這些教科書中，最早廣為流傳的是『孝經』。中國依傳統，從漢代（公元前 200 年至公元 200 年）以來，小學生要背誦孝經。『孝經』非常有系統地講如何盡孝，教導孩子如何要知報父母鞠養之恩。中國的傳統認為完美的道德是植根於孝道之上的。孝經所教之孝道，不是抽象的理論，而是日常生活之中至關重要的行為規則。孝道成為整個社會活動的經緯。它的應用面涵蓋生活的每一方面，萬德皆由孝德而化成。
Ramayana 中提到 Rama 王子的父親去世了，他一直等到守孝完成後，才接受大臣們的對他登基的請求。孝順父母是古代印度文化中不可分割的一部分。
佛常以其往世之親身經歷來闡明法義。其中 Sonadanda Jataka 的故事稱頌母愛，Te-miya Jataka 的故事贊歎父母痛苦時子女所盡的孝行，在Sigalovada 經中更列舉了子女孝敬雙親，以及雙親關懷子女，雙方各自應盡的五項義務。因此佛陀在往昔所受的教育中，培植了他對孝道深深的敬仰，這對他的教化事業有著深遠的影響。
The many virtues are nothing other than the manifestations of the one virtue, filiality.
Filial Respect— The Basis of an Education in Virtue
“When I serve my friends with filial respect,
I vow that living beings,
Will serve the Buddhas with skill and care,
Protecting and nourishing all things.”10
“I have realized Buddhahood because of amassing merit and vigor, and because the parents in each of my successive rebirths allowed me to go forth from the home-life to pursue the Way. All of this is a reflection of my parents’ kindness. Therefore, those who pursue the Way must be vigorous when it comes to doing their filial duties. Because once they fall, and lose their human life, they will not be able to regain it in many aeons.”11
“The source of my rapid accomplishment of the Supreme, Proper, and True Tao was none other than the virtue of filial respect.”12
The lessons of filial piety are found tightly woven into the social fabric of many Asian civilizations, as well as in the Buddha’s teachings. Stories of filial paragons who were vigorous cultivators of the spiritual path, beginning with the lives of the Buddha himself, have been guiding young people along proper roads for centuries in India, China, and Southeast Asia.
Filial Respect in Chinese Primers
The teachings on virtue from Chinese culture, systematized and transmitted for twenty centuries, provide a rich source of moral lessons. Confucian ethics have molded the thinking of Chinese for thousands of years, and have influenced the customs of nations that contacted China. Confucian classics have provided educational materials for countless generations of Chinese literati. Their contribution to the stabilizing and enriching of one of the world’s greatest and longest-lived civilizations is inestimable. Confucian virtue, carried by Chinese emigrants around the globe, continues to enlighten and benefit the new societies it reaches. The vehicles for this peaceful “conquest by virtue and reason” are the ancient texts that transmit Confucius’s explanations of humaneness, righteousness, the Tao, and its virtues.
The Classic of Filial Piety, (孝經), The Three-character Classic (三字經), and Standards for Students (弟子規), as well as The Four Books (四書), have set the foundations in wholesome attitudes for schoolchildren in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam for centuries.
The earliest of these textbooks to receive wide acceptance, the Classic of Filial Piety, was traditionally committed to memory by primary school students in China since the Han Dynasty (200 B.C. to the second century A.D..) The Classic presents a systematic approach to filial devotion and duty, introducing young minds to the need to repay the debt of kindness owed to parents for their sacrifices made while raising them to adulthood. Chinese tradition recognizes that the perfection of moral life is rooted in the virtue of filiality. Children are taught the principles of filiality in the Classic not as abstract theory, but as vital rules for daily human conduct. Filiality is the warp and woof of social intercourse, and its application covers all aspects of life. The many virtues are nothing other than the manifestations of the one virtue, filiality.
Traditionally, children expanded their knowledge of filial conduct by reading The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Respect (二十四孝), which illustrates the practice of filial piety under the most difficult circumstances. “Such education has deeply influenced the Chinese, and many actually applied the lessons to their conduct of life.”13
The Three Character Classic and Standards for Students contain concrete instructions and exhortations to devotion and humility towards one’s parents and elders. The lessons are written in three-word proverbs. Each bears a practical moral lesson, or a story from history, teaches a fact of life-science and common sense, or praises a model of exemplary conduct from the past:
“Little Xiang at nine years old,
Warmed the bed for his father.
Filial deeds for our parents,
Are what we all should do.”
“Rong was only four,
But could still give up the pears.
Respecting older brothers
Is the younger persons’ job.”14
Standards for Students is another elementary school primer containing guidelines for molding the character of children along the path of virtue:
“Whenever you injure your body,
Your parents feel grief and alarm.
Whenever you damage your virtue,
Your family’s good name comes to harm.
When parents love their children,
Obeying them is not hard.
To obey when parents are hateful
Takes the resolve of a noble heart.”15
These models of behavior are bound neither by culture nor time. The situations described and the knowledge conveyed by the Confucian textbooks is universal in scope and in application. Because filial devotion is a primary truth of the human condition, its lessons belong to a fund of “heritage learning”, that generates a wholesome and heart-felt response, regardless of the language or the milieu.16
A Buddhist-run educational program built around translations of these ancient primers will stand the test of time, and will communicate the lessons of virtue to twenty-first century schoolchildren in the West as effectively as it has in Asia for centuries.
Filial Respect in Indian Literature
In India, the society that fostered Siddhartha Gautama, the Prince of the Shakya Clan, worship of the Mother was a standard belief. Hindu scriptures state that one father is worth a hundred religious teachers, but one mother is worth a thousand fathers.17
The Ramayana relates that after the death of his father, the King, Prince Rama declined the ministers’ offer of succession to the throne until his prescribed period of mourning was over. Reverence for parents was integral to ancient Indian culture.
King Ashoka, centuries later, propagated the dharma of filial devotion in his second Brahmagiri Edict:
“Mother and father and teacher must be properly served. Compassion must be showered on all living beings. Truth must be spoken. These virtues must be promoted. Likewise the preceptor must be revered by the pupil. Relations should be properly treated. This is the ancient natural conduct. This makes for longevity of life. Therefore should this be followed.”18
The Buddha told stories of his past lives to illustrate his principles. Among them was the Sonadanda Jataka, that eulogizes a mother’s kindness. The Temiya Jataka praises care for one’s parents in distress, and the Sigalovada Sutra lists five duties approprite to children, in caring for their parents, as well as five duties parents should fulfill towards their children. Thus, the Buddha’s early education fostered a deep reverance for the virtue of filial piety, and it influenced his teachings profoundly.
To be continued
10. T. 279, The Flower Adornment Sutra “Pure Conduct Chapter”.
11. T. 378, The Sutra of Differentiation.
12. T. 174. The Shyamaka-Jataka Sutra.
13. Sister Lelia Makra (trans.), Paul K.T. Sih (ed.), The Hsiao Ching, St. John’s University Press, New York, 1961, preface.
14. The Three Character Classic: Provisional translation in unpublished manuscript.
15. Standards for Students: Provisional translation in unpublished manuscript.
16. See Appendix I—to be published in a future issue.
17. Narada Thera, Parents and Children, Wisdom Series 38, p.2.
18. N.A. Nikam, Richard McKeon, eds., The Edicts of Ashoka, University of Chicago Press, Midway Reprints, Chicago, 1978, p. 43.