Other Free Encyclopedias » Marriage and Family Encyclopedia » Marriage: Cultural Aspects » Buddhism - Buddhist History And Overview, Buddhism And The Family

Buddhism - Buddhism And The Family

history buddhist religious life marriage

Marriage and family relationships. Buddhism is not a family-centered religion. For a variety of reasons, it does not possess doctrinal standards or institutionalized models of the family. Some of these reasons include the role of renunciation, detachment, and the individual's pursuit of enlightenment. The virtue of renunciation derives from Siddhartha's Great Going Forth, at which point he forsook his family and familial obligations as son, husband, and father. The monastic lifestyle and the role of the religious community (sangha) formalized the renouncing of familial relationships. The goal of detachment also impinges negatively upon family life. The inherent nature of families and family relationships produces attachments that constitute formidable obstacles to achieving detachment from worldly affairs and desires. Finally, the practices for pursuing enlightenment are adult-oriented disciplines requiring significant amounts of time and effort in solitary study and meditation. Although these three factors adversely affect the role of family life, the vast majority of Buddhists are lay people with immediate and extended families.

Because Buddhism does not espouse any particular form of the family or family relationships, Buddhist family life generally reflects pre-existing cultural and religious values, customs, and socially sanctioned modes of expression. Within Asian Buddhist cultures, this typically translates into a traditional, patriarchal family structure with clearly defined familial roles. Buddhism's primary contribution to the family consists of five ethical prescriptions that inform all aspects of family life, including marriage, roles and expectations, sexuality, children, and divorce. Originally composed by the Buddha for families and laity not capable of adopting monasticism, the Five Precepts are binding ethical mandates promoting personal virtues. They are (1) abstaining from harming living beings; (2) abstaining from taking what is not given; (3) abstaining from sexual misconduct; (4) abstaining from false speech; and (5) abstaining from intoxicants. Although none of these precepts directly addresses the family, by governing social and interpersonal relationships they provide an ethical framework for family life.

Buddhism does not regard marriage as a religious act, duty, or obligation. Instead, marriage is viewed as a civic or secular matter. Therefore, wedding ceremonies are not considered religious events, and Buddhist monks do not officiate during the service. Monks may, however, attend weddings, and they often pronounce blessings and recite protective rites for the couple. Depending upon cultural traditions, marriages are either arranged between two families, as in many Eastern cultures, or decided upon and entered into between two consenting adults, as in the West. While monogamy is the principle form of marriage, Buddhism does not prohibit other forms, such as polygamy, polyandry, and group marriages. In fact, although not common, marriages of each of these types have existed within Asian cultures. Again, it is important to remember that the mode of marriage depends not upon a particular Buddhist ideal or teaching but upon pre-existing and prevailing cultural attitudes.

Neither the Buddha nor Buddhist texts give specific instructions on marriage and family life. There is, however, a great deal of commentary offering advice on how marital and family life can be lived happily. The emphasis within family life in Buddhist ethics rests upon the proper roles and responsibilities that characterize the husband-wife relationship and the parent-child relationship. Husbands and wives are to cultivate respect, honor, and faithfulness towards one another. Parents are responsible for inculcating Buddhist ethics and practices in their children and, in turn, children are expected to be obedient and to preserve the traditions of the family.

One of the primary means by which parents teach their children Buddhist beliefs and values is through participation in the life of religious community (sangha). Typically, in Buddhist homes, families erect a small shrine displaying a statue of the Buddha. Some families set aside an entire shrine room. Before the Buddha shrine, families conduct daily, short religious services, especially on full moon and festival days. During these services, members of the family make devotional offerings of food, flowers, candles, and incense to the Buddha. They also, through recitation, commit themselves to the Three Refuges ("I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.") and to Buddhist ethical precepts. Outside of the home, religious instruction consists of regular attendance at religious services and participation in religious festivals.

Divorce, although uncommon for Buddhists, is not prohibited. It is expected, however, that if a couple enters into marriage and adheres to Buddhism's ethical prescriptions for marital and family life, that divorce becomes a non-issue. If, however, a couple refuses to follow the ethical prescriptions, is unable to live in peace, harmony, and mutuality with one another, or in the event of extreme circumstances, such as adultery or violence, it is preferable for the marriage to be broken than for the marriage to destroy the couple or the family.

