Thứ năm - 09/05/2019 06:10
by Tilak Kariyawasam

by Tilak Kariyawasam

Happy and comfortable life is the utmost expectation of everyone living in a society. Though the expectation of people is as such, if the society would not provide the necessary conditions for them to lead a happy and comfortable life, it is inevitable that they would remain in distress. Most of the people do not realize the fact that mere hope would not do anything in the society for the happiness of the people. In such a situation, it is certain that the society needs a change in a way that it provides a necessary background for the happiness of people. If the change in the society would not come from its grass root level, it cannot be firmed. Family is the smallest unit of the society based on which the entire society is constituted. Hence, the family is considered to be the foundation of society. If we need a social change for the betterment of the members of the society, it should come from the family itself.


According to some scholars, it is not necessary to give definitions for the term family and its purpose, as everyone knows what the family is, because everyone comes from a family. We must keep in our mind that every family cannot be regarded as a family in the full sense of the term. The key factor to become a family in the full sense of term, is the ethical background. Therefore, family and its purpose could be defined in the following manner: Family is the foundation of a human life or the life of an individual, and the purpose of family is to provide support for an individual to grow comfortably.

* Professor, Doctor, Graduate School, International Buddhist College, Thailand.

Modern sociologists define the term family almost covering above mentioned definition. Family means mother, father and the child as explained by the American Sociologists as the ‘Nuclear Family or elementary family1. Sociologists say Nuclear family is the foundation of Extended family. Extended family is a large family including the parents, children (brothers and sisters) and grandparents. In Buddhist literature, we can find the concept extended family. Normally Buddhist texts mentioned as “Family Circle(ñāti parivța)2 for extended family. Sociologists identified four kinds of responsibility of Nuclear family or extended family. These are functional aspects of family mixed up with moral protection. The followings are the primary responsibilities attached to the family:
  1. Reproduction of family members.

In the society elderly people die in a natural way, and some others also die due to disease and because of some other calamities. For those who have died already and not living anymore some others have to fill the gap. This is what reproduction is for. Therefore, to balance the population of the human species, family is of a vital importance.
  1. Socialization

Socialization means teaching social norms, Culture and Social taboos for the children to make them suitable citizens for the society. In that sense, this socialization in a family is a major factor for making a society suitable for its members to live happily.
  1. Regulation of Sexual Behavior

Sexual behavior is a biological function of any living being and every other beings have a season for their sexual behavior, but human beings are comprised with the extra advantage without having the season for such behavior. Human beings are capable enough for sexual functions throughout the years. Therefore, it
    1. Mallenry, Robert. (1993). ‘Nuclear Family’. In: The New Encyclopaedia Britan- nica, vol.7. Ed. By 15th Edition, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 431.
2. . D.I. 61 appaṃ vā ñāti-parivațțaṃ  pahāya, mahantaṃ vā ñāti-parivattaṃ vā

has to be regularized somehow otherwise, population would be increased without limit. When a man has a family, sexual behavior would be regularized automatically.
  1. Companionship

Companionship is a necessary factor for the wellbeing of the family. Courtesy and warmth among the members of the family would bring out the companionship.

It is very essential to understand the ethical factor embodied in this categorization of the primary responsibilities of a family. Reproduction is the action which shows the loyalty to its own group. That also one of the important ethics of the group mentality. This concept is deeply rooted in almost every persons in the family and the racial issues and other requirements to protect their own characteristics are the result of this process. Socialization is an ethical educational process which should be within the family circle. It is a lifelong process. Not only the children but also even elderly members need to be educated on the social behavior by means of socialization It should be mentioned here that the concept of religious ministers that we are going to introduce in this paper would be immensely contributive the process of socialization. Regulation of sexual behavior has the fullest ethical implication, because it is the key factor of child bearing and it is connected to the re-production. When this sexual regulation is not functioning properly, there arise different social problems such as violation of human Rights. The most of the precepts recommended in the five precepts (pañcasîla) by Buddhism are also violated due to the mal functioning of regulation of sexual behavior. Companionship is also a vital factor for an individual in the society. It is natural that all the member of the family from their childhood seek mental or physical relief from their own family. What implies that when a young one gets sick in a hostel outside his family, he immediately goes home means that he needs his mothers love, because the mother is there to look after him. In the same way, if a working person faraway feels not well he immediately goes home, his wife will treat him for cure.
When  there  is  any  calamity  in  the  family  there  are  friends

and relatives to console the person. This is the way how family members bring warmth, advices, and treatments for each other in whatever the way they need for their mental and physical relief. This companionship would give life to the members of the family according to the circumstances and occasions that necessitate the mutual love and support from one another. This is the most viable functions of family ethics in order to keep the family ties firm.


