Buddhism is about overcoming suffering in the material world, so that the individual can escape the cycle of rebirth and attain nirvana -- the ultimate state of blessedness. Buddhism teaches that old age is a time of great suffering, and since we all age, the young must treat the elderly, particularly their parents, with suitable respect.
In Buddhism, one of the main reasons for respecting the elderly is the idea of filial piety. Since parents spend so much time raising their children, children must repay the pains their parents took. When a child is young and vulnerable, parents introduce their child to the world and take care of him, so when parents reach old age, their child must care for them in a similar way. Buddhism teaches that this is particularly true of mothers who experience additional pains while carrying the child in the womb for nine months and then giving birth.
Another reason for Buddhist respect for the elderly is the idea that people suffer in their old age. Buddhism is about overcoming suffering and Buddhist sutras (sermons of the Buddha) teach that old age is a time of great suffering when the individual's body begins to decay and the mind becomes confused. Since Buddhism also teaches compassion for the suffering of others, young Buddhists have an obligation to respect and help the elderly.
According to Buddhism, the main way of showing respect for the elderly is to provide for their needs. In many cases, parents live with their children and may help raise their grandchildren. Young people should also take care of their parents' financial and other personal needs. In addition, since a senior citizen has wisdom accumulated over a long lifetime, younger people can show respect by listening to the advice of their elders. Buddhists also extend the idea of filial piety to all senior citizens.
Prolonged lifespans have changed the way senior citizens live, and this has affected the way Buddhists practice respect for the elderly. Since many people are healthier for longer, they want to remain independent and work long into their old age. Some Buddhist temples have begun organizing clubs to bring senior citizens together with younger people, and many Buddhist organizations celebrate special days intended to focus attention on respect for the elderly.
- Buddhist Studies: The Filial Piety Sutra
- Buddhist Studies: The Four Sights: Old Age
- Gold Wheel Monastery: A Synopsis of Respecting the Elderly Celebration at Gold Wheel Monastery
- LibDoc: Caring for the Old in a Changing Society
- Young Men Buddhist Association of America: Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice
- San Francisco State University: Buddhism and Respect for Parents
- Guide to Buddhism: Old Age
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