13 OVERCOMING CONFLICTS AND TENSION WITHIN FAMILY: A BUDDHIST RESPONSE

Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 05:48
by Swe Swe Mon



 
OVERCOMINCONFLICTANTENSION WITHIN FAMILY: A BUDDHIST RESPONSE
 
by Swe Swe Mon*



ABSTRACT

This research work bases on the naked questions of why parents become a burden to children in their old age and why they have to spend the rest of life in old-aged home. Parents have looked after their children in various aspects since they were born. Yet, when children grow up, they come to think parents are extra members in family and want to abandon them at old-aged home. Actually, this happening shows that something is wrong within family. But in contemporary world, most of people take it as normal process in human life. Therefore, this study, firstly, aims to point out that parents should not be behaved in this way. Secondly, it aims to find out the conflicts and tensions within family that create such situation. Thirdly, it aims to explore the Buddhist ways to solve the conflicts and tensions within family. Specifically, to empower mental health and to encourage better family relationship as well as to create a well-lived life at home in Buddhist ways with no conflicts and tensions, this paper will do a case study by studying the contemporary family life around us. With these aims, from the Buddhist sociology approach, this research has presented in three sections: (i) Principle themes of conflicts and tensions within family, (ii) Their origins and Causes, and (iii) A Buddhist response to overcome them especially based on Samukhāvinaya which is one of the seven kinds of settlements
 
instructed in the Samathakkhandhaka of Cūlạ
and Sutta literature.

vagga, Vinaya Pitaka
 
 
  • Lecture, Sakyadhida Buddhist College
No. (63), Ayarwaddy Street, (10) Ward, North Dagon, Yangon, Myanmara
 
 
    1. INTRODUCTION

In youthfulness, the aging is hidden (SN 48.41). Aging is unavoidable, undesirable, unwelcome and problem-ridden phase of life. The aging of the various beings in the various orders of beings, their growing old, brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of vitality, degeneration of the faculties; this is called aging (SN 12.2). However undesirable of it, it is bound to come in life. It is losing prestige, influence, independence and whatever formal positions people may retain in their families or communities. They generally retreat to the sidelines and become increasingly marginal in everyday affairs. People who are old and frail to attend to their own daily needs must depend on younger people for their very livelihood and care. But they are taken as unwanted burden. They are caught in terrible feeling of redundancy, loneliness and neglect.

Though it is true that no stage of life has its ever smooth sailing and every stage has its attendant problems, those of old age are more difficult and insurmountable because the physical strength and mental capability required to cope up with the adverse situations of life are immensely reduced. Besides, financial constraint is one of the major problems of old people who are not entitled to any social security and have no source of income. In this way, they are faced with multi-dimensional problems. In this phenomenon, who will be savior of these old people? Who are the dearest to them? The answer for these questions is so simple. Their children are the dearest ones and should be the saviors of old parents. Yet, in some cases, their own children, to whom they dedicates their life and love find no time to care the feelings of them.

Donald Cowgill and Lowell Holmes, Sociologists, proposes that industrialization and modernization are the main reason why the old citizens loose power and influence in society (Cowgill and Holmes 1972). The gift of modern society for old people is social exclusion and make them to live as an island. It is the outcome of breakup of the tradition of joint family system and growing of nuclear family style. Thus, individualism have become a characteristic of our civilization despite the traditionally collectivist nature of some cultures because of changes associated with all modern society. Growing urbanization and fast moving modern
 


life have contributed to problem. Caring for an elderly people is seen as a voluntary obligation that may be ignored without fear of social censure (Openstax College, 2012).

