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《菩提田》

 

BODHI FIELD

父母師長
PARENTS, TEACHERS, AND ELDERS

文‧ 歐陸 by Oo Lu

我們生之於父母。父母之愛乃人倫之愛之首。父母為其子女而甘犧牲自己的性命,我們知道許多動物亦然。父母養育我們過髫髮之年,師長續而傳授他們的智慧給我們。我們不是自給自足的,也不是自生的。我們之有今日,乃許多人辛苦鞠勞,滋養教育的結果。非洲有一諺語說得十分扼要:「要用一個村子,才養成一個小子。」想想父母師長為我們所做的一切,我們應對他們抱什麼態度,再推而廣之,我們應對所有的眾生抱什麼態度?

學佛之初,最令我感動的一個觀想題目是觀想所有的有情眾生皆為我慈母。這一觀想是我所在的寺院修禪定的一個話頭。這一觀想亦是西藏密宗的觀想話頭中,最強烈的一個觀想,經過幾個世紀的不斷加強,以至於到一未經學習的莽漢都能熟知這一概念。對我而言,這一種禪修是非常地有效和動人的。不幸的是,並非所有的人都與父母融洽相處,所以這一觀想對一些人來說很困難。有一修禪的人問:「如果你與你母親相處不來怎麼辦?」一個方便法:「以一個好朋友取而代之。」這裡的要點在於感他人之恩,無論是父母,朋友,還是師長,誰恩最深,就觀想誰。

許多佛經中皆稱揚讚歎母愛。「慈愛經」中,鼓勵修行者以一母親愛其獨子之心來看待眾生。另一部短經--「父母恩重難報經」,非常動人地描寫父母為其子女所作的犧牲,許多佛陀的弟子們在聽完這一部經後嚎啕大哭,滿地打滾,痛悔以前未曾感激父母之恩。佛教勸勉人要上報四重恩——佛,父母,長輩,師長,這四重恩人我們有許多原因要感激他們。

父母給與我們肉身,並將我們撫養大。但是我們太常把這個看成是理所當然。多年來,他們對我們的辛苦照顧,我們沒能記得住,反倒一古腦兒記住他們力所不逮,而我們期盼的種種舒適與安樂。我們人類的童年期很長,二十年,一個小孩才能長成一個成人!許多孩子即便是到了二十歲,或在經濟上,或在感情上,還要依賴父母,報父母恩並非易事。不幸的是,有一句老話這麼說:「一父一母能養十個孩子;十個孩子卻養不了一父一母。」照顧老病父母,需要許多時間和精力,要做許多犧牲,許多子女因而不能夠,或不願意,為父母改變自己的生活方式。疏遠父母,送他們進老人院,或找專人照顧,這樣做子女的,其實已經把自己從最基本的人倫體驗––生育、繁衍、不斷的循環中,割離出來。這是人類最為親密的,互相愛護的一種循環。

到了上學的年齡,學校的老師便將他們的知識傳授給我們。我們也許知道孝順父母,但幾時我們曾衷心地感激過我們的老師?我說感激,不是指那種奉承式的,或是外表上做出一個恭敬的樣子,我指的是一種無聲的內在的感激。我自己得承認我想念老師的時候並不多,直到我自己做老師的那一天,我才由衷感激我中小學的老師--感激他們的慈愛和耐心。除了他們灌輸到我腦中的學問之外,他們的個性,也給我留下了深長久遠的印象。這不是說他們就是聖人或賢人了,他們與別人一樣,自有他們的種種優點和缺點。但是經年累月,他們忠於自己的職守,在孩子身心發展的不同階段,他們要與三十多位難調難教的學生,朝夕相處,並傳授知識與經驗。收入低,感激少,此事使得這些能夠忠於教師這項職業的人更令人欽佩。

