Being married, I have of late been coming across the dilemma of whether to have a child or not and if yes, if a biological child or not (which by itself may be another question which I may ask separately).

So, when I ponder on the subject, I get the thought if it may be more meaningful to adopt an orphaned child instead of having a biological child. But again, although at the surface adoption appears to be an altruistic and more meaningful thought, if I think deeper, I really wonder if the desires as a result of which I would want to have a biological child (and which I want to avoid) are pretty much the same as those which want me to adopt one. Additionally, adopting a child has its own administrative and emotional complications, which may result in unhappy experiences and which may therefore defeat the entire purpose.

So, I thought it may help me build a perspective on the subject, if I come to know what is the opinion on child adoption with regard to the Buddha's teachings. So, my questions are:-

  1. Is there any mention of the merits/ demrits of adoption in the Tipitika or any other Buddhist writings?
  2. Is there any incident from during the life of the Buddha in which child adoption was involved?
  3. Would it help to strengthen one's ethics by adopting a child?

  4. How can we compare or weigh the merits of dana to several orphan children vs adopting and nurturing one?


4 Answers 4


I view it as adoption can be nothing but good. you are providing a child with a home, food and most importantly love. if it is done with good intention then it cant be bad.


Yes, there is something mentioned in Buddhist canon, in the section of Vinaya, disciplines part. Two nephew of Ananda was wandering aimlessly with crying, Ananda saw it, asked to children "what happened to you, and why you crying?" child responded that their parent was killed. Ananda felt so sad and adopted these two children,brought them into Monaster for study gave education. Two children took enrolled in the monastery, as their age is already above seven and able to scare the crow away. In the text of Vinaya stated that child who reached seven year must be able to scare the crow away.


Only my opinion, but since you will be looking after and caring for another being, supplying them with food, water, shelter and affection, I cannot see that being anything but positive. There is no specific mention of child adoption as far as I know but there is mention of compassion and loving-kindness. As long as the intent is good it does not matter whether you adopt someone who already has a body or if you create a body for a being to manifest as.

You should probably avoid adopting lots of orphans if you have financial or administrative concerns for the reasons you stated


Is there any mention of the merits/ demrits of adoption in the Tipitika or any other Buddhist writings?

It's only short, but the Zen story Is That So? features an adoption.

I think it's intended to portray a wise attitude, and good parenting.

Is That So?

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parent went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbours and everything else he needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"

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