Although Buddhism is generally viewed as fairly permissive in terms of marriage, sexuality (non-procreative sex, including homosexuality, is not condemned), and divorce, it is important to note that Buddhism condemns abortion as the taking of life. Although abortion is not absolutely forbidden, Buddhism generally considers life to begin at conception and views terminating pregnancy as a violation of the first ethical principle.

Rites of passage. Buddhism possesses few official rites of passage. Most often such events are cultural rituals with little distinctive Buddhist presence or involvement. Like marriage, this characteristic is due to the perception that many rites of passage are social, civic, or secular affairs. For example, Buddhist monks may attend birthing or naming ceremonies; however their role rarely extends beyond reading sacred texts or making blessing pronouncements. There are two noteworthy exceptions to this general rule: ordination and death.

Buddhist males and females may seek ordination for life or, more commonly, for briefer designated periods of time. Ordination ceremonies and vows serve several purposes. They bestow the ordinand's family with karmic merit and honor, they reflect the highest aspirations of Buddhist life, and they signify entrance into adulthood and the larger society.

No rite of passage, however, is more significant than death. Death and funeral rituals, unlike other rites of passage, are distinctively Buddhist. Death's association with rebirth produced highly ritualistic and elaborate ceremonies to prepare for death and to ensure that the deceased enters into nirvana after death (paranirvana). To prepare for death, monks recite religious texts to the dying, creating and maintaining for them a state of peace and tranquility in which they can enter into death. Funeral rituals also involve reciting sacred texts. They include other religious practices as well, especially merit ceremonies designed to bestow additional karma upon the dead and protective rites to exorcise evil influences. These two features of death and funeral rites are crucial to ensure that the deceased is either liberated from the cycle of reincarnation or receives a meritorious rebirth.

Religious festivals. Religious festivals play important roles in preserving basic Buddhist beliefs, practices, and teachings. Because of Buddhism's vast religious and cultural diversity, there is a multitude of diverse religious festivals. There are, however, three principle festivals within Buddhism that celebrate the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha's teachings), and the Sangha (the religious community). The Three Jewels are also known as the Three Refuges. Wesak, the most important Buddhist festival, celebrates the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death (paranirvana), all of which, according to tradition, occurred on the same day of the year. Wesak is celebrated on the full moon day in late May or early June. Dharma Day, celebrated on the full moon in July, commemorates the Buddha's teachings, particularly his first sermon in which he taught the Four Noble Truths. Finally, Sangha Day, which is held on the full moon day in November, celebrates the founding of the monastic and religious community.

Bibliography

Canda, E. R., and Phaobtong, T. (1992). "Buddhism as a Support System for Southeast Asian Refugees." Social Work 37:61–67.

Erricker, C. (1995). Buddhism. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing.

Fujii, M. (1983). "Maintenance and Change in Japanese Traditional Funerals and Death-Related Behavior." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 10:39–64.

Gross, R. M. (1985). "The Householder and the World- Renunciant: Two Modes of Sexual Expression in Buddhism." Journal of Ecumenical Studies 22:81–96.

Gross, R. M. (1998). Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues. New York: Continuum.

Harvey, P. (1990). An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Karetzky, P. E. (1992). The Life of the Buddha: Ancient Scriptural and Pictorial Traditions. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Mizuno, K. (1996). Essentials of Buddhism: Basic Terminology and Concepts of Buddhist Philosophy and Practice, trans. Gaynor Sekimori. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing.

Nishiyama, H. (1995). "Marriage and Family Life in Soto Zen Buddhism." Dialogue and Alliance 9:49–53.

Noss, D. S., and Noss, J. B., eds. (1990). "Buddhism." In A History of the World's Religions, 8th edition. New York: Macmillan.

Reader, I. (1989). "Images in Soto Zen: Buddhism as a Religion of the Family in Contemporary Japan." Scottish Journal of Religious Studies 10:5–21.

Reynolds, F. E., and Carbine, J. A., eds. (2000). The Life of Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Skilton, A. (1997). A Concise History of Buddhism. Birmingham, UK: Windhorse Publications.

Smith, H. (1991). "Buddhism." In The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. New York: Harper-Collins.

Snelling, J. (1991). The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Stevens, J. (1990). Lust for Enlightenment: Buddhism and Sex. Boston: Shambhala.

