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I am beginner in journey of way to truth, and life in general, through Buddhism. It's not long since I discovered Buddhism, and it really gives me insight in life.

My question is that I'm having really hard time, and I'm in confusion about what to do, in that my family is tearing apart because my mother is cheating on father with another married man, and I don't know what to do about it.

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  • This question might be on-topic on the (non-Buddhist) "Interpersonal Skills" site -- see for example here and here.
    – ChrisW
    Aug 16, 2023 at 19:17

2 Answers 2

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The Buddhist scriptures say a faithful householder has four qualities:

A faithful householder

who has these four qualities

does not grieve after passing away:

truthfulness, principles, steadfastness and generosity.

SN 1.10

The above says any member of a household (family) should ideally speak openly, truthfully & honestly to other members of their family.

Also, the Buddhist scriptures say a disciple of the Buddha speaks in praise of not practicing adultery. SN 55.7 says:

Furthermore, a noble disciple reflects: ‘If someone were to have sexual relations with my wives, I wouldn’t like it. But if I were to have sexual relations with someone else’s wives, he wouldn’t like that either. The thing that is disliked by me is also disliked by others. Since I dislike this thing, how can I inflict it on others?’ Reflecting in this way, they give up sexual misconduct themselves. And they encourage others to give up sexual misconduct, praising the giving up of sexual misconduct.

SN 55.7

In many places, the Buddhist scriptures say adultery & consorting with prostitutes (pornographic actors are, in essence, prostitutes) leads to harm & downfall, even to 'hell'.

Not content with his own partners,

he debauches himself with prostitutes,

and with others’ partners,

and that leads to his downfall.

Snp 1.6

Bhikkhus, possessing... qualities, one is deposited in hell as if brought there.

(3) He engages in sexual misconduct...

AN 10.211

Misconduct is a woman’s stain. A giver’s stain is stinginess. Bad qualities are a stain in this world and the next.

Dhp 242

  1. Four misfortunes befall the reckless man who consorts with another's wife: acquisition of demerit, disturbed sleep, ill-repute, and (rebirth in) states of woe.

  2. Such a man acquires demerit and an unhappy birth in the future. Brief is the pleasure of the frightened man and woman, and the king imposes heavy punishment. Hence, let no man consort with another's wife.

Dhp 309 & 310

If a female has the powers of attractiveness, wealth, relatives, and children, but not that of ethical behavior, the family will send her away, they won’t accommodate her.

SN 37.30

In summary, what the above means is your mother committing adultery with a married man can being great harm upon herself & the married man. These harms include:

  • divorce in both families/marriages
  • great loss of wealth in both families/marriages; because divorce is often very costly, including legal fees & division of assets/wealth.
  • your mother ending up alone & having to financially support herself.
  • depending on the country you live in (in the West there is generally 'no-fault' divorce), if your country has 'fault-divorce', it means your mother committing adultery may result in a bad legal/court decision against her.

As said, your mother committing adultery not only endangers her own life but also the life and family of the married man she is engaging in adultery with.

While it requires you to be very courageous, a Buddhist daughter would truthfully explain the above realities to their mother who is having an extramarital affair.

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I am sorry that you have such a troubled family life while growing up. Sadly, selfishness is a destroyer of relationships.

By causing so much hardships to his wife, your father had set in motion bad karma. It is likely the catalyst that drove his wife to have an affair and now threatens the breakup of his family. Similarly, I had seen men who cheated on their wives, gambled the money meant for sustaining the family, steal and sell their wives’ possessions to feed their gambling habits. When these men grew old and are in need of care and support, they find themselves deserted by their wives and children. Whether they are remorseful or not, it is often too late to change their fate.

Do you feel resentment, bitterness and anger towards your father? That is because bad karmic forces had already been set in motion. It is important to see this process in the light of karma. Seeing how karma arises and bears fruits is the best guarantee we will act in ways that will protect ourselves and others from long lasting harm and sufferings. By understanding karma as a natural force arising from wholesome or unwholesome intentions, we can then learn how to act or react to secure long lasting happiness for ourselves.

Perhaps, you can ask your mother if she feels any resentment towards her husband. Guide her to see how his selfish actions had generated this resentment and how it had come back to hurt his family and himself. Point out to her that she too, by her present choices and actions, had set off bad karmic causes just as her husband had. Remind her how it feels like to be a victim and how ironic she might end up victimizing others. And those hurt by this affair will be motivated to act against her and those she holds dear. This will be bad karma coming full circle. Express your love and concerns for her so that she knows that her past sacrifices in raising her children is now being rewarded. You are the testament that there is good karma and she can cause good karma instead.

Just a sidenote, I realized that we need to be honest and take ownership of our actions in order to see and understand karma. Unfortunately, this is not always true. So don’t be too disappointed if you tried your best but still failed to change your parents’ ways, it is still anatta.

Seeing, understanding and making use of karma to secure our future well-being and happiness is the first step. In the distant future, the "future us" may be enjoying our good karmic fruits so much that we forget about karma, becoming reckless and selfish. We may even find ourselves behaving like the people we resent now. The Jakata tales of Devadatta’s first grudge against the Buddha is a good precautionary story. In our long journey through samsara, we had revisited old mistakes many times. We had been in the shoes of people we admire or hate just as often as they had been in ours. Knowing this might yet awaken an urgency in us to put an end to this stupidity. With Metta.

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