This is a short video of a Buddhist monk and his family. 

It raised questions on parenting and Buddhism - does detachment (or perhaps quietism), as practiced here, lead to demotivation and disengagement with the world around one?

His children find the detachment practised by the monk disquieting. They appreciate the irony of detachment, which is supposed to prevent suffering, leading back to it.

Let me know what you think - I find these real-world dilemmas very stimulating.

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Comment by David Brazier on April 29, 2019 at 8:41

Yes, the quotes you highlight are all wonderful.

- Every stitch "Take refuge": this is nembutsu practice

- Safe space is vitally important, but, as you imply, not just empty space. Parents also provide an example. It may be an example the children reject, but the child has to come up against a reality

- Communication within quietness: the person you can be with and feel loved without either having to say a word is real treasure.

- Birds and fish: this is from Genjo Koan

Comment by Geeta Chari on April 29, 2019 at 0:39

I found myself feeling tender towards all the members of the family by the end of the movie. Some quotes that really struck home::

- ‘Every stitch we recite ‘I take refuge in Buddha’’ - the mother on Nembutsu while sewing, which is a nice counterpoint to her husband’s Zazen

 - ‘To love is to give a space to grow’ - the father. I think what he is saying is that children are like plants or animals - the parents can create the conditions for their growth but cannot create the growth itself. As part of this, I would say some saplings need to be tied to a firm support until they are strong enough to stand on their own. Affection and discipline.

- ‘...we can communicate within quietness. In Buddhism, this is called heart-to-heart transmission.’ I have only heard of this as part of formal teacher-student Zen ceremonies. It hadn’t occurred to me that this is simply what happens in general between any two people who know and love each other well. It is a reminder to me that the Buddha’s teachings are based upon the flesh-and-blood base reality of our mammalian lives, rather than being a fun-suppressing and esoteric philosophy that is only for Sundays.

- ‘Birds need to fly in order to find out what the sky is like. Fish need to swim in order to find out what the ocean is like. And we human beings need to do something in order to find out what this world is like...unless we human beings start to walk we cannot find any meaning in our lives.’

There also appears to be a cultural / generational divide - the father shows his love through creating space to grow whereas the children see it as a lack of communication because the love is not stated in words.

This is very topical for me as the mother of two boys - ten and six.

Thank you Dharmavidya.

Comment by David Brazier on April 28, 2019 at 19:17

I think that what is presented here is not just relevant to Buddhist families, but to many “progressive” ones. This father rebelled against his parent in order to become a monk and thinks that he should therefore allow his son complete freedom of choice so the son chooses nothing. Actually the father is not giving his son what he got because the son has nothing to rebel against. However, this son did find a way to break free in the end by going to Japan. Then he had to stand on his own feet. In this process I’m sure that both parent and son learnt things.

Quietism is not Buddhism as I understand it. My teacher Kennett Roshi often warmed against quietism. Buddhism is liberation and liberation means dynamism. It is not the suppression of energy, but the forward thrust of it. Zazen is one way of practice and is good for some people but not for all. Amidism is better for people living an active life in society because it supports one in action situations and has no bias toward being motionless, but in this case, the father chooses zazen, which is right for him, and the son chooses something else, which is also good. No problem..

Personal desire for material betterment is not the only motivation in life. Most people also have some ideals and aspiration. They then try it out. Often they fail, but in each failure they learn something. You do not learn without making mistakes. Too perfectionist an approach is paralysing. This young man actually did take charge of his life. He knew when he was not ready and he knew when he was ready. He rebelled by not doing zazen and then by going to Japan. I would have confidence that he will find his own way and his own meanings and the fact that he has loving and supportive parents will stand him in good stead too.


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