Children who have lack of attitude to accept the obligation that should be done for parents, but who did so anyway, because of mainly tradition, community opinion, or legal requirement might carry out their duties to parents with such little grace or with such manifest ill will as to make them aware of not being wanted or as to lead to friction and conflicts. In such situation, it has been found that children experience the greatest stress: physical and emotional fatigue, a persistent feeling of being unable to satisfy the parents no matter what one does, feeling tied down, feeling impatience, frustration, and irritation. On the other side, how satisfactory it may be for aged parents to live with their children depends in part upon such attitude toward their responsibility for the care of aged parents. One of the solutions to this situation is sending parents to old-aged home to be freed from obligation.

In childhood and youths have parents and other close elderly kith and kin to help, cooperate and guide to attend their problems. Besides, they themselves is full of energy, strength, stamina and courage. However, the situation takes a reverse turn in the old age. Children take help from parents to grow up but when parents grow old, they abandon them at old-aged home. Is it a good way to do? Life is not smooth all the time and every phase of life has its own problems. Thus, we learn how to appreciate, thank and show gratitude to whoever give a hand to us in our gray time. Being thankful and expressing the gratitude is an important part of being happy in life. In this way, when we outline our life, parents are at the top of list who are most deserved ones to receive gratitude. We should be grateful to them even with a fact that giving us life to live in this world. Additionally, they feed us, teach us, and lead us when we cannot stand on our own feet. Is the best way to show gratitude by leaving them at old-aged home? No, even with a slight sense of humanity, it is not a right way to treat old parents. Although, there are old-aged homes, children who send their old parents to there and unhappy parents who have to go there. It is truly bitter to see such disintegration of family value in today society.
 


2.  PRINCIPLE  THEMES  OF  CONFLICTS  AND  TENSIONS WITHIN FAMILY

In nominal family of nowadays, parents and children are main components of a family. Thus, only getting along parents and children brings family relationship goes well. It is ones the best fort. Even if one has the worst situations encountered in outside world, one is graciously and blissfully embraced by family as one established good relationship with own family. In contrast, family conflicts can be stressful and damage the relationship among family members. Intense family conflicts can load to everlasting disunity and lack of warmth and care at each other. Finally, family members get unhappy family life as a result. Not only in family, conflicts and tensions are universal in nature. In this way, conflicts and tensions become part of family life and there are many conditions caused them.

3.CONFLICTSCONCERNINGDUTIESANDRESPONSIBILITIES (KICCĀDHIKARAṆA)

Being not dutiful member in family is of the state of conflict that we are going to discus. Man is interconnected and interdependent being so that he is incapable to avoid society. If there is society, there will be responsibility to carry out individually. Suppose, if you are a student, you have student duties to do. If you are a children, you have duties to do as a children. Everyone in society has respective
 
duties and responsibilities. In large body of Pālị

literature, duties
 
and responsibilities between parents and children are mentioned.
According to Singālovāda sutta which is famous discourse for the
welfare of household life, parents and children have five duties each.
Parents are responsible to children to dissuade from evil, to persuade
them to do good, to give them a good education, to see that they are
married to suitable individuals and to hand over to them, at a proper
time, their inheritance. In return, children are responsible to parents
to support them back, to do their duties, to keep the family tradition,
to make themselves worthy of parentsinheritance and sharing good
deeds after the dismiss of parents (DN 31).

These are called as ritta Sīla which means abiding by the rules of conduct and performing ones duties and responsibilities. If parents’ duties are not carried out by parents or if children cannot
 


perform their duties very well, conflict will surely arise in family. Parents are responsible to guide good and bad, if not, later children may become dangerous people for mankind. If parents do not give good education to children, they may suffer in future. In return, children should be dutiful ones for parents too. Children should study hard, work hard and help parents. If everyone performs ones own responsibilities with self-discipline, no conflict concerning with duties and responsibilities will occur.

