不過宗密推崇孝道最有力的證明，是他所註解的，我們以前討論過的盂蘭盆經。這部淺釋在唐代社會廣泛地流通著，還激起了在家居士對這部經典和節日的喜愛。宗密祖師在淺釋中寫著，那個在混亂初期興起，如今已參天入地，人神合一，無處不在，儒佛同尊的，不是別的，就是孝道。「對宗密祖師而言，孝道同時存在於儒、佛弟子的心中，又與宇宙結為一體。」正如 Kenneth Ch'en 所 說的。
Perhaps the best Buddhist expression of filial piety and devotion, though, can be found in the Ullambana Sutra (Yulanpen jing). This relatively short text tells the story of the Venerable monk Maudgalyayana (Mulian), who wishes to repay his parents’ kindness upon his enlightenment. In a scene reminiscent of episodes from the lives of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Venerable Maudgalyayana uses his “divine eye” and sees his mother reborn in hell as a preta. When his own attempt to aid her fails, he turns to the Buddha who enlists the support of the entire Sangha. Sakyamuni Buddha declares the Pravarana festival to be held on the fifteenth day of the seventh (lunar) month, during which the laity offer food to the monks and nuns in remembrance of their parents and ancestors. The monks and nuns, in turn, recite prayers and mantras for the deceased. This proves immediately successful in that not only is Venerable Maudgalyayana comforted, but his mother is spared her hellish plight. At this point the Buddha then extends the festival beyond the immediate context to all sincere disciples who wish to repay their parents and ancestors. The assembled Sangha hears and, it is said, “practices it with delight”.
The extension of filial piety operates here on so many levels that it warrants our taking a closer look. Not only does the Sutra begin with a filial child seeking to repay his parents (cf. Sakyamuni Buddha, Earth Store Bodhisattva), it also extends this devotion literally down into the hells. When this action fails, the son tries again, this time going to one who can surely help, the Buddha.
The Buddha not only enlists the entire Sangha, he explicitly charges Venerable Maudgalyayana to engage in the ritual for the sake not just of his own mother, but “for the sake of fathers and mothers of seven generations past, as well as fathers and mothers of the present who are in distress”. When this proves successful, Venerable Maudgalyayana asks if this will work for future disciples as well, at which time Sakyamuni Buddha proclaims the festival to be universally effective. He even goes on to give detailed instructions on the performance of the ceremony, what vows to make and what benefits to wish for one's ancestors. This is, I take it, a crucial part of the Sutra, for it effectively melds Buddhist practices of metta and mindfulness with filial respect and reverence. The Buddha says, “ Those disciples of the Buddha who cultivate filial conduct should, in thought after thought, constantly recall their present fathers and mothers when making offerings, as well as the fathers and mothers of seven lives past.”
Every year, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, they should always, out of filial compassion, recall their parents who bore them and those of seven lives past.
Whether we see this as Buddhist “co-optation” of traditional Chinese (or Vedic) ancestor veneration matters little. What is obvious is that Buddhists, with this text and the rituals it enjoins, have enlarged filial respect and effectively transformed it into a means of universal salvation.
As a final consideration, we noted earlier that Chinese Buddhism, following the typical “Confucian” pattern, has its own figures who exemplify filiality for later generations to imitate. This includes, of course, those characters in the Sutras we have discussed as well as Sakyamuni Buddha himself. But even more importantly, it includes historical persons who, as practicing Buddhists, sought to embody filial respect in their everyday lives. We have space only to mention one, the Hua-yen/Chan patriarch Guifeng Zongmi
(780-841 C.E.). Although one of the “great lights” of Tang Buddhism, Master Zongmi was always preoccupied with Confucian values. He was raised with a proper Confucian education, apparently only turning to Buddhism in his late teens, probably during the three year's mourning of his father's death. Throughout his scholarly career, we can trace his keen interest in propounding Confucian morality, particularly filiality. We might even say that this recurring theme marks his own “intellectual filiality” to the originial teachings he learned as a child. His own life concretely demonstrates his filiality in that he trained as a scholar in deference to his family's wishes, observed the proper mourning rituals at his father's death, constantly remembered his parents during his career, and even “retired” to his native land (Sichuan province).
Among Master Zongmi's many writings is the “Essay on the Origin of Humanity” (Yuan ren lun), perhaps the most famous of the many Buddhist panjiao schemes to explicitly include Confucianism and Taoism as teachings which lead to the Dharma. It is especially interesting that Master Zongmi speaks of Laozi and Confucius as being, along with the Buddha, perfect sages. Master Zongmi here is being filial to all of his “Dharma masters”, perhaps even his personal mentor, Master Chengguan, who also was interested in the Buddhist reclamation of Confucian values. Such reclamation of his own “native” intellectual and religious traditions formed an important aspect of Master Zongmi's career, and demonstrates filiality on a subtle but highly significant level. In a sense, through his filiality, he became (or remained) both Confucian and Buddhist.
However, the strongest evidence of Master Zongmi's abiding Buddhist filiality is his commentary on the Yulanpen jing, one of the Sutras discussed above. This commentary circulated widely in Tang society and greatly broadened the appeal of both the Sutra and festival to the laity. In his commentary Master Zongmi writes, “That which began during the primal chaos and now saturates heaven and earth, unites man and deity, connects the high and the low, and is revered alike by the Confucians and Buddhists is none other than filial piety.” For Master Zongmi, filial respect lies at the heart of both Confucianism and Buddhism, uniting them together with the cosmos itself. As Kenneth Ch'en observes, “All in all, we may say that this commentary by [Master]Tsung-mi represents the most serious effort by a Buddhist monk to convince the Confucians that the Buddhists were just as filial as they.” Thus on top of his many literary and philosophical achievements, Master Zongmi serves as one of the great historical exemplars of Buddhist filiality, a true Bodhisattva interested not just in traditional filial practices but expanding them to embrace the entire universe.
In sum, then, Buddhism is not a religion of selfish, “unfilial” pursuits. The stock criticism leveled at it by a few narrow-minded, sectarian Confucians (or Brahmins, for that matter) is belied by the teachings and examples found in many texts and in the widespread devotion of laity, monks, and nuns to their parents and ancestors. Moreover, the Bodhisattva precepts and the examples set by Earth Store Bodhisattva, the Venerable monk Maudgalyayana, even the “Buddhist literatus” Master Zongmi, demonstrate that Buddhism seeks to expand the notion of filiality beyond clan level to include all sentient beings. From these considerations it is no exaggeration to say that Buddhism, particularly in China, extends the practices of filial respect to levels beyond our ordinary lives and conceptions. This, in turn, forces those of us who were not raised in either a Chinese or Buddhist context but who are nonetheless interested in these traditions and our own self-cultivation to face certain crucial questions: What exactly is the relationship between gratitude towards one's parents and family, and one's own spiritual path? What do we as “good sons and daughters” owe, and to whom? How are such matters related to the nature of ultimate Reality itself? The Buddhist answer is that these concerns are inextricably intertwined--to cultivate the path of realization includes constant gratitude and service to one's parents and family, which must be extended throughout the universe. Ultimately, after all, such cultivation is the return to the root (ben), the source of our being. This is a profound and moving charge. In a world characterized by confusion, wandering, and rootlessness, though, it may be a message which needs to be voiced beyond its original cultural context.