Consider these two texts:

  • https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.4.100-112.than.html the part that contains:

    Mother & father, compassionate to their family, are called Brahma, first teachers, those worthy of gifts from their children. So the wise should pay them homage, honor with food & drink clothing & bedding anointing & bathing & washing their feet. Performing these services to their parents, the wise are praised right here and after death rejoice in heaven.

  • https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an02/an02.031.than.html

    But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father.

What is are the appropriate ways to combine the meaning/purpose of these, considering that there is some potential to misunderstand the way these two guide us to treat our parents?

  • 1
    First the first and if possibility the secound: Sila (duty, having nurished me, I nurish them, raised, took care...), then generosity. And Sadhu for asking, pointing on it, good householder.
    – user11235
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 23:45
  • As the conduct toward ones Brahmas are actually always the same Mv I 15: Upajjhāyavattakathā — The Discussion of Duties Toward a Preceptor might be useful for certain proper ways. As for the duties alone, the Sigalasutta DN16, may help.
    – user11235
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 2:30
  • 1
    See alsoWhat did the Buddha say about gratitude?
    – user11235
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 2:33
  • 1
    If you'd like to try to chat with @SamanaJohann then you might try to do that on his web site (i.e. http://sangham.net/) -- possibly for example as a reply to this message -- because I think he won't be posting on this site (i.e. https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/) this month.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 19:48
  • 1
    Thank you, useful info. Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 15:07

3 Answers 3


Combining these 2:: There are lot of if-else cases here, might not be able to cover them up.

Understand from below scenario.

I am a well grown up person, a householder. Living independently, standing on my own foot. Either I regularly pay visit to oldies or live with them. I take care of them although they are stingy, fool, unvirtuous etc. in terms of dhamma or might be physically as well. I respect them, wash them, provide them food, clothing, medicines, etc.

I also try to change their views, try to establish them in dhamma by myself trying to walk on Noble path of householder under dhamma.

Another Scenario:: Parents are enjoying their oldage in their own way, they have enough financial & physical support other than me. Either they don't want to see me or yes we have still good relation. In this case, I am also living independently, living my householder life under dhamma. Here, I maintain compassion in mind towards them & gives metta so as they would also take homage to buddha & his dhamma.

As a homeless or as a monk:: I am living my peaceful life and never turns back from my parents, if they are against me & want to kill me for I joined Buddhism, who cares? Death is certain? If they are not against me, it's good. Whatever the case is, I maintain compassion for the body I received from them. This compassion here acts as mental-vibrant-food for them and also as blessings for them. I am ready to accept them in Sangha, if they are ready to follow stated percepts.

Whatever the case is, I am not running away from maintaining compassion. I am not running away from the duties. I am not doing it to get something in return but by understanding as to how difficult it is for a parent to give out a new body.

This doesn't mean that I support their wrong view of buddhism or of dhamma. In terms of dhamma & sila in life, I am still determined & strong.


Brahmaviharas are debtfree, regardless if it comes from a nurturing parent or a grateful child.

Conversely, giving something with the agenda of getting something in return is in essence one of the many flavors of greed.

But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father.

This means that the greatest gift of gratitude is the gift of dhamma by way of the above: establishing conviction, virtue, generosity et c.


A little personal background: my mom is Filipino, and my dad is Sinhalese (he professes to be Buddhist but is verbally, physically, and psychologically abusive). My mom is not a Buddhist but her life insights have enriched my Dhamma practice.

I see toxic people as bottles of poison or pesticide: you know they’re harmful if in contact with but you don’t have any hatred or animosity. Because that’s just what they are: bottles of poison, nothing to hate there. You just avoid any contact with it. Same approach with toxic parents: I don’t interact with them. Occasionally I get angry when I recall dad did but I counter that by:

  1. Calming myself and acknowledging that the thought of hatred arose. I know aversion (dosa/dvesha) has arisen and that I shouldn’t act on it. A mind engulfed in raga, dosa/dvesha, and moha is like a murky glass of water stirred with dust: you can only see the water clearly when the dust has settled.

  2. Acknowledging the thought is impermanent. I don’t reject the thought as it arises because it adds to the stress. I merely observe it BUT don’t act on it. The thought arose, sustains, and will eventually die.

  3. Radiate metta (friendliness, not necessarily compassion) to the person because they:

(a) have unresolved issues and are victims of previous abuse and weren’t aware of that when they did those same things to me;

(b) there is no person as such to ‘hate’ because the so-called person is a constantly-changing entity composed of constantly-changing matter (rupa) and non-matter (vedana, sanna, sankhara, vinnana). There is nothing to like or dislike in something that is constantly changing. The hatred doesn’t go overnight but if you practice, it will erode over time.

So if at first I was hateful of the toxic parent, now I acknowledge they’re toxic but with less aversion. Its not good to harbor thoughts of hatred because they harm you, in the short and long run. I can acknowledge that a person is abusive but at the same time have metta for them because they’re harming themselves. And it also does not mean I have to embrace them again, unless they’ve genuinely changed; and if they haven’t changed, they’ll just hurt/harm you again and you become an enabler for their bad actions. “Loving the tiger from a distance”

Forgiving toxic people does not mean rekindling a relationship with them: it’s about you healing from the past and rewiring how you perceive them and what they did. Knowing they’re toxic doesn’t mean you’re hating them: you’re just acknowledging they’re toxic and that they aren’t helpful to you. Bottles of poison

Dosa/dvesa (aversion) doesn’t go away overnight and takes diligent practice. Its not easy to practice these but its not impossible (if Buddhas and Arahats uprooted their aversion, why not I too). As much as possible, I don’t intellectualize my practice because it hinders the practice. Over time I understand the deeper meanings of some Pali terms because of my practice, so I know I’ll be fine as long as I keep steadfast on this Dhamma path. The point of Dhamma practice is to avoid and uproot raga, dosa/dvesha, moha. The Buddha laid out the path/practice but everyone treads it according to their own capacity.

Hope this helps, fellow wayfarers

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