除了師長之外,我們要感激我們的前輩。我們在生活之中,時常享用別人的勞動成果。日用所需,皆出自他人之手。獲取的知識,乃他人累積之功;物質財富,前輩所造。我們的成就,極少有完全是歸功我們自己,而未假他人之手的。作此思維,就應警惕,莫心生傲慢。年輕人應尋找自己要走的路,學會自己對事物的判斷,並批判性地檢驗事物。但是他們也應該學習通達世界各大宗教與哲學的傳統,並加以提煉昇華。過去的無知--對前輩所作的艱苦奮鬥少加恭敬,對他們所累積的智慧亦少加恭敬,必使我們眼光短淺,目中無人,那是死路一條。有人說:「前輩人的肩上,站著我們這輩人。」如果對於前輩的智慧,對於歷史的智慧,我們能心存感恩,我們就能比前輩的人們站得高、看得遠。如果我們對於人類集體的智慧輕加藐視,少加理睬,我們對世界的瞭解必然很有限,甚至對於我們自身都不甚明白。

對父母、師長、前輩的感恩這是大多數宗教一再強調的一個基本教義。這種感激與恭敬,不同的傳統,就有不同的表現方式,但其宗旨相同。佛教與儒教稱之為孝。在猶太教與基督徒所奉之為聖書的舊約全書中,摩西十誡亦曰:榮耀你們的父母。穆斯林教徒亦然,雖然他們的語氣比較輕。另外再舉一例,從世界的另一角落--非洲;許多人到非洲旅遊回來,都讚歎說在非州的部落社會,老人備受尊敬。

除父母、師長、與前輩三重恩之外,佛教徒自然多加一重恩--即佛恩與菩薩恩。其他宗教徒也許會想起他的創教主的恩。這恩,我們該如何來報答呢?在一次世界宗教研討會上,宣公上人說我們都應該做好各自宗教主的一個好教徒。我們要記住他們為我們所做的犧牲,學習他們的高風亮節,傳播他們的教義。

各宗教的一大核心都是一種深深的感恩心。如果我們能將這種心持續、延伸到各種眾生,我們的努力,必然功不唐捐。在人界中,我們有父母、師長之恩要報。在比人法界高的法界,我們有佛菩薩似海之恩要報。兩者不相矛盾,不相妨礙,不相陵奪。世間恩與出世間恩兩者相輔相成。銘記佛恩時,我們亦應銘記眾生恩。正如有人說:「為眾生,我報佛恩;為諸佛,我報眾生恩。」兩者終究是二而不二的。

We owe our physical existence to our parents. Parents' love for their children is perhaps the strongest human feeling there is. Parents will sacrifice their very lives for their children, and we know that even various animal species will defend their offspring with similar disregard for their own welfare. After our parents have raised us through our earliest years, our teachers and elders continue to transmit their wisdom to us. We are not self-contained or self-created. What we are now is the result of many people's painstaking efforts in nurturing and instructing us. An African proverb states it succinctly: "It takes a whole village to raise a child." Considering what our parents, elders, and teachers have done for us, what is the attitude we should take towards them, and by extension, towards all living beings?

One of the contemplations that moved me the most when I first started studying Buddhism was that of regarding all sentient beings as our kind mothers. This contemplation was also used as a theme for meditation at guided meditation sessions at the monastery where I was staying. This contemplation is one of the strongest strands in Tibetan Buddhism, one that has been reinforced through the centuries, to the effect that even the most unlearned ruffian will be familiar with the idea of regarding all beings as one's mothers. For me this meditation was very moving and effective. Unfortunately, not all people have a harmonious relationship with their parents, so this kind of contemplation may be difficult for some. "What if you can't get along with your mother?" asked one participant. The expedient answer was: "Think of a good friend instead." The key point is to acknowledge the kindness we owe to others, so you can contemplate whoever has shown the most kindness towards you, whether it be parent, friend, or a teacher.       

A mother's love is extolled in many Buddhist Sutras. In Karaniya Metta Sutta, the Sutra on Loving Kindness, the cultivator is encouraged to regard all beings with such love as a mother feels for her only child. Another short Sutra, the Sutra of the Deep Kindness of Parents and the Difficulty of Repaying It, describes the sacrifices parents make for their children so movingly that on hearing the Sutra the Buddha's disciples were moved to deep grief and remorse, thinking of the kindness they never appreciated before. In Buddhism we are exhorted to repay the "four kinds of kindness"--that of the Buddhas, our parents, elders, and teachers. All these are beings who we have ample reason to feel grateful towards.