The concept of Religious Minister was brought forward by the Buddha, when he has advised to the young man called Silaka.3 Young Silaka used to worship six directions everyday early in the morning. The Buddha after watching his practice questioned him as to why he is doing so every day in the morning. Then the young man replied saying this was according to the instructions given by his father before his death. At that time the Buddha pointed out him the proper six directions which should be respected by each individual. Six directions according to the Buddha are as follows:
    1. Mother and Father      -  East
    2. Teachers                -  South
    3. Wife and Children    -   West
    4. Friends & companions  -    North
    5. Servants & Workers  -     Nadir
    6. Religious Ministers    -    Zenith

The worship of  six  directions  as  the  Buddha  introduced to Sigalaka is nothing other than the fulfilment of duties and responsibilities of each member of the family towards each other.

The Buddha wanted to show the way how each family member is protected by fulfilling his duties and responsibilities towards the other. The most important aspect of this is that the Buddha introduced a list of duties and responsibilities which should be fulfilled by each other in the family taken as six directions. As pointed out earlier, family is the smallest unit in the society by

3. D.iii.180-193.

means of which the whole society is constituted. When this small units are protected in the way shown above, they together can provide the greater and powerful social background which brings out the suitable conditions for the wellbeing and happiness for the entire society.

Fulfilling duties and responsibilities by each member of the family is itself the way how to build up the mutual relationship among the members of the family. What is interested here to point out is that according to the Buddha, religious ministers are also included as the family members who can be immensely contributive to the social integrity.

Religious Minister as a family member

As each family member represents a direction such as east, west, south etc., religious ministers (SamaṇaBrāhmanā) represent upper direction (Uddhaṃ). Here the term religious ministeris used to denote any religious person belonging to any religion, such as a Buddhist monk, Christian priest, Islam Mullah Etc. The word Samaṇa refers to a wandering monka monk prone into ascetic practice” a homeless religious practitioner. The word Brāhmana refers to Vedic priest, for a Hindu priest who has a family, who is more or less similar to a Christian Clergy. These two terms Samaṇa and Brāhmana represent any religious person belonged to any religion in the world. That means every family in the world has their religious minister as a family member. This is in fact; the normal acceptance of every family necessarily has the faith attached to whatever religion according to its preference. By this manner every person in the world is included into a religious faith. At this point some one can argue that there are some people and families do not have religious faith. This fact cannot be neglected in a society, but those are rare cases and not only that, some of the countries also completely erased the religious faith from their agenda. Those do not come in our discussion.

Human society has undergone so many changes in this long period of time of its development. Though the man is born alone he has become a member of the large society soon after he is born, his family helps him to become a part of a large society. Every person

is born to a family therefore family becomes the smallest unit of the large society. Human society is highly organized body and the family is within the human society also has organized for the protection of its members.


According to the sociologists, importance of the family for its members can be shown as follows:
  • Family is a biological need of an individual.
  • Family is a sociological need for an individual.
  • Family is a psychological need of an individual.
  1. Family is a biological need of an individual.

Family becomes a biological need of an individual due to the slow growth of a child. Here the family means mother, father and the child as explained by the American Sociologists. This is the Nuclear Family4. According to Buddhism the concept of Nuclear family has been determined with, some conditions; the Conception is taking place in the mothers womb. Mothers right time, the union of the mother and father and approaching the rebirth-consciousness are the necessary conditions for conception5. These are the causes of pregnancy. In order to have a pregnancy in the human society a man and a woman have to live together as a husband and wife. This living together as husband and wife is normally legitimized by the marriage. Marriage is necessary because of the reason of slow growth of the child. Human children grow slow unlike other animals. Therefore the wife and husband (mother and father) have to live together a long time to look after the children. In fact this is the very reason of forming a family. Not only a couple is getting married as husband and wife but also they have vast field of ethics to follow to produce good children for the society. The ethics explained in the Silovāda sutta first to create mutual love and

4. Mallenry, Robert. (1993). ‘Nuclear Family’. In: The New Encyclopaedia Britan- nica, vol.7. Ed. By 15th Edition, Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 431.
5... M.I. 266   Mātāpitaro ca sannipātā honti, Mātā ca utuni hoti,  gandhabbo ca paccupaṭṭhito hoti.

respect to each other by the husband and wife, because this love and respect of the husband and wife creates the happiness within themselves will affect the child in the womb, and that brings the necessary condition to grow the womb healthily and to bring forth a healthy child to the society.

