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What did Buddha say about dysfunctional families for novice practitioners? What advice did he give for novice practitioners in order to have a good practice as being a novice such impediments as a dysfunctional and painful family can impact practice in a negative manner? What precautions should one take? Should one go no-contact, is that skillful?

Elsewhere, Buddha has mentioned that one cannot repay the debts of the parents and even in the Mangala Sutta it is mentioned that one should be helpful to relatives. However, if being in contact with dysfunctional families makes us lose our faith in ourselves and makes us angry and hateful all the time, this is a huge impediment to practice especially as a novice. I know that one should learn to have compassion for these people and see them as afflicted by delusions. However the transgressions are so huge and the fact that I am a novice makes me feel guilty that I cannot feel the compassion. I have tried Metta meditation and also analyzing them using the 5 ways to overcome hatred. At this point nothing is helping. I am just filled with this ball of anger and hatred inside me constantly. I am afraid that I am generating more negative mind-states by being in contact with this dysfunctional system. There is a lot of dysfunction and its so painful, to the point that I am losing my self-esteem and have started doubting my worth as a human -being. There is constant lies, manipulation, slandering... I am losing my faith in myself as a human being.

All advice to deal with this situation from the Suttas, and practical advice from personal experiences, will be appreciated. Please remember, this is for a novice. High spiritual ideals like compassion etc are great, but they are not helpful for me right now.

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I can only agree with Dhammadhatu's last paragraph. Get yourself going first, for if you are suffering inside you cannot help others and your inner rescources will become less and less. This is not about being selfish but I call it enlightened self interest. Now, the Dhammapada is largely addressed to monks, but I think some of the quotes are still good reminders and something to strive for. To quote from the Dhammapada:

Verse 160: One indeed is one's own refuge; how can others be a refuge to one? With oneself thoroughly tamed, one can attain a refuge (i.e., Arahatta Phala), which is so difficult to attain.

_

Verse 61: If a person seeking a companion cannot find one who is better than or equal to him, let him resolutely go on alone; there can be no companionship with a fool.

and lastly verse 43, which targets your issue and echoes Dhatus last point:

Verse 43: Not a mother, nor a father, nor any other relative can do more for the well-being of one than a rightly-directed mind can.

Apart from Buddhism, I can also recommend REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy) by Albert Ellis who was the "father" of cognitive behavioral therapy. Especially Windy Dryden published countless books in how to overcome obstacles (search on Google Books, I learned most of it through Book reviews there). One of the most important hallmarks in REBT is self acceptance, and if possible other and world acceptance, where you differentiate between personhood (or supposed "self/other worth") and the doer. Basically "condeming the sin but not the sinner". It would definitely help with your self esteem issue you raised. On YouTube, Albert Ellis is also to be found. There are old lectures, but still on point and have a no non-sense approach which I like and is usually quite rare to be found in comparison to Buddhism, where lectures and talks go up to 2-3 hours with a lot of non-sense and rambling.

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    Verse 61 has a logical problem. The better companion candidate, by abiding to verse 61, won't ever accept the lesser one as a companion to him or herself. This always bothered me. – T. Sar Apr 1 '18 at 13:40
  • equal OR better. – Val Apr 1 '18 at 13:56
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    You seem to have missed my point. If everyone that logic, "associate only with those that are equal or better than you", everyone would only associate with people that equal and never someone that is better, 'cause those that are better than you wouldn't want to associate with someone lesser. Thus, associating yourself with someone better than you that also follows the Verse 61 is impossible. – T. Sar Apr 1 '18 at 16:28
  • These passages are very inspirational , and I understand that working on my mind is more important than anything else. Now , the path ahead is slowly becoming clear for me. – user68706 Apr 2 '18 at 8:35
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What did Buddha say about dysfunctional families for novice practitioners.

There is a sutta (Iti 74) where the Buddha said a child can be morally/dhammically superior, equal or inferior to their parents. Here, the Buddha recognises there can be bad parents.

What advice did he give for novice practitioners in order to have a good practice as being a novice such impediments as a dysfunctional and painful family can impact practice in a negative manner.

When men become monks, they generally forgot about their families & often did not see their family again. In other words, family should not be an obstacle to practice. The Ratthapala Sutta provides an excellent example of how a monk responded to his unfaithful family.

What precautions should one take? Should one go no-contact , is that skillful.

Monks go non-contact, even when the family is not dysfunctional.

Elsewhere , Buddha has mentioned that one cannot repay the debts of the parents and even in the Mangala Sutta it is mentioned that one should be helpful to relatives.

I think the above suttas are not about dysfunctional families. For example, SN 37.29 & 30 say dysfunctional wives are expelled from a family. Dhamma practise is about developing virtue and maintaining that virtue in all circumstances. DN 31 describes have people in various relationships should ideally relate to one other. If people don't relate to each other properly, these relationship can be ended. In DN 31, it is said:

the friend who brings ruin, these four as enemies the wise behold, avoid them from afar as paths of peril.


However ,if being in contact with dysfunctional families makes us lose our faith in ourselves and makes us angry and hateful all the time , this is a huge impediment to practice especially as a novice.

Even good families often do not agree with a child pursing Dhamma. Dhamma practitioners practise for their own salvation and do not allow any unnecessary impediments; including family.

I know that one should learn to have compassion for these people and see them as afflicted by delusions. However the transgressions are so huge and the fact that I am a novice makes me feel guilty that I cannot feel the compassion .

It is best to start with equanimity, namely, see them as afflicted by delusions. This is easier than compassion or metta.

Please remember , this is for a novice. High spiritual ideals like compassion etc are great, but they are not helpful for me right now.

Your situation sounds very serious & difficult. You should leave your family & develop your life; until you are independent & established in proper living; particularly the ethical conduct factors of the Eightfold Path.

  • Leaving my family is what I realised also I have to do and the words of the Buddha towards which you have guided me will help me to be strong and continue my practice. – user68706 Apr 2 '18 at 8:34
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There's a "Rhinoceros Sutta".

I don't know any commentary on it, except Wikipedia.

It's not exactly about, it's not only about, families.

I guess I'd just want to add that:

  • It's a bit one-sided.
  • The reason (motive) it gives seems to be freedom: freedom from attachment; not aversion.

Another sutta might seem to say something opposite, e.g. "Upaddha Sutta: Half (of the Holy Life)".

Truth to tell, this sutta too wasn't about families; but anyway -- perhaps from personal experience if not from the suttas -- instead of (or as well as) concentrating on avoiding people who upset you, maybe try to find and try to emulate people you admire ... not to become attached, ideally, but to learn from a good example.

That (learning from some good example[s]) is true for everyone, but maybe especially for people from dysfunctional families. IMO a problem with "dysfunctional families" isn't only that they're vexing but that you don't learn from them various ordinary coping skills.

  • That is so true , and I never taught about the coping skills part. I will work on developing my coping skills. – user68706 Apr 2 '18 at 8:36

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