approachable to anyone needing his assistance. He also should possess a good sense of humour to enliven his listeners who seek his companionship; and
-moral support: As a responsible husband, he should be able to stand steadfastly by his wife's side to the very end, in the face of any untoward eventuality confronting her and lend her moral support and much - needed courage to overcome such a situation.


III- HUSBAND AND WIFE

The husband is the acknowledged head of the family, unless he is incapacitated from performing his duties as such. Both in common law and under modern legislation, the husband is legally bound to support his wife and family, notwithstanding the fact that the wife has her own property or income or is capable of earning her own support.

Even today where many wives work, the nurturing of a family should be a shared experience. Husbands have no reason to shirk household duties, to help the wife and train the children, especially when there are no servants to do such work.

Apart from these emotional and sensual aspects, the couple will have to take care of day-to-day living conditions, family budget and social obligations.


Thus, mutual consulations between the husband and wife on all family problems would help to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding in resolving whatever issues that may arise.

THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE

Marriage is a partnership in which two individuals of opposite sexes but equal worth as human beings choose to live together. A happy and lasting marriage requires a lot of hard work and commitment where love is fed with shared experiences, joys and sorrows.

Marriage is the culmination of love by two individuals committed to one another by a common bond. 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach ...'(Robert Browning). We believe as Browning does, that love is the essence of life itself, something which transcends boundaries, race and creed.

Marriage has failed to fulfill its purposes today because people have failed to recognize the importance of equality and respect for women. These privileges are enjoyed by many women in a large number of areas of human activity. Strangely when it comes to marriage, women are still treated badly. The importance of the role of women in society was undoubtedly widened after the advent of Buddhism in India, giving them a wide scope to venture into vacations besides house-keeping. In spite of this, for the vast majority, to get married and rear children remained the normal choice of career. But there was a difference: married life was ennobled by the noble position given to it by the Buddha himself to such an undertaking. He lifted the married women from a state of servant to a state of responsibility and importance. As an indication of the Buddha's concern for maintenance of happiness through marriage, he laid down specific instructions for the guidance of husband and wife.


The Buddha was full of praise for happy couples. Among his lay disciples were Nakulamata and Nakulapita who were considered most eminent for having lived together amicably for a long time. The Buddha praised them and gave instructions to others as to how they too could live happily in marriage. These instructions given over two thousand five hundred years ago hold good even to this day. Much misery has been experienced in modern times by men and women in married life because they deviated from these instructions.

The institution of marriage in ancient India was governed by the concept of caste, the position of women, the rights of men and the four stages of the individual's life. The Buddha's rejection of the concept of the caste system meant that the Buddhist institution of marriage was emancipated from these rigid and inflexible rules, regulations and rituals which had become a great obstacle to the free and unprejudiced behavior of the members of society both male and female.

The discourse of Fundamentals of Buddhist Social Ethic, (Sigalovada Sutra) generally lays down the basic pattern of relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, and enumerates the reprisal duties that bind them together emphasizing the most essential aspects of their common life.
The comprehensive study of the Buddhist institution of marriage outlined in the Buddha's teaching clearly shows that was intended for the enjoyment, promotion and moralization of biological needs, psychological satisfaction and material well-being of both husband and wife without any reference to specific customs, sacraments or any kind of ideology, religious or otherwise.

According to the Buddha, cultural compatibility between husband and wife was considered as one of the factors of successful married life. Many of today's problems in marriage arise from the inability of the parties concerned to recognize the sacrifices involved. Marriage is not simply lust and romance. Romance is not a bad thing in itself, but it is emotional and has limitations.

There will be less disillusion and heartache in marriage if we understand that, from the illusions of romance, a deep and abiding love may emerge. Love is a passionate and abiding desire, on the part of two people, to produce together conditions under which each can express his of her real self and to produce together an intellectual soil and an emotional climate in which each can flourish, far superior to what either could achieve alone.

In the past we heard of blissfully married couples who shared the sweetness of love earned through years of being together, for better or for worse. For most who have been long-married couples, 'happily ever after did not just happen. Couples in long, happy marriages mentioned this fact of life when asked what made their relationships a success'. 'We worked to keep the romance alive. We enjoyed our differences and learned from them.

'We voiced our discontents freely and deal with them right away instead of letting them build into thunderclouds'. But in a way, the thing all successful couples have in the common was reflected in this observation: 'Even when things were really bad, we were both too stubborn to quit'. Perhaps what characterizes modern couples with problems is that they want things to work out too easily as it happens on television. No, everything good must be earned through hard work.
For many the road to marital longevity has not been soothe. The bumps included many things: inability to have children, the death of a child, a disabled child. a difficult economic crisis and highly stressful career changes.

Although none of the couples surveyed said so specifically it was obvious that two other factors were important to their marital success. Firstly, even though some couples forced considerable differences in personality and sometimes carried heavy emotional baggage, they maintained respect for one another always and refrained from trying to remake their partners. A wife once told her husband: 'You married me for what I am'. He retorted, 'No, I married you for what you would become'. Now of course both parties were wrong because their expectations were different and they were unwilling to compromise. Secondly, none of the marriages was marred by psychological disturbances too severe to preclude a true partnership. There was a wife who always used to insult her husband even for a minor mistake stating: 'You are a stupid man'. The husband on the other hand was a tolerant man. However, one day when he was scolded by the wife using the same word the husband retorted: ' I think you are right. If I were not stupid man, do you think that I would ever marry a woman like you?' From that day onwards she did not repeat that insulting word.