Not only for the birth of a child, mother and father both are necessary, but also for the physical growth nourishment and taking care of the child also both the parents are necessary. Mother will look after the nourishment and the taking care of the child, while the father supplies the necessary things for the nourishment and for the health care.
  1. Family is a sociological need of an individual

Socialization is the major function of a family. In order to socialize a child, father and mother both should be present. Unlike in the animal heard human beings have to socialize by training him for the society. By this method the child will be given the instructions about how to behave in the society. This function of parents has valued in Buddhist scriptures mentioning the parents as Early Teachers (pubbācariya) early gods (pubbadeva).6 Mainly the verbal functions and bodily functions of the child have to be adjusted in order to be compatible with the society. This is the full ethical training a child receives from the family.
This is exactly mentioned earlier under the term Socialization
– preparation of new members for the society teaching the culture
including social norms, social customs, and social taboos. This is
where the family is needed for the development of the child. Both
the parents are needed for this purpose. That is the reason marriage
is necessary. The law of the country also has been formed not to
disturb their peaceful living together. That is the very reason if the
husband and wife wanted to divorce, the courts is delaying their
divorce and discouraging them to do so, that because the children
need both the parents for their socialization.

According to Buddhism this socialization is a very deep process for the personality development of an individual. The personality

6. A. II. 70.

can divide as favorable personality and un-favorable personality. According to Buddhist teachings, if there is no proper socialization ordinary humans are naturally prone in to wrong doings. They develop unfavorable personality. From the human history we can understand how human beings were gradually turned their minds to engage in wrong activities. We can read these human behaviors from Aggña sutta,7 Cakkavattisîhanāda sutta.8 In the Abhidhammattha Sangaha first chapter is the Analysis of Consciousness. In that very first set of consciousness mentioned as unwholesome consciousness (akusala cittāni). That also shows the natural process goes towards unwholesome side. This process has to avoid by effort. That is the reason it is said to start every activity by homage to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Any other theistic person say Pay tribute to the God. This is the way unfavorable personality try to turn to the favorable personality.

Nandasena Ratnapala writes in his book “Buddhist Sociology Socialization in a Buddhist sense means the attempt made to replace unwholesome roots with wholesome roots9. This is very good view this writer has suggested as a Buddhist view of socialization and it is obvious that the teachings of the Buddha always the process of turning the human mind towards the highest level. The human race since achieved the highest intelligence level they formed religious institutions, created worshiping objects, formed the supernatural concepts similar to God and performed various religious activities. These all creations for human beings to make them to have favorable personalities. In other words as Nandasena Ratnapala suggested all thesereligiousactivitiestoreplacethewholesomerootsintheminds. Religious ministersrole in the society to expedite this change of human society.
  1. Family is a psychological need of an Individual

As living beings, we need to have warmth, courteous and companionship for our psychological relief.  Coming back home

7. D.III. 80-98.
8. D. III. 58-79.
    1. Ratnapala,  Nandasena.  (1993).  Buddhist  Sociology.  Delhi:  Sri  Satguru Publications, p. 36.

after hard day work, proves the need of mental relief through physical relief. When we come back home the mental relief we experience cures every physical discomforts. We really feel comfort if someone of the family console us at the time of disastrous in our life. For Children parents advices and other forms of attitudes may psychologically affect.

Specially, mothers can influence the young ones in deepest manner. We have ample evidence from various biographies of eminent personals that they were inspired by their mothers in their childhood. Siddhārtha Bodhisatta also at the very beginning in his previous life was inspired by his mother to become a Buddha10.

Religious advices also become important in various occasions to satisfy the psychological needs. This is extremely important at the time of close relatives death. The performance of religious ceremony and the religious talk is given at that time consoles the sadness of the close relatives of the dead person. This may be one of the reasons religious minister was included into the family in the Sigālovāda sutta. It is more than that the advices of the religious minister of their family level mostly the children were given the advices by the temple monks. This we can see in the Buddhist countries as well as even in the non-Buddhist countries also people go to their religious places seeking guidance for their children. Buddhist families go to the temples to which they become devotees to get advices for their children. Not only Buddhists even other people who belong to other religions go to their own religious ministers to get instructions and advices from the religious ministers.

