One day my Father will leave me. I love him a a lot. It will cause suffering when he leaves.

My question is : How can I escape the suffering of losing my Father?

  • I'm just saying, it is not very usual for one to fear a future grief of a passing that has no obvious signs for it yet. It is perhaps a sign of a faith based stream enterer where his (her) mind is towards the belief that 5 skandha are impermant. Only you can tell if you are in the stream. Buddha said faith based sotapana would not die before realized the full fruit of sotapana. None the less, they are still called sotapana – user5056 Jan 6 at 20:30
  • Is wishing to escape from inevitable dukkha a fear ? Would you not want cessation of Dukkha if it's possible ? I am not in stream. I have yet to give my full commitment to Buddhism,but I trust Buddha. – Dheeraj Verma Jan 7 at 2:06
  • I don't know if Buddha called it a fear. I'm trying to think what he called his feelings when he left his palaces because then he was looking for a way to escape pain and suffering too. He mentioned tho, uninstructed persons would seek pleasures as a way to escape suffering. All beings, us,animals , etc. don't want sufferings and most of us seek things that make us feel good and see it as path to end of suffering. – user5056 Jan 7 at 4:46
  • He began with compassion . He lived with compassion. He ended with compassion. Understanding the common suffering of all which is due Anicca. Cure is Anatta. Sabbe Dhamma Anatta. I do not understand the cure. – Dheeraj Verma Jan 7 at 5:12
  • Most of my adult life (I am about 50 now) I was not close to my parents. A few years ago, a year after my mother died, I got divorced, had to start a new career etc. The only person who could take me in was my 80 year old father. It was very difficult and unpleasant for both of us, but he was having trouble walking, so he needed help anyway. I lived with him about a half a year until I found work. In following years I visited monthly and helped. Eventually he became infirm, very ill, died. But I had been closer to him those last few years, so when he declined, it was a natural change. – user2341 Jan 7 at 16:09

10 Answers 10

Let go of what is going to cause the suffering. I.e. your attachment towards him. Practice Satipattana meditation.

Try to behave virtuously, do what you can, and see the virtue of/in others.

Even when you want the world to be other than it is, I think it would be worse if on top of that you regretted your own past misbehaviour; conversely you may find it better if you had good relations.

I think that "recollection of virtue" (including generosity) appears frequently (e.g. here), in one form or another, as something of a consolation or support.

  • Can you illustrate by giving example how recollection of virtue can lead to disenchantment and dispassion? – Dheeraj Verma Jan 5 at 10:43
  • I'm not sure it leads to disenchantment and dispassion; but I suppose it leads to satisfaction rather than dissatisfaction, sukha rather than dukkha. See also this comment for example. – ChrisW Jan 5 at 10:54
  • Happy memories rather than unhappy ones. "Happy" isn't exactly the right word, though. – ChrisW Jan 5 at 11:10
  • I only have happy memories. But recollecting those happy memories will only aggravate my suffering I guess. I do not get it , how recollection of virtue is going to assuage my suffering or fill the void which he is going to leave behind. – Dheeraj Verma Jan 5 at 11:20
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    What if what he leaves behind is happy memories, the good he's done, the good you learned from him, and which he gave you occasion to practice? Maybe there are other answers (like Sankha's) but this depicts something of my own experience. – ChrisW Jan 5 at 11:38

The way you express your feeling reminds me of a sutta where Buddha told story of how gods in heaven tremble in fear when they heard Buddha preached about impermanance. Or even a great horse sees a shadow of a whip. Since this a Q&A, Anatta is a cure.

  • Is it true that I am not a feeling of sadness nor am I a feeling of sadness?I am just not present. I am trying to understand Anatta. – Dheeraj Verma Mar 8 at 16:32

There was a story of a very accomplished monk in the Soto Zen tradition. One day, he heard that his master had died. He took the news with apparent ease. At his funeral, he was composed - greeting well wishers, accepting their condolences, smiling, and even laughing. This lasted for much of the memorial service. Right before they were to take the body away for cremation, this monk when to the side of his masters coffin. He began to sob uncontrollably. All of the people in attendance began to look at him with mouths agape. Realizing that he was being stared at and wise to the reason why - after all it's not often that you see a Zen master lose his composure so fully and unashamedly - the monk said to the onlookers:

"My master, who I have known all of my life, who I loved as deeply as my own father, has died. If I want to cry, I'm going to cry."

Buddhist practice isn't Vulcanism. It isn't about transcending our emotion and sitting in a tepid path of imperturbability. Rather, Buddhist practice is about being openhearted. It is about becoming fully and unashamedly intimate with the world. If your father dies, of course you will suffer. Why shouldn't you? Allow yourself to experience the full extent of your grief. Mourn wholeheartedly. Anything short of that is a disservice both to your relationship with him and to your own feelings of love.