Conflicts concerning duties and responsibilities is caused at the societal level. It is worthy to be noted that not fulfilling responsibility brings conflicts not only in family which is the smallest society but also in every community at any rate. Herein, we need to examine the conditions that lead children to be not dutiful ones? In our surrounding, we can see different conditions based on different reasons. Children are busy growing up and busy enjoying their own life. They do not notice that their parents are growing older and older. The married ones are busier than unmarried ones because they are working mainly for their own family. When they become the parents, they are more busier than before by growing up their own children and forget their own parents They have less time to care as well as less intention to give time for parents especially if they have geographically distant. However, the main cause of this conflict can be considered the family as a main cause. There is no family, there will be no duties and responsibilities to be done. Then, no conflicts concerning with duties and responsibilities. To avoid it, one may stay without marrying but one may not avoid his society. He may still have conflict concerning with duties and responsibilities with regard to societal level. Therefore, being dutiful one for ones own family, ones society and ones country is better than living out of society.
  1. CONFLICTS CONCERNING DISPUTES (VIVĀDĀDHI- KARAṆA)

It is normal to disagree with one another from time to time and it can be hard to find common ground with your family sometimes. It might feel easier if the people at home always agreed with us about our beliefs and opinions. With the intensity of family life, it isnt always easy but it might help to understand that the family should be a safe
 


place where family members can try out different ideas. Having and sharing different perspectives and can make a family grow stronger as you can learn from your parents and your parents can learn from you. Yet, when it cannot be handled well, it may lead to disputes.

Based on different family issues, disputes may arise for having different opinions and different understanding especially when the members are prone to misunderstanding one another and jumping to wrongly skewed conclusions. Most of the time, disputes on different opinions in family are solved only by the veto of parents without the consent of children. When children hand over the family matters when they grow up, at that time, they neglect parents opinion too who grow old and unable to handle family matters. When nobody try to have agreement from all family and when only powerful person in family decides the case, no way to avoid conflict concerning disputes in family. The result may be unresolved conflicts which manifest in continuous arguments and end in resentment.
  1. CONFLICTS CONCERNING ACCUSATION (ANUVĀDĀDHI- KARAṆA)

Family members may accuse each other with regard to ones morality, actions, views and way of living. Having disputes in family is one of the facts which leads to accusation and blaming at each other because no trust is maintained in family. This type of conflict yields the hatred within family. According to Mahānidessa of Khuddaka Nikāya, there are two reasons of being accused: committing wrong doings and aggressive in talking (PTS. 62).
  1. CONFLICTS CONCERNING OFFENCES (ĀPATTĀDHI- KARAṆA)

No man is perfect and in life they do both right and wrong things. Yet, living in society, one has to follow rules and regulation. In family, there are family rules. In society, there are rules for society. In country too, they have respective rules to be followed by citizens. In Buddhism, abstinence from evil conduct is known as undertaking Vāritta Sīla. Otherwise, things that shouldnt be done which are laid down by the Buddha are called Vāritta Sīla. Pañca Sīla, Ājīvatthamaka Sīla, Uposatha Sīla, etc. are belonging to Vāritta Sīla. For Vāritta
 


Sīla, we have to strictly follow according to the precepts that we want to observe. Suppose, if we observe the Pañca Sīla, we have to abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, telling lies and using intoxicating drinks and drugs. When a family member commit a wrong doing, there will surely be a conflict in family.
  1. ORIGINS AND CAUSES OF CONFLICTS AND TENSIONS WITHIN FAMILY

From the perspective of dependent origination, everything cannot free from causes and conditions. Therefore, conflict also has its causes and conditions. According to Buddhist teachings conflicts occur due to the craving. Mahānidāna Sutta in Dgha Nikāya explains step by step how craving leading to the conflicts due to the mental stages occur in the individuals mind. Seeking is dependent on craving, acquisition is dependent on seeking, ascertainment is dependent on acquisition, desire and passion is dependent on ascertainment, attachment is dependent on desire and passion, possessiveness is dependent on attachment, stinginess is dependent on attachment, defensiveness is dependent on stinginess, and because of defensiveness, dependent on defensiveness, various evil, unskillful phenomena come into play: the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies.(DN II. PTS. 86-89)