To achieve a successful marriage, couples also need to understand and accept the differences between the two genders. Couples sometimes become frustrated with each other and wish that their partner was more like them. Knowing and being able to tolerate the differences between men and women helps a lot in marriage.

A mate who is willing to weather the hard times and make the adjustments that come with children, job changes, financial difficulties or simply learning more about the person one is married to, is the real secret to a successful marriage.

Another saying on married life: Wife becomes a mistress to a young man, a companion to the middle aged, and a nurse to an old man'.

Many couples with children are determined to stay together at least until their children are grown up. With just a little effort these years can be among the most fulfilling times in a marriage.
Marriage is a blessing but many people turn their married lives into misery and a curse. Poverty is not the main cause of an unhappy married life. Both husband and wife must learn to share the pleasure and pain of everything in their daily lives. Mutual understanding is the secret of a happy family life.
In a true marriage, man and woman think more of the partnership than they do of themselves individually. Marriage is a bicycle made for two. A feeling of security and contentment comes from mutual efforts.

A wife is not her husband's servant. She deserves respect as an equal. Though a man is generally regarded even today as being the bread winner helping out with household chores do not demean his masculinity. At the same time, a nagging and grumpy wife is not going to make up for shortages in the home. Neither will her suspicion of her husband help to make a happy marriage. If her husband has shortcomings, only tolerance and kind words will get him to see light. It is important in marriage to keep tolerance alive throughout. Little things can mean a lot. Right understanding and moral conduct are the practical sides of wisdom.

From time immemorial, flowers have been considered the language of love. They don't cost much. Wives, or for that matter all women, attach a lot of importance to birthdays and anniversaries, and caring husbands should never be too busy to keep love alive with little tributes and attentions. Trivialities such as these are at the bottom of most marital happiness. Wives do appreciate such little attentions from their courteous husbands and it is this lifelong goodwill that keeps the home fires burning.

A carefully developed family affection is a simple formula that works both for keeping marriages together and bringing up children of good character. True love means being willing to value ones' partner and being unwilling to devalue him or her in the presence of other people. This willingness has to spring from the heart. The key difference between marriages that work and those that do not is how much a couple value each other. Criticizing, putting down or belittling a spouse particularly in the presence of other people, erodes a relationship. And even this is not enough as each still has to value the other as he or she is a rare gem.

Sometimes words are not necessary if there is understanding. An elderly father one confessed to his children that he loved their mother very much and told them to take care of her always, even after he was no more. He confided to them that she was the best woman in the world and that the family as indeed lucky to have her around. The wife, now in her 60's, has seven grown children and as many grandchildren. Yet she confessed that she never once heard the endearing words 'I love You' ever uttered or whispered to her- not even a variation of it. The wife, who belongs to the old school of Chinese philosophy, is quite content with her husband's own caring ways and concern for her happiness in their blissful married life. Her female intuition somehow tells her that deep down in his heart he truly loves her and that she could not have been dealt a better deck of cards. It is in the nature of some people not to speak out their feelings, but they care. We have to watch out for their actions. The next key to a harmonious marriage is to work towards achieving one's objective. It is a law of nature that if no effort is put into, for instance, a garden, weeds will grow instead of beautiful flowers. The same goes for marriage.

Faith, not necessary in the religious sense, (though it helps tremendously if a couple shares similar religious beliefs) is another vital ingredient in a lasting relationship.

How important is sex in a marriage? Sex is a natural instinct and if enjoyed within its proper boundaries can bring about great happiness. Sex helps to keep a marriage glowing, and is an important and vital area that keeps a marriage together. It creates intimacy, a shred experience between two people which no one else is party to. It makes the relationship precious and private. The important thing to appreciate here is the fact that men and women see sex differently. While men may view sex as an intense physical activity, women do not. For her, it involves an interaction with the man she loves, that is with gentleness, his care and concern. Understanding the fact that women need intimacy and closeness makes the sexual activity a lot more meaningful and fulfilling.
Sex is much more than the gratification of an appetite. It is the basis of an intimate lifelong companionship, and the means of bringing into the world children whom we love and cherish as long as we live.

Through the ages we have learned that love and mutual respect must be the basis of close intimacy between the sexes. Sex, like any other tendency in man, must be regulated by reason. Man, not being governed by instincts like lesser animals, would find his tendencies running wild were he not to regulate them with reason.

There a saying:' Like fire, sex is a good servant but a bad master'
A society grows a network of relationships which are mutually intertwined and inter-dependent. Every relationship is a wholehearted commitment to support and to protect others in a group of community.

Marriage plays a very important part in this strong web of relationships of giving support and protection. A good marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence.

The institution of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a delightful association of two individuals to be nurtured, and to be free from loneliness, deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a complementary role, giving strength and moral courage to each other, with each manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition to the other's skills.
There must be no thought of man or woman being superior - each is complementary to the other, a partnership of equality, exuding gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication and most important of all, self-sacrifice.