F. MATTHEW SCHOBERT JR. SCOTT W. TAYLOR

[back] Buddhism - Buddhist History And Overview

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

about 9 years ago

Well this is totally different from buddhist view. Buddha advices about familiy life and how to live it better in various pali discourses. including sigalovaada sutta. and those instructions are precise.

Vote down Vote up

about 7 years ago

I agree with the above comment. The Buddha has given precise instructions on how one should live a family life for lay followers and has talked about the roles and responsibilities of members within the family.



Renunciation of the family and other wordly attachments is only for those who seek to attain nirvana.



Advice to the writer: It is important to research extensively prior to writing about a new subject - especially when it comes to religion...

Vote down Vote up

over 2 years ago

this is not a really good source to choose from it and does not get the info i need

Vote down Vote up

over 5 years ago

This is a foolish idea written by F. MATTHEW SCHOBERT JR. SCOTT W. TAYLOR who doesn't know ANYTHING about buddhism. Please don't write things just for the sake of writting. Buddhism cannot be understood by narrow-minded people like you, F. MATTHEW SCHOBERT JR. SCOTT W. TAYLOR OK? Just go through Thripitaka and then try to make a comment. FOOL.......

Vote down Vote up

almost 7 years ago

There are many suttas that were preached by the Budda for the benefit of the laity.

For instance "Sapta Bharya Sutta" describes 7 groups of wifes and husbands in order to provide role models for the lay. "Wyagaapajja Sutta" was recited for a young man named Deegajaanu, who wanted to lead a successful life. Perhaps the writer needs to research facts thoroughly.

Vote down Vote up

over 2 years ago

You choose to breath everyday for the rest of your life, why continue? A better question would be is Buddhism actually flexible enough that it allows family to play a part? Why would it not be it goes against the eight fold path.

http://www.sgi.org/buddhism/applying-buddhism/relationships/

Vote down Vote up

about 1 year ago

I have clearly used this shitty website and it doesnt fcking answer the question that i typed in. FIX UP

Vote down Vote up

over 1 year ago

institutionalized models of the family. Some of these reasons include the role of renunciation, detachment, and the individual's pursuit of enlightenment. The virtue of renunciation derives from Siddhartha's Great Going Forth, at which point he forsook his family and familial obligations as son, husband, and father. The monastic lifestyle and the role of the religious community (sangha) formalized the renouncing of familial relationships. The goal of detachment also impinges negatively upon family life. The inherent nature of families and family relationships produces attachments that constitute formidable obstacles to achieving detachment from worldly affairs and desires. Finally, the practices for pursuing enlightenment are adult-oriented disciplines requiring significant amounts of time and effort in solitary study and meditation. Although these three factors adversely affect the role of family life, the vast majority of Buddhists are lay people with immediate and extended families.

Because Buddhism does not espouse any particular form of the family or family relationships, Buddhist family life generally reflects pre-existing cultural and religious values, customs, and socially sanctioned modes of expression. Within Asian Buddhist cultures, this typically translates into a traditional, patriarchal family structure with clearly defined familial roles. Buddhism's primary contribution to the family consists of five ethical prescriptions that inform all aspects of family life, including marriage, roles and expectations, sexuality, children, and divorce. Originally composed by the Buddha for families and laity not capable of adopting monasticism, the Five Precepts are binding ethical mandates promoting personal virtues. They are (1) abstaining from harming living beings; (2) abstaining from taking what is not given; (3) abstaining from sexual misconduct; (4) abstaining from false speech; and (5) abstaining from intoxicants. Although none of these precepts directly addresses the family, by governing social and interpersonal relationships they provide an ethical framework for family life.

Buddhism does not regard marriage as a religious act, duty, or obligation. Instead, marriage is viewed as a civic or secular matter. Therefore, wedding ceremonies are not considered religious events, and Buddhist monks do not officiate during the service. Monks may, however, attend weddings, and they often pronounce blessings and recite protective rites for the couple. Depending upon cultural traditions, marriages are either arranged between two families, as in many Eastern cultures, or decided upon and entered into between two consenting adults, as in the West. While monogamy is the principle form of marriage, Buddhism does not prohibit other forms, such as polygamy, polyandry, and group marriages. In fact, although not common, marriages of each of these types have existed within Asian cultures. Again, it is important to remember that the mode of marriage depends not upon a particular Buddhist ideal or teaching but upon pre-existing and prevailing cultural attitudes.