According to Aggña Sutta as well the evolution of society was based on the craving of individuals, making negative effects to the individuals as well as the environment. (D III. PTS. 66) Conflict often emanates from attachment to material things: pleasures, property, territory, wealth, economic dominance or political superiority. Furthermore, the Buddha says that sense-pleasures lead on to desire for greater sense-pleasures which leads on to conflict between all kinds of people. The basic mental components of the person: Lobha - Greed, Dōsa - Hate, Mōha Delusion derived from craving. All twelve of afflicted mind (akusala citta)1 which have the fourteen unwholesome mental factors2 as associated are based on

 
    1. There are 8 kinds of lobha citta, 2 kinds of dosa cittas and 2 kinds of moha cittas.
    2. Moha (delusion), Ahirika (shameless), Anottappa (utter recklessness, not having normal dread), Uddhacca (distraction, restlessness), Lobha (greed), Diṭṭhi (wrong view),
 


these three mental components.

Lobha is greed, i.e., craving for sensual pleasure. Just as the smallest particle of a stone sinks in water, even petty greed can lead to the four woeful worlds if not supported by wholesome deeds. Therefore, there are many people who have become petas (miserable ghosts) because of attachment to ones spouse, sons, daughters or wealth while on the deathbed.

Anger or violence of mind is called dosa (hatred). It is not only violent but it also soils the mind, it is not only wild and rule; but also depressive resulting in inferiority complex and living in fear; they all belong to the category of dosa or hatred (ill-will). Both fear and violence are varieties of dosa; the angry, violent person is also easily frightened. Be aware of such persons. (Violence is called ascending hatred, whereas fear is called descending hatred).

Not knowing (delusion) is moha, it is of two kinds, namely, anusaya moha and pariyuṭṭhāna moha. The term anusaya” means inherent tendency or lying latent. The term “pariyuṭṭhāna” means rising up. Therefore delusion, which always accompanies the mind of beings, is called anusaya moha, the latent delusion. The delusion that occasionally arises together with the mind is called pariyuṭṭhāna moha, the rising-up delusion.

Just as there is poison in a tree that bears poisonous fruits; just so in the mind continuum of beings, there is an element (dhātu), which keeps hidden the Dhamma that ought to be known. That element is called anusaya moha, the latent delusion. Because of the concealing action of anusaya moha, worldling people are unable to realize penetratingly the three characteristics of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and non-self (anatta), neither do they grasp the Four Noble Truths nor the Law of Dependent Origination, in a comprehensive manner.

When moha arises together with the mind it is said that the bad mind, the unwholesome ne; has appeared. Because of the concealing



Ma n̄  a (conceit),
Dosa (hatred, anger), Issa ̄ (envy), Macchariya (jealousy, selfishness), Kukkucca (worry), Thina (sloth), Middha (torpor), Vicikiccha ̄ (skeptical doubt).
 


nature of this pariyuṭṭhāna moha, evil consequences, which one may suffer in future, are not understood. And the evil of unwholesome actions of the present are also not understood. Therefore, even the learned and virtuous cannot see the evils of moha and will commit wrong deeds when moha arises. This moha in the domain of evils is the wicked. In this world all wickedness and stupidity originate from moha; moha is the taproot of all evil.

The Vivādhamūla Sutta in  the  Aṅguttara  Nikāya  also  gives six causes for social conflicts which based on these three mental components: angry and grudging, merciless and spiteful, selfish and envious, crafty and deceitful with evil, view and wrong view, holding on to his view and giving it up with difficulty. Therefore it is clear that to see and realize the social conflicts, individual should clearly understand three mental states which are the origin of not only family conflicts but also can apply for any conflicts.
  1. SEVEN KINDS OF SETTLEMENT

As family members themselves are creators of conflicts, they themselvesaretheremedytosolveconflictsandtensioninfamily.The seven settlements are laid down in Vinaya Piṭaka to solve the above mentioned four conflicts. They are - Samukhāvinaya, Sativinaya, Amuhavinaya, Patiññākaraṇa, Yebhuyyasikā, Tassapiyasikā and Tiavatthāraka.

