I am attached to my parents, children and other close family members quite heavily. Me alone escaping the suffering is not enough. I want to make sure they are on track to escape suffering as well. What are my options?
I don't have a complete knowledge in Buddhist teachings.
There is a quote which says,
'No one can save us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.'
So we can just help them show the path, but they have to walk their own path.
If you want to share the Buddha's teachings (also known as "the Dhamma") with your family members and friends, you may do so, if you believe that they would be willing to listen.
Of course, if they are not interested or not ready to listen, then you must be willing to let them be.
According to Iti 100:
"There are these two kinds of gifts: a gift of material things & a gift of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: a gift of the Dhamma.
"There are these two kinds of sharing: sharing of material things & sharing of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: sharing of the Dhamma.
"There are these two kinds of assistance: assistance with material things & assistance with the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: help with the Dhamma.
"There are these two kinds of mass-donations: a mass-donation of material things & a mass-donation of the Dhamma. Of the two, this is supreme: a mass-donation of the Dhamma."
But to teach someone the Dhamma, you must have some qualifications, according to the Udayi Sutta (AN 5.159):
"It's not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?
"(1) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak step-by-step.'
"(2) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause & effect].'
"(3) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak out of compassion.'
"(4) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.'
"(5) The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, 'I will speak without hurting myself or others.'
Note: According to the Commentary, "hurting oneself" means exalting oneself. "Hurting others" means putting other people down.
the best you can do is becoming some arhant with the power of mind reading and the power to explain the dhamma well. Do not forget that some people who hear the dhamma from the buddha do not even get enlightened.
if you want to prepare them to hear the dhamma, you can watch bikkhu bodhi about the sutta ''being fit to talk to'' about the dhamma
Almost every man/woman/child you meet in life has been your parents, family, children in the past. It's just that you don't remember them. Your current family will be no different when you die. You have done the family thing countless times in the past and doing it again one more time wont help in ending anybody's suffering. That is why prince Siddhartha left his family. So wanting to save your family is no excuse for not getting ordained or not going to a monastery for long time meditation.
Then again, monk-life is not for everybody. Unless you have strong determination and courage, you are going to struggle to keep up with that lifestyle. Besides, you don't have to leave the lay life to become enlightened, it's just that the process is comparatively slow because of all the distractions and temptations.
So here are some options available for you:
- Leave the lay life, achieve your goal, come back and help the family members to end their suffering like how the Buddha did.
- Stay in lay life, go to a good meditation retreat every now and then with your family members, stay there for at least couple of weeks at a time.
- Meet a good meditation teacher and get meditation advice, go back to lay life, find a time of the day when everyone can meditate together. Enforce some house rules at that time for everybody to participate or at least stay quiet. Or you could incorporate meditation in all your day to day activities depending on the type of meditation you do.
Option 1 would be the most effective, but most people are too weak for that big of a leap. Nevertheless, option 2 and 3 can get the job done too albeit being less effective.
Some options: Focus on the buddhist ideas of brahmaviharas for the sake of your surrounding.
Also, buddhism doesnt have exklusive rights to compassion or kindness. So option two would be the general humane stuff we do for each other.
Option three: There is a chance you're already doing enough for your loved ones, seeing as it is a topic you’re attentive to. In that case, keep being yourself.
Putting your family "on track" might succeed or it might backfire. Each of us has our own "track". If others choose our tracks for us, resentment might arise.
However, if one offers compassion and understanding when others approach in a moment of suffering, one might reveal a door for them to choose on their own.
Recently a friend sought my advice, complaining of agitation, uncertainty and anxiety. I suggested that she simply close her eyes and count her breaths for one minute as one might do for MN10 Mindfulness Meditation. After that minute her day went much better and an hour later, laughing, she thanked me for that help.
Be there for your family. Let go of the track.
Surely, householder, it's hard to leave home, follow the Buddha and his disciples, their leader and many others previous in same situation but could have been able to see the higher benefit for all and could let go.
Once a householder asked the Buddha having same bonds of debts:
"We are lay people enjoying sensuality; living crowded with spouses & children; using Kasi fabrics & sandalwood; wearing garlands, scents, & creams; handling gold & silver. May the Blessed One teach the Dhamma for those like us, for our happiness & well-being in this life, for our happiness & well-being in lives to come."
[The Blessed One said:] "There are these four qualities, TigerPaw, that lead to a lay person's happiness and well-being in this life. Which four? Being consummate in initiative, being consummate in vigilance, admirable friendship, and maintaining one's livelihood in tune. ...To Dighajanu
(Note that this is not given for stacks, trade, exchange or entertainment, but toward escape and to get more near to a possibility)
Follow the Path, and those who see it will follow also.
No options. No need to become attached to some Buddhist ideal that a very small percentage of Buddhists, let alone people in general, achieve.