Neither the Buddha nor Buddhist texts give specific instructions on marriage and family life. There is, however, a great deal of commentary offering advice on how marital and family life can be lived happily. The emphasis within family life in Buddhist ethics rests upon the proper roles and responsibilities that characterize the husband-wife relationship and the parent-child relationship. Husbands and wives are to cultivate respect, honor, and faithfulness towards one another. Parents are responsible for inculcating Buddhist ethics and practices in their children and, in turn, children are expected to be obedient and to preserve the traditions of the family.

One of the primary means by which parents teach their children Buddhist beliefs and values is through participation in the life of religious community (sangha). Typically, in Buddhist homes, families erect a small shrine displaying a statue of the Buddha. Some families set aside an entire shrine room. Before the Buddha shrine, families conduct daily, short religious services, especially on full moon and festival days. During these services, members of the family make devotional offerings of food, flowers, candles, and incense to the Buddha. They also, through recitation, commit themselves to the Three Refuges ("I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.") and to Buddhist ethical precepts. Outside of the home, religious instruction consists of regular attendance at religious services and participation in religious festivals.

Divorce, although uncommon for Buddhists, is not prohibited. It is expected, however, that if a couple enters into marriage and adheres to Buddhism's ethical prescriptions for marital and family life, that divorce becomes a non-issue. If, however, a couple refuses to follow the ethical prescriptions, is unable to live in peace, harmony, and mutuality with one another, or in the event of extreme circumstances, such as adultery or violence, it is preferable for the marriage to be broken than for the marriage to destroy the couple or the family.

Although Buddhism is generally viewed as fairly permissive in terms of marriage, sexuality (non-procreative sex, including homosexuality, is not condemned), and divorce, it is important to note that Buddhism condemns abortion as the taking of life. Although abortion is not absolutely forbidden, Buddhism generally considers life to begin at conception and views terminating pregnancy as a violation of the first ethical principle.

Rites of passage. Buddhism possesses few official rites of passage. Most often such events are cultural rituals with little distinctive Buddhist presence or involvement. Like marriage, this characteristic is due to the perception that many rites of passage are social, civic, or secular affairs. For example, Buddhist monks may attend birthing or naming ceremonies; however their role rarely extends beyond reading sacred texts or making blessing pronouncements. There are two noteworthy exceptions to this general rule: ordination and death.

Buddhist males and females may seek ordination for life or, more commonly, for briefer designated periods of time. Ordination ceremonies and vows serve several purposes. They bestow the ordinand's family with karmic merit and honor, they reflect the highest aspirations of Buddhist life, and they signify entrance into adulthood and the larger society.

No rite of passage, however, is more significant than death. Death and funeral rituals, unlike other rites of passage, are distinctively Buddhist. Death's association with rebirth produced highly ritualistic and elaborate ceremonies to prepare for death and to ensure that the deceased enters into nirvana after death (paranirvana). To prepare for death, monks recite religious texts to the dying, creating and maintaining for them a state of peace and tranquility in which they can enter into death. Funeral rituals also involve reciting sacred texts. They include other religious practices as well, especially merit ceremonies designed to bestow additional karma upon the dead and protective rites to exorcise evil influences. These two features of death and funeral rites are crucial to ensure that the deceased is either liberated from the cycle of reincarnation or receives a meritorious rebirth.

Religious festivals. Religious festivals play important roles in preserving basic Buddhist beliefs, practices, and teachings. Because of Buddhism's vast religious and cultural diversity, there is a multitude of diverse religious festivals. There are, however, three principle festivals within Buddhism that celebrate the Three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha's teachings), and the Sangha (the religious community). The Three Jewels are also known as the Three Refuges. Wesak, the most important Buddhist festival, celebrates the Buddha's birth, enlightenment, and death (paranirvana), all of which, according to tradition, occurred on the same day of the year. Wesak is celebrated on the full moon day in late May or early June. Dharma Day, celebrated on the full moon in July, commemorates the Buddha's teachings, particularly his first sermon in which he taught the Four Noble Truths. Finally, Sangha Day, which is held on the full moon day in November, celebrates the founding of the monastic and religious community.

See also: ANCESTOR WORSHIP; ASIAN-AMERICAN FAMILIES; CHINA; INTERFAITH MARRIAGE; JAPAN; KOREA; RELIGION

Bibliography

Canda, E. R., and Phaobtong, T. (1992). "Buddhism as a Support System for Southeast Asian Refugees." Social Work 37:61–67.

