When an angel asked what is the highest blessing, the Buddha expounded the Mangala Sutta. Here’s one of the many verses.
To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation — this is the greatest blessing.
One of the ways to read Mangala Sutta is to treat it as an instructional manual. That means, we try to live up to it so that we earn blessings or enjoy blessings in life.
In this verse, the Buddha encourages us to support our parents. This can be further elaborated to mean provision of material support and psychological support.
Material support would include provision of shelter, food, resources and physical care etc.
Psychological support can be further elaborated to include mundane affairs and spiritual affairs.
An example of mundane psychological support;
When our parents age and feel helpless or useless, we can support them by encouraging them. Let them feel appreciated instead of allowing them to feel obsolete. One of the ways that old folks like to participate in our life is to offer their unsolicited opinions. It is easy for us to feel annoyed and tempting for us to disregard them. I am equally guilty of this bad habit.
I think, when I am old and feeble, I will love to share my experience with the younger generation and feel that my opinions/advice helped them in some way. I imagine it would make me feel useful and relevant.
Spiritual support means to share dharma with them when they are receptive. Buddhism does not believe in indoctrination through force. If they are not receptive, then sharing of dharma is not appropriate. On the other hand, if they are receptive; the best way to benefit our parent is to share Dharma. That way, they can also gain enlightenment.
Cherishing of wife and children means to treat them dearly and with respect. We should not wrongly believe that our spouse or partner or our children are our property. They are not objects that we bring out to love when we have the energy and shut out when we are not in the mood. This naturally means we have to consciously make an effort to be with them.
Peaceful occupation refers to engaging in livelihood that does not harm others or harm ourselves. It is easy to categorise.
Butcher bad, Doctor good.
However, we have to note that an irresponsible doctor may cause harm too. So beyond surface categorisation of occupation, we also need to examine the manner in which we perform our task.
Up till this part, we interpreted the text from a “what should I do to have blessings” perspective.
Another way of looking at it, is from a “count my blessings” perspective.
Supporting father and mother is not to be taken for granted. The opportunity to do so is not equally available to everyone. This opportunity also has an expiry date. It is therefore a blessing for those of us who enjoy the opportunity to support our parents.
In the same manner, cherishing of wife/ spouse and children is not always possible. To have the right conditions and situations that allow us to cherish them is already a blessings.
Realistically, not all relationships are roses and rainbows. To be blessed with a household that consist of good parents, spouse and children is indeed a great blessings! The Buddha is also advising his disciples not to take these conditions for granted. Remember to support and cherish our beloved ones.
Likewise, to be equipped with skills and occupations that are peaceful cannot be treated lightly. There are many people who are forced to engage in activities that are unskilful because that is the only way they can earn a living.
If we are fortunate enough to possess a peaceful occupation, we need to understand that this is due to our past meritorious karma. In short, learn to be appreciative and be happy with our work.
If we do not take things for granted, we can count our blessings and be happier in life.