Vinaya Piṭaka stated  that  Samukhāvinaya  is  the  procedure to be done in the presence of, that is, the manner of settling the legal process in the presence of the sangha, and in the presence of an individual, and in the presence of vatthu, and in the presence of Dhamma and Vinaya. Sativinaya is the procedure setting up mindfulness as the main point, that is, the manner in which the sangha sets forth a motion announcing that an Arahant is a fully mindful person for the settlement of anuvādādhikaraṇa, there being an accusation against him regarding the breaking of moral rules. Amūḷavinaya is the procedure dealing with a bhikkhu who has recovered from insanity, that is, the manner in which the sangha set forth a motion announcing a person who is no longer insane for the settlement of anuvādādhikaraṇa, there having been accusation about training-rules broken by him while he was insane.  Patiññākaraṇa
 


is doing according to what is admitted, that is, the āpatti is given according to the admission of the accused who admits truthfully what he has done. To confess āpatti to others is held to be doing paṭiññā (admission) and is included in this article. Yebhuyyasikā is the judgment made according to the words of the majority. This procedure is used when the opinions of many people differ and the majoritys opinion should be taken. Tassapāpiyasikā is the act of giving a penalty to one who has committed a fault. Tiavatthāraka is the covering over with grass, that is, the manner of reconciling both parties without proceeding to investigate the dispute. It should be used in difficult and important cases which affect all the people concerned. (Vinayamukha. 228-229)
Conflict concerning disputes can be solved by Samukhāvinaya
 
and Yebhuyasika.̄

Conflict concerning accusation can be solved by
 
Samukhāvinaya,   Sativinaya,   Patiññākaranạ

and Tassapāpiyasika.̄
 
Conflict concerning offences can be solved by Samukhāvinaya,
Patiññākaraa and Tinạ vatthāraka. Conflict concerning duties can
be solved only by Samukhāvinaya. These seven kinds of settlement
is applicable not only for sangha community but also for lay society.
As this study will emphasize only in Samukhāvinaya – method of
dialogue which is special for it can be used for all four types of conflict.
  1. METHOD OF DIALOGUE (SAMUKHĀVINAYA)

According to Samukhāvinaya, all matters should be discussed or decided in the present of all family members. In this case, all family members refer to those who reach to the proper age to understand and decide family matter. Otherwise, it is having face-to-face dialogue between parents and children for all family conflicts. Suppose, when they come across one problem, both parents and children should sit together and discuss the cause and effect of problem, analyze the situation of problem repeatedly and try to understand the problem. If they have different opinions and views with this problem, reasonable explanations should be made to all family members. Final decision should be accepted by all members. If final decision is not accepted by all members, this  decision cannot be regarded as the right decision. It may be right for the one who decided it but it may be not right for other members. Parents
 


should not decide by his consent alone and children also should not decide by their own. Both parents and children need to find the right solution of problem by having dialogue with respect and mutual understanding.

Family which follows this practice will have peace and unity. Moreover, they can gain strong and warm relationship. Couples before marriage should understand these situation of conflicts and conflict resolution so that they can avoid conflicts and tensions in family when they have children. Parents who listen the opinions of children and who do not decide any family issues only by his consent will gain love and respect from their children. Building such kind of family value will be a considerable situation for children to leave their parents at old-aged home. If family which does not follow this practice, old-aged parents will be a burden for children and finally they will choose the way to send old-aged home. In that situation, to have dialogue only between aging parents and adult children is not enough. They need another person who can support their discussion and who can lead the right judgment on conflicts. When parents are old and lack of capacity to support family, the degree of respect from children is reduce more or less. At that time, elder person who gain respect by children and power over children should participate in the dialogue and he should remind the gratitude of parents, duties of children towards parents, disadvantages of old- aged home for aging parents with reasonable facts.

