I have a father who left me when I was 5. He moved out of state when I was 7. We saw each other once every year or two. He returned to my area when I was 13. By the time I was 21, we still had a very limited relationship. He was/is an alcoholic and considering my own mental illness (I’m bipolar) and his own admission to the likelihood of him having something of the sort, he likely has a mental illness as well.

Through my 20s, we tried to get closer but it was not very successful. I was in and out of mental health facilities and he was stagnant in his own life, not really doing anything to change his behavior.

About two years ago, I was 29, we began talking on the phone every couple of days, attempting to establish a relationship. It was going well for a few months, until one night, when out of nowhere (it began with him criticizing how I ate a tostada) he berated me and told me vile things for over an hour that was amongst the most traumatic experiences of my life. Referring to my past suicidal tendencies, he was shouting at me that “he wouldn’t care if I killed myself” as I sat in meditation trying to calm myself from the painful attack.

After that night, we didn’t speak for over a year.

I forgave him, but I needed my space for a while.

As a Buddhist, I have always read that is important to love & deal compassionately with our parents, because we are not separate. My love is his love. His pain is my pain.

He has been living with my grandparents for the last year and now I see him quite a bit. I try and stay cordial as best I can. He’s only attacked me verbally a few times since. I thought things were getting better, but tonight he sent me a text message that makes me feel uncomfortable to respond to. He complains that I don’t treat him like he’s my father and I’m too casual with the way I talk to him. He says he’s been feeling that way for a while and is afraid of exploding on me again.

I’m having a tough time with what to do because I love him, truly. But trying to navigate our relationship is difficult for me and my mental health. I feel somewhat helpless in this situation and was hoping there was a perspective from this community that could help me understand how to handle this situation with guidance from a Buddhist perspective.

2 Answers 2


Your question is written with admirable/praiseworthy composure. The impression is you have practised the Dhamma very well; particularly from an originally challenging place.

I have previously answered a question at this link about the attitude towards authority figures found in the early scriptures.

Related to this, the scripture Iti 74 refers to the kind of son that is spiritually &/or morally superior to their parents.

In summary, the early scriptures are all about mutual obligations in relationship. While your compassion towards your father appears admirable, in Buddhism, there is an expectation a father must also abide with appropriate conduct before receiving full respect.

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    I am incredibly grateful for your response. I have read both links and feel more at ease with my world because of it. Thank you for your compliment as well. I am still struggling on the path, but on the path I remain. Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 20:28

A father-son (child) relation, good householder, is something which is based on debt in regard of the bound of the child toward to ones father and hard to ever pay off, but there is a way, as the Sublime Buddha taught: Parents

This kind of relation requires to fulfill ones duties, found in Sigalovada Sutta

Those duties could be abounded if one goes after higher, leaves home, family... for strive for Unbond.

Releation, in and off itself, with ones parents, would only "end" by change of ancestor-ship, meaning by reaching the path, yet still there is a matter of gratitude there, and sometimes wish of "repayment" is possible, sometimes not, sometimes one can not provide, sometimes the receiver wouldn't be able to take.

In regard of love, it's clear that such causes suffering, but that what is common seen as love is a desire or debt in regard of sensual pleasures and good to investigate whether ones undertaking to build up an active relation has "just" the purpose of possible pay depts really back or if one seeks for being provided by things, incl. identification.

As the topic is large and many things are to investigate, my person leaves it right here and, as parting is a matter one can not avoid, and maintaining relations is burdensome, maybe generally good to think in how far certain things open could be payed off and to leave not only a particular relation behind, but all, incl. that of the six senses, getting unbound, unrelated, someone really able to give.

And of course, relations need to be ended, if, with gratitude, for otherwise it would last, and the story wouldn't end.

A good talk on it: Karma & Gratitude

Since not really proper sphere here, good householder, one may feel given to investigate or ask further here.

A blessing:     friends when the need arises.
A blessing:     contentment with whatever there is.
Merit at the ending of life is a blessing.
A blessing:     the abandoning of all suffering
               & stress.

A blessing in the world:    reverence to your mother.
A blessing:     reverence to your father as well.
A blessing in the world:    reverence to a contemplative.
A blessing:     reverence for a brahman, too.

A blessing into old age is virtue.
A blessing:     conviction established.
A blessing:     discernment attained.
The non-doing of evil things is
       a blessing.

Dhp 331-333

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchange, other worldbinding trades or to nurish relations others then toward release, but food for an out of the wheel]

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    Thank you very much for your thoughtful and insightful response. I am still reading more of the links you have shared & appreciate you taking the time. Commented Sep 29, 2020 at 22:10

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