  • It is a beautiful answer. But where does the Buddha come into picture? If I want to cry I am going to cry until I bounce back naturally. What role does the knowledge play in such a situation ? Knowledge says if you cling to Son you will reappear on this planet to see your son. If you cling to Father then you will take rebirth to see your father. At some point one will have to accept that Father (or the son) has passed away into a different world. It is an everyday phenomenon. Lets get back to our work of escaping our own suffering. – Dheeraj Verma Mar 8 at 16:28

If your father was a good father to you (doing good karma), according to the Pali suttas, he will have a good rebirth. The Pali suttas say:

These beings — who were endowed with good conduct of body, speech & mind, who did not revile noble ones, who held right views and undertook actions under the influence of right views — with the break-up of the body, after death, have re-appeared in the good destinations, in the heavenly world.

MN 4

  • My father is still alive and he is a good father and for that I love him. Knowing that he will have a good rebirth when he passes away helps me to mitigate my feelings but I am afraid when he leaves me ,I will broken into pieces because I can't imagine a life without him. When Buddha left the world he left the people crying behind him. Similarly I feel I am going to suffer. – Dheeraj Verma Jan 5 at 10:51
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    OK... then you are going to suffer. The Buddha said separation from the loved is suffering. Simply keep reflecting on that. The Buddha never taught each of us will end suffering. – Dhammadhatu Jan 5 at 19:45

This is a difficult problem. Although an arahant (enlightened person) would be free of grief in this situation, for the rest of us, sorrow is more or less inevitable. There are a number of approaches. One is to practice mindfulness of feelings, realizing that your feelings change from moment to moment. Another is to realize that your father possesses the three marks of existence: Suffering, Impermanence and Egolessness.

  1. Like all other beings, his life is full of suffering, and to grasp onto him is to cause suffering.
  2. His life is impermanent, which you have already shown some awareness of. Being mindful now of this unavoidable fact will help you deal with it when the time comes.
  3. He is not a self and does not possess a self. He is composed of many things which themselves are composed of many things, and these things are always changing.

As mentioned by others, a regular meditation practice is also helpful for developing serenity and insight.

You need to eventually face this suffering due to your attachment. Such attachment is usually deep seated.

But what may be helpful is to contemplate on anicca or impermanence.

For this, you can take A Walk in the Woods with Phra Khantipalo.

Also, read the story of Patacara in Dhammapada 113.

From the Dhammapada:

Sabbe sankhara anicca ti. yada pannaya passati; atha nibbindati dukkhe. esa maggo visuddhiya

Every thing (experience specifically, since that is the primary) is ephemeral. And by experientially internalising that wisdom, one comes out of suffering. This is the path of purification.

Practice the Dharma. Whether our father goes first or we go first, ultimately we have to face impermanence one day. If our father goes first, we feel grief naturally, that is because we are attached to something-our father. Yet if we go first, we are presented with a huge fear, because of the unknown of death. Buddhism deals with all these grief and fear- sufferings. Thus one should practice Buddhism diligently and without doubt because we really don't want all these sufferings.

Your father is not his body, he is information, "spirit"(~attitude, character) - right? As you interact with him, this information enters your system. When your father dies, it will continue in you. Not grieving over your father, not clinging to his solid form, you will allow his qualities to freely manifest in yourself. So in a way you will become continuation of your father, of what was the best in him. In that sense, your father would never die. If you cling to his solid form, you will only block the process of "him" continuing in "you".

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    This may be an interesting answer from the fashionable modern-physics-inspired views, but it is not based on the Buddha's teachings. – Tharpa Jan 5 at 19:48
  • @Tharpa The Buddha's doctrine included metaphors for Brahmins and other contemporaries -- maybe it's not wrong, maybe it's skillful, to [re]phrase in ways that make it accessible to modern "physicists". But when you said "not based on the Buddha's teaching" maybe you were referring to anatta and identity-view. But I suppose Andrei maybe isn't averse to the idea and practice of visualising one's self or qualities as those of something or someone else (see, for example, this answer). – ChrisW Jan 6 at 15:45
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    @ChrisW Yes, anatta means that there is no "essence" to the self. I'm not opposed to Andrei's answer in a non-Buddhist context, just that it doesn't have anything to with the BuddhaDharma, since it assumes an essence. Not to mention that I could critique it from a physics standpoint as well. So it's not just a matter of using a modern metaphor, which I would have no problem with if it were apt. – Tharpa Jan 6 at 16:57
  • @Tharpa - I edited the word "essence" away. Does it look more palatable now? – Andrei Volkov Jan 6 at 21:22
  • @AndreiVolkov Yes, thanks. – Tharpa Jan 7 at 19:28

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