He may explain with the knowledge of Buddha teachings and research result of present days. Famous Magala sutta said mātāpitu upaṭṭhānamto support mother and father is a blessing (Khp 5). The Kedāra Jātaka of Khuddaka Nikāya is the best example to realize the duties that should be done by family members. In this Jātaka, supporting back the parents, take care of offspring and performing good deeds are essential duties to be done. From the evidence of the Buddhas discourses in the Khuddaka Nikāya, it is clear that there are bad consequences for those who fail their duties and responsibilities towards parents.

It is good to care for ones aged parents but very sarcastically this scenario has changed since children are aiming for the property and money of the aged parents. Like a child who needs tender love, care
 


and attention of parents at its most impressionable age, parents also need those love, care and attention when they are old. Whether children wish to avoid responsibilities, fail to support or taking care of parents with the aim for property and money, it makes conflicts and tension in family. There is loss of loving-kindness in family. Although many people feel that sending their aged parents to the old-aged home is better for them rather than staying at home, many aged parents would like to stay close with their children. According to research, there were about 70% of patients with dementia passed away in the old-aged home. Statistic has revealed that old people who stay in there, own higher risk to suffer from dementia than old people who stay at home. This is because the aged people in old-aged home seldom communicate with their children after they are sent there. From this study, one should not send their elderly parents to the old-aged home. Indeed, it is an act of jeopardizing their parents and one should take care of their aged parents but not only for the pecuniary reason.

Our life is not smooth all the time. It is colorful with high and low situations. Thus, we learn how to appreciate, thank and show gratitude to whoever give a hand to us in our gray time. Being thankful and expressing the gratitude is an important part of being happy in life. In this way, when we outline our life, parents are the most deserved ones to receive children’ gratitude. We should be grateful to them even with a fact that giving us a life to live in this world. Additionally, they feed us, teach us, and lead us when we cannot stand on our own feet. In Aguttara Nikāya, it is mentioned that two kinds of person are hard in to find in the world. They are the one who is first to do a favor and he who is grateful for what is done. (Aguttara Nikāya, Vol. I, 78). In family network, the first ones are parents and the second ones are children who respect and appreciate the gratitude of parents. How we can pay gratitude back to them? It is bound not to feel impatience, frustration, and irritation when they are aged.

This kind of explanation will help children to understand the fact that by dumping aged parents by sending them to the old-aged home due to different kinds of reasons as well as excuses is not the good way and to decide the right decision to change their feeling of
 


aging parents as a burden.
  1. CONCLUSION

Virtually all human beings cherish a desire to live in peace, yet we continually find ourselves embroiled in conflict, pitted against others in relationships marred by tension and distrust. There is no sons and daughters who can protect parents from death. But, they can be strength for them in facing with death and can create the better situation at the sunset of their life with love and care. Since family conflicts are inevitable, this study will serve as the light to shed the way to overcome conflicts and tension within family and to create the better life of aging parents.

REFERENCES

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F.L. Woodward, 2000, The Book of The Gradual Sayings, vol.1, Pali Text Society, Oxford.

I.B. Horner, 1952, The Book of the Discipline, vol. 5, Luzac & Company   Ltd,   London.

Maurice Walshe, 1996, The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dgha Nikāya, Wisdom Publication, Boston.

Miller, Sheila J, 1982, Aging Parents and Their Middle-Aged Children.Educational Horizons, vol. 60, no. 4. JSTOR, www.jstor. org/stable/42924506.
OpenStax College, 2012, Introduction to Sociology, Texas.

Rhys Davids, Mrs, 1999, The Minor Anthologies of the Pali Canon, vol. 1, Pali Text Society, Oxford.

V. Bengtson & E. DeTerre, 1981, Aging and Family Relations, Marriage and Family Review, vol.3. National Council on Family Relations.

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