Since the history of Buddhism so many monks performed their services as religious ministers in various occasions in the way of various levels. The remarkable feature of this particular aspect of religious minister the Buddha has performed the example of such concept during his lifetime.


    1. ampinḍitamahānidāna-Mātuddharaka kathā.

During the time of 6th Century B.C. in India, the system that religious minister becomes a family member has been there in the middle part of India. This was not by law of the country or such compulsory custom or social norm, but normally people had the faith on to some religions at that time. In this manner King Kosala had a firm faith on the Buddha and he was very powerful King in the Kosala state and he was similar to the King Bimbisara by power. But the Buddha became very intimate friend of King Kosala.

Buddha advised King Kosala on his family matters and King himself explained to the Buddha his mental pain regarding family problems and Buddha instructed to overcome those matters11. Once when the King Kosala and Mallikā devi both were in a leisure talk the King asked Devi To whom you love most?” Though she knew the Kings intention about this question she replied Sir, I love mostly to me. But she knew it was not the kind of reply the King expected from her. Therefore to adjust the situation she immediately put forwarded a counter question to the King “Pardon me my Lord, may I ask you Sir, to whom you love most”? King Kosala fell into the very difficult situation with this question but he also could not give a different answer and replied as same as with the MalliDevis answer, “I also love me most. But the Kings mind was haunting with anger. Because the King brought her to the palace from very poor state of life and has given all sort of luxurious way of living. But she did not show any gratitude on those things.

When the King Kosala informed the Buddha about this incident the Buddha really evaluated the situation and realized the danger which might create if the King would have a thought on MalliDevi as she was not faithful to the King. Therefore, the Buddha immediately added a psychological answer on the MalliDevis statement. “I Mahārāja, checked all the three worlds in my mind I could not find anyone whom do not love more other than himself. Everybody loves himself.When the Buddha said that the King satisfied with the words of the Buddha and the King Kosala ashamed himself with his wrong attitude and loved more to MalliDevi.
This example is to mention the importance of having a religious
    1. S.I. 75.

minister even as a family friend. Now we can understand if a religious minister becomes a family member what are the wonders can occur for an individual and for the society.


It was explained early in this paper how the human being naturally prone into wrong doings. Therefore from the childhood parents are trying hard to bring them to a good level at home. That is being a natural tendency of every parent to bring their children as good children. Even a thief also not teach theft to his children. Because of this natural tendency of parents the most of the families take children to their religious ministers for advices. It is because of more than the advice of parents the religious ministers advice is effective. In the temples there are dhamma schools to teach religious values for children. This is very important socialization in the life of children. At the child level there are so many ways of looking after ethics of children. When those children grow old their parents are old or sometimes they do not live anymore. At that time the importance of religious minister is prominent.

In the modern world the dhamma education for the elderly people is very essential more than the schooling children. Most of the families there are some members who destroy the good name of the families by unethical ways of behavior. Alcoholism and drugs, terrorist activities, gambling and womanizing are the vicious activities most people fall into and end up with utter destruction of everything. It is the bounded duty of the religious minister to help them to get away from this kind of behavior within his parish. It should be mentioned specially, that the territory of authority of religious minister is broader than that of any other member of the family. For an example, religious minister such as Buddhist monk has certain amount of families attached to his religious center. The monk in the center (temple) has the duty to look after the ethical condition and other necessary aspects relevant for the development of those families.

It has been explained earlier that some people get into the troubles even without their knowledge that is the nature of human behavior. Those people who fall into the troubles may seek help to get away

from those troubles. That is the normal psychology of troubled people. Therefore the monk in the temple has more chance to approach that kind of a family to help. Helping that kind of a person means that the monk is helping so many people in the family. If he was not kept in the proper position by the religious minister, whole family is in trouble. There is no proper income for the family to feed the children and others, they need more other things to buy, there is a shortage of food and nourishments in the family. Schooling children should have more freedom to learn their lessons. They should have things they need without having to think they have become poor. If the children have the concept that they become poor, their mentality will be lean down and the personality will not grow of the children. Therefore the monk can intervene to educate that person and bring him to the normal position. If any religious minister is capable of doing so, he can be consider as Bodhisatta according to Buddhism. This is the role of the religious minister towards a family. This is the very purpose of attaching the religious minister to the family as the family member. It is undeniable that the significance of the service of religious minister for the ethical climate in the family circle is invaluable. It should be emphasized here that the concept of religious minister was introduced by the Buddha for the first time in the history of mankind to which, any of the modern sociologists did not pay attention so far.


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