Our parents give us our physical bodies and nurse us through our early years. Yet, all too often, we take their care for granted, and seem to keep better count of the comforts they were unable to provide for us than of the care they lavished on us for so many years. We humans have a very long childhood: it takes almost 20 years to raise a child to adulthood, and even then many children are still dependent on their parents, both economically and emotionally. Repaying our parents is not an easy task. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, "A parent can raise 10 children, but 10 children often are not able to support a single parent." Taking care of an elderly and ailing parent may take so much time and effort and require so many sacrifices that many grown-up children are not able or willing to make the necessary changes in their own life. But by distancing themselves from their parents, by relying on institutional care, the children actually cut themselves off from one of the basic human experiences, the cycle of generations, and the cycle of intimate, mutual care that we owe to each other. 

When we are old enough to start school, our teachers start to pass their knowledge on to us. We may have an idea that we should be filial toward our parents, but how often do we feel genuinely grateful towards our teachers? By gratitude I do not mean obsequiousness or external show of deference, but a quiet, inner appreciation. I myself appreciation. I myself have to admit that I didn't think much about my own teachers--until I started teaching in school myself! Only then did I start to appreciate the kindness and patience of my elementary, middle, and high school teachers. Apart from the academic subjects that they hammered into our heads, I have realized that it was their personalities which have left the deepest, most long-lasting impression. This is not to say that my teachers were saints or sages, far from it. Like everybody else, they had their own idiosyncrasies, their good and bad points. But year in and year out they stuck to their vocation, dealing with 30 or so unruly youngsters at various stages of development, passing on their knowledge and experience. The fact that theirs is a vocation that is poorly paid and seldom appreciated makes this stick-to-it-iveness even more admirable.      

Apart from our parents and elders, we owe a general debt of gratitude to all our elders, to all past generations. Constantly through our lives we use the fruits of others' labor. All the commodities we need were produced by someone else. All the knowledge we gain was compiled by someone else. All the material wealth in this world comes from the work of previous generations. Few of our achievements are totally original, totally unprecedented. This thought should help us stay on guard against arrogance. Young people need to find their own way, to learn to make their own judgments, and examine things critically. Yet they also need to know and understand the great religious and philosophical traditions of the world so that they can distill the essence of all these teachings of wisdom. Ignorance of the past and lack of respect for the struggles our elders have gone through and the wisdom it has brought them dooms us into an extremely short-sighted and self-centered existence. It is said that every generation stands on the shoulders of the previous one. If we can appreciate the wisdom of our elders, the wisdom of the past, we can stand taller and look farther than any generation before us. If we spitefully ignore this collective wisdom of humankind, we are not likely to understand very much of the world, or even  ourselves.           

Gratitude towards our parents, teachers, and elders is a basic teaching that most religious traditions emphasize. This gratitude and respect has been expressed in different ways in different traditions, but the essence is the same. Buddhism and Confucianism call it filiality. The Judaeo-Christian tradition calls it "honoring your mother and father," as it is phrased in the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament, a text that is held sacred by the Jews and Christians, and, to a lesser extent, by the Muslims as well. To take an example from another part of the world, many visitors to Africa comment favorably on the respect shown towards elders in African tribal societies.

To these three kinds of kindnesses--those of parents, teachers, and elders--a Buddhist disciple would naturally add the kindness shown to us by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Followers of other religions might want to think of the kindness of the founder of their own religion. How can we possibly repay this kindness? Speaking at an interfaith gathering, Master Hua once suggested that all of us should do the very best we can to be exemplary disciples of the founder of our own religion. We should keep in mind the sacrifices these founders made, emulate their virtues, and pass on their teachings.

A profound feeling of gratitude lies at the very heart of all religious practice. If we can keep this feeling alive and expand it towards all beings, our practice is certainly not in vain. In the human sphere, we all have the kindness of our parents, teachers, and elders to be grateful for. In the transcendental sphere, there is the kindness showered on us by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. These two are not contradictory, they do not obstruct each other or compete with each other. The mundane and transcendental kindness harmonize and reinforce each other. Awareness of the kindness of the Buddhas will inevitably lead to the awareness of the kindness of living beings as well. As it's said: "I repay the Buddhas' kindness to living beings. I repay the kindness of living beings to the Buddhas." Ultimately, there is no difference between the two.


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