Erricker, C. (1995). Buddhism. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC/Contemporary Publishing.

Fujii, M. (1983). "Maintenance and Change in Japanese Traditional Funerals and Death-Related Behavior." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 10:39–64.

Gross, R. M. (1985). "The Householder and the World- Renunciant: Two Modes of Sexual Expression in Buddhism." Journal of Ecumenical Studies 22:81–96.

Gross, R. M. (1998). Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues. New York: Continuum.

Harvey, P. (1990). An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History, and Practices. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Karetzky, P. E. (1992). The Life of the Buddha: Ancient Scriptural and Pictorial Traditions. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Mizuno, K. (1996). Essentials of Buddhism: Basic Terminology and Concepts of Buddhist Philosophy and Practice, trans. Gaynor Sekimori. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing.

Nishiyama, H. (1995). "Marriage and Family Life in Soto Zen Buddhism." Dialogue and Alliance 9:49–53.

Noss, D. S., and Noss, J. B., eds. (1990). "Buddhism." In A History of the World's Religions, 8th edition. New York: Macmillan.

Reader, I. (1989). "Images in Soto Zen: Buddhism as a Religion of the Family in Contemporary Japan." Scottish Journal of Religious Studies 10:5–21.

Reynolds, F. E., and Carbine, J. A., eds. (2000). The Life of Buddhism. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Skilton, A. (1997). A Concise History of Buddhism. Birmingham, UK: Windhorse Publications.

Smith, H. (1991). "Buddhism." In The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. New York: Harper-Collins.

Snelling, J. (1991). The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Stevens, J. (1990). Lust for Enlightenment: Buddhism and Sex. Boston: Shambhala.

F. MATTHEW SCHOBERT JR. SCOTT W. TAYLOR
[back] Buddhism - Buddhist History And Overview
Citing this material

Please include a link to this page if you have found this material useful for research or writing a related article. Content on this website is from high-quality, licensed material originally published in print form. You can always be sure you're reading unbiased, factual, and accurate information.

Highlight the text below, right-click, and select “copy”. Paste the link into your website, email, or any other HTML document.
Buddhism - Buddhism And The Family
Tweet

User Comments

Name

Email

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Body

Cancel or
Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

Ranga

This is a foolish idea written by F. MATTHEW SCHOBERT JR. SCOTT W. TAYLOR who doesn't know ANYTHING about buddhism. Please don't write things just for the sake of writting. Buddhism cannot be understood by narrow-minded people like you, F. MATTHEW SCHOBERT JR. SCOTT W. TAYLOR OK? Just go through Thripitaka and then try to make a comment. FOOL.......
Vote down Vote up

over 5 years ago

Iromi Dharmawardhane

I agree with the above comment. The Buddha has given precise instructions on how one should live a family life for lay followers and has talked about the roles and responsibilities of members within the family.



Renunciation of the family and other wordly attachments is only for those who seek to attain nirvana.



Advice to the writer: It is important to research extensively prior to writing about a new subject - especially when it comes to religion...
Vote down Vote up

over 7 years ago

Prasanna Abeyrathna

Well this is totally different from buddhist view. Buddha advices about familiy life and how to live it better in various pali discourses. including sigalovaada sutta. and those instructions are precise.
Vote down Vote up

9 months ago

juju

this is not a really good source to choose from it and does not get the

Read more: Buddhism - Buddhism And The Family - History, Buddhist, and Religious - JRank Articles http://family.jrank.org/pages/183/Buddhism-Buddhism-Family.html#ixzz3pPXprp3l

Vote down Vote up

about 1 year ago

how stupid this article is i think the editor has no any idea of any kinda buddhist teachings stupid you and dont make readers too stupid

Vote down Vote up

over 1 year ago

List of Packers and Movers that will surely solve your relocation problem
http://www.export5th.in/packers-and-movers-in-bangalore/
http://www.export5th.in/packers-and-movers-in-hyderabad/
http://www.export5th.in/packers-and-movers-in-pune/
http://www.export5th.in/packers-and-movers-in-mumbai/

Vote down Vote up

over 1 year ago

Thanks for information The5th company top services for packing and moving services in India
http://www.the5th.in/packers-and-movers-gurgaon.html
http://www.the5th.in/packers-and-movers-bangalore.html
http://www.the5th.in/packers-and-movers-pune.html
http://www.the5th.in/packers-and-movers-mumbai.html