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Volume 6 no 3

The Voice of Bliss

The family is our source of strength and happiness. Yet at times a diversity of religion and faith can exist within the family circle. The spirit of Buddhism advocates a freedom of choice, tolerance and mutual respect, for what good is there if there is religious homogeneity but a stark absence of happiness and bliss in the family? The key is practising the code of family ethics, compassion and loving-kindness and even if through these, others are not persuaded to the realm of Buddhism, let it be. Happiness and bliss, after all, is what all humanity seeks.
Happy Family
Mutual respect begets harmony

How may a family whose members have different religions live together harmoniously?

One common principle that mankind all over the world abides by is the freedom of choice of religion and faith. A country may have different religions co-existing at the same time, such as Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity or Islam. But, we have to understand that it is the condition arising from love that causes people to have families, parents and children. It is a good thing if the family is happy and blissful. However, if the family members bear different faiths, so long as each member keeps his faith to himself, refrain from slandering or debating over each other’s faith, but mutually respecting each other’s faith and character, then the family will naturally be harmonious.

Further, the younger generation ought to refrain from arguing with their elders because it is their parents who brought them up. Moreover, there is no purpose in arguing with them. We have to practise filial piety and be good so that we do them proud. Then, they will feel that their children are righteous, well behaved, and may willingly join us to learn about Buddhism. This will be ideal. Otherwise, it is not filial to constantly argue with them. When we learn and practise Buddhism, we have to exercise wisdom. With regards to differences in religions and faiths, as long as we maintain mutual respect, I believe, the family will be harmonious.

Freedom in choice of religion

If the children of a Buddhist family choose to marry a person of a different faith, will the marriage work out well?

Although a person may be a Buddhist himself, it is not necessary that his children must also Buddhists. We may, of course, promote and encourage our children to embrace Buddhism. However, we cannot force it upon them. Moreover, we should not object to their marriage just because their partners are from a different faith.

In this present age, everybody has the freedom to love and choose his or her own lifetime partner. Similarly, everyone has the freedom of choice of religion and faith. No religion can compel its followers (and their dependants) to only believe in that particular faith, and object to marriages outside that particular faith. I believe, as parents, with regards to their children’s marriages, the primary concerns are the relationship between the two parties and how to guide their children in deciding their lifetime partners. Religion and faith are secondary factors; it is their happiness after the marriage that matters most of all. It would be useful for parents to counsel their children about the code of family ethics, such as the role and responsibilities of a husband and wife, and how to be good parents themselves. If they do not know how to live harmoniously and fulfil their responsibilities as husband and wife, or to be good parents, even if both of them believe in Buddhism, the marriage may still not work out well. If, for instance, the choice partner believes in a different faith, as a parent, one may promote the teachings of Buddhism so that he or she finds it acceptable. It will, of course, be good to establish a household based on the principles of Buddhism. If, meanwhile that cannot be achieved, one should adopt the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness, compassion and equality towards all beings, in relation to the son-in-law or daughter-in-law. It is a good thing for a couple to bear the same faith and share the same principles and values, with both cultivating together and becoming partners on the Bodhi-path. It would be even better if they were eventually reborn in the Buddha-land.

Perfect harmony amid differences

I have embraced Buddhism and taken refuge in the Three Treasures, but my husband still adopts the Taoist way of praying to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (Guan-yin Pu-sa), what should I do?

Actually, while you believe in Buddhism, you still have to learn to be harmonious in all your endeavours. It may be because your husband has formed an affinity with Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva that he worships Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in the Taoist way. According to the sutra of the Universal Door Chapter of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, “If a person can only be guided or saved by a government official, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva shall manifest as a government official to explain the Dharma to him. If a person can only be guided or saved by a king of ghosts, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva shall manifest as a king of ghosts to explain the Dharma to him. If a person can only be guided or saved by embracing another religion, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva shall manifest as a person of that same religion to explain the Dharma to him.” Your husband prays to the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and yet he believes in Taoism. In this case we may consider him as a person who has embraced another religion, but has formed an affinity with Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. Someday, when he understands the truth based on this affinity, he may embrace Buddhism.

You should compliment your husband; “I am indeed fortunate to meet a person like you. I have spoken to my Teacher about you and he says that you are a good man. You are devoted and in future many good things will happen to you.” Your husband will be delighted when he hears this, and may feel positive about your Teacher and your faith. In this way, one day, he may come to take refuge in the Three Treasures and embrace Buddhism.

On the other hand, you should not say, “My Teacher commented that you are no good and you are a believer of an unorthodox religion.” Your husband may be so angered by such a remark that the next time I conduct a Dharma talk, he may forbid you to attend. Hence, we have to be perfectly rounded (flexible?) and harmonious in the way we deal with all matters (being harmonious even among differences).

However, although he worships the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in that manner, you ought not to harbour such thought that, “since my husband worships the Bodhisattva as a Taoist, perhaps I should do likewise.”

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre