The first line says that whatever our parents are fond of and would like to have, we should go out of our way to provide it fully to them, no matter how much difficulty or trouble we have to go through. We should happily practice giving to our parents, in order to comfort them and make them happy. With this single sincere thought of filial piety, one will naturally grow in the virtues of kindness, patience, perseverance, and courage.
If you have ever gazed at the stars, you may have noticed a group of seven stars shaped like a big soup ladle--this is the Big Dipper in the Ursa Major constellation. Many touching stories and legends are associated with the well-known constellations in both Eastern and Western cultures. The following story, which many Westerners may know, is about a little girl who was very filial.
Once upon a time, a little girl lived with her mother in a small log cabin near the Black Forest. One summer night, her mother in other tossed and turned restlessly, unable to fall asleep. She felt very thirsty and wanted to drink a cup of cool water. The little girl, despite her sleepiness, immediately got out of bed, dressed, and took a ladle with a long handle to get water from the well. Pulling the bucket up out of the well, she found that there was not even a drop of water in it, for the well had run completely dry. "What should I do?" wondered the little girl. "There is a spring deep inside the forest, but it's very far from here and I have to walk through the dark forest to get there." But thinking of her mother longing for a cup of cool water, she bravely set out on the path into the forest, groping her way in the dark.
The owls booted eerily, and occasionally bats flew from the caves. The little girl became afraid and worried. But once again, thinking of her mother waiting for the water, she resolutely went forward. Finally, she heard the sound of flowing water. She took some water from the spring and quickly headed back. On the way, she met a thirsty dog and a weary old man. She kindly gave them some water.
Every time she gave, the long ladle in her hand changed. The ladle originally made of cast iron, first turned to silver, and then to shining gold, which illuminated the dark path and helped the girl find her way home. After the mother drank the water and lay down comfortably, the ladle turned into brilliant diamond and flew out the window to hang high up into the night sky, twinkling happily for everyone to see. Now when you see the seven stars of the Big Dipper, won't it remind you of this filial, kind, and brave little girl?
How should we deal with people, things, and matters that our parents dislike? Basically, of course, we should get rid of them, but in doing so we must be very cautious not to frighten our parents or hurt anyone in the process, as that would go against virtue. For example, if we see a snake and rashly try to chase it away, we may make our parents afraid or even get bitten by the snake ourselves. And if our parents hate someone very much does that mean we should kill the person? We must be cautious; we must make wise judgments. If we want to quell people's fear and hatred, bold courage alone is not enough. We must have great wisdom to guide us to act in the most suitable and correct manner. Only then will we be able to skillfully remove the things that our parents dislike.
In this world, the sufferings that birth entails (old age, sickness, not obtaining what we seek, being apart from those we love, being together with those we hate, constant change) and the fear of death are what people hate and loathe the most. Freedom from the sufferings of birth and death and realization of the eternal bliss of nonproduction and nondestruction are the greatest source of comfort and joy. Emotional love. wealth, and high position are neither real nor lasting; we did not bring them with us at birth, nor can we take them along when we die. Only if we practice diligently and end our own birth and death will we be able to save others. Otherwise, we'll be like a clay Bodhisattva, who cannot even save himself as he crosses the river.
When we give joyfully to our parents, we are being filial. When we practice joyful giving to all people, that is called humaneness. If we extend it to all sentient beings, then it is known as kindness. If we give fearlessness to (relieve the fears of) our parents, we are being obedient. To relieve the fears of all people is righteousness. When we expand this to cover all living beings, it is compassion. Thus we can see that the principle of
filial piety starts with being kind and respectful towards our dearest ones and then extending this behavior to other people and sentient and insentient beings. This is called the greatly compassionate stage of "loving our own parents in all people and beings."