World Scripture


We may regard the family as having two axes: a vertical axis running through the generations from grandparents to parents to children, and a horizontal axis including members of the same generation: husband and wife, brothers and sisters. Furthermore, the ultimate vertical axis is the relation between the family and Ultimate Reality, recognizing God as the Ultimate Parent. Happiness and harmony in the family are thus directly related to the good character, truthfulness, and God-directedness of the individual: of the parents first and also of other family members. Good family relations, in turn, are productive of good citizens who are able to apply the lessons of family relations to relations with their elders and superiors, co-workers, and subordinates, in school, business, government, and other community affairs. The passages in this section deal with the various relations in the family all together. The following two sections gather passages on the vertical axis of parents and children and the horizontal axis of husband and wife, respectively.

Supporting one's father and mother, cherishing wife and children and a peaceful occupation; this is the greatest blessing.

1. Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 262

Lord, give us joy in our wives and children, and make us models for the God-fearing.

2. Islam. Qur'an 25.74

May in this family discipline overcome indiscipline, peace discord,
charity miserliness, devotion arrogance, the truth-spoken word the false
spoken word which destroys the holy order.

3. Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 60.5

There are five relations of utmost importance under Heaven...
between prince and minister; between father and son; between husband and wife;
between elder and younger brothers; and between friends.

4. Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 20.8

What are "the things which men consider right"? Kindness on the part of
the father, and filial duty on that of the son; gentleness on the part
of the elder brother, and obedience on that of the younger;
righteousness on the part of the husband, and submission on that of the
wife; kindness on the part of elders, and deference on that of juniors;
with benevolence on the part of the ruler, and loyalty on that of the
minister;--these ten are the things which men consider to be right.

5. Confucianism. Book of Ritual 7.2.19

Natural mildness should be there in the family. Observance of the vows leads to mildness.... Right belief should there be amongst family members. Crookedness and deception cause unhappiness in the family. Straightforwardness and honesty in one's body, speech, and mental activities lead the family to an auspicious path. Purity, reverence, ceaseless pursuit of knowledge, charity, removal of obstacles that threaten equanimity, service to others -- these make the family happy.

6. Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 6.18-24

The moral life of man may be likened to traveling to a distant place: one must start from the nearest stage. It may also be likened to ascending a height [of public responsibility]: one must begin from the lowest step [one's family]. The Book of Songs says,

When wives and children and their sires are one,
'Tis like the harp and lute in unison.
When brothers live in concord and at peace
The strain of harmony shall never cease.
The lamp of happy union lights the home,
And bright days follow when the children come.

Confucius, commenting on the above, remarked, "In such a state of things what more satisfaction can parents have?"

7. Confucianism. Doctrine of the Mean 15.2-3

Thus I have heard, the Buddha was once staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Wood at the Squirrels' Feeding Ground. Now at this time young Sigala, a householder's son, rising betimes, went forth from Rajagaha, and with wet hair and wet garments and clasped hands uplifted, paid worship to the several quarters of the earth and sky: to the east, south, west, and north, to the nadir and the zenith.

And the Exalted One early that morning dressed himself, took bowl and robe and entered Rajagaha seeking alms. Now he saw young Sigala worshipping and spoke to him thus,

"Why, young householder, do you worship the several quarters of earth and sky?"

"Sir, my father, when he was dying, said to me: 'Dear son, you should worship the quarters of the earth and sky.' So I, sir, honoring my father's word, rise and worship in this way."

"But in the religion of an educated man, the six quarters should not be worshipped thus."

"How then, sir, in the religion of an educated man, should the six quarters be worshipped? It would be an excellent thing if the Exalted One would so teach me the correct way..."

"How, O young householder, does the educated man serve the six quarters? The following should be looked upon as the six quarters: parents as the east, teachers as the south, wife and children as the west, friends and companions as the north, servants as the nadir, and religious leaders as the zenith.

"In five ways should a child minister to his parents as the eastern quarter: 'Once supported by them, I will now be their support; I will perform duties incumbent on them; I will keep up the lineage and tradition of my family; I will make myself worthy of my heritage.'

"In five ways parents thus ministered to, as the eastern quarter, by their child, show their love for him: They restrain him from vice, they exhort him to virtue, they train him to a profession, they contract a suitable marriage for him, and in due time they hand over to him his inheritance.

"Thus is the eastern quarter protected by him and made safe and secure.

"In five ways should pupils minister to their teachers as the southern quarter: by respectfully greeting them, by waiting upon them, by eagerness to learn, by personal service, and by attentiveness to their teaching.

"In five ways do teachers, thus ministered to as the southern quarter by their pupils, love their pupil: They train him in what they have been trained; they make him hold fast to moral precepts; they thoroughly instruct him in the lore of every subject; they speak well of him among his friends and companions; they counsel him for his safety and benefit.

"Thus is the southern quarter protected by him and made safe and secure.

"In five ways should a wife as western quarter be ministered to by her husband: by respect, by courtesy, by faithfulness, by handing over authority to her, by providing her with adornment.

"In five ways does the wife, ministered to by her husband as the western quarter, love him: Her duties are well performed, she is hospitable to their relatives, she is faithful, she watches over the wages and goods which he brings home, she discharges all her business with skill and industry.

"Thus is the western quarter protected by him and made safe and secure.

"In five ways should one minister to his friends and companions as the northern quarter: by generosity, courtesy, and benevolence, by treating them as he treats himself, and by being as good as his word.

"In five ways do his friends and familiars, thus ministered to as the northern quarter, love him: They protect him when he is off his guard, and on occasions guard his property; they become a refuge in danger; they do not forsake him in his troubles; and they show consideration for his family.

"Thus is the northern quarter protected by him and made safe and secure.

"In five ways does a noble master minister to his servants and employees as the nadir: by assigning them work according to their strength, by supplying them with food and wages, by tending them in sickness, by sharing with them unusual delicacies, by granting them leave at times.

"In five ways, thus ministered to by their master, do servants and employees love him: They rise before him, they lie down to rest after him, they are content with their wages, they do their work well, and they carry about his praise and good fame.

"Thus is the nadir by him protected and made safe and secure.

"In five ways should the layman minister to saints, priests, and religious leaders as the zenith: by affection in act and speech and mind, by keeping open house to them, and by supplying their temporal needs.

"Ministered to as the zenith, monks, priests, and religious leaders show their love for the layman in six ways: They restrain him from evil, they exhort him to good, they love him with kindly thoughts, they teach him what he has not heard, they correct and purify what he has heard, they reveal to him the way of heaven.

"Thus by him is the zenith protected and made safe and secure."

8. Buddhism. Digha Nikaya iii.185-91, Sigalovada Sutta

Doctrine of the Mean 20.8: These are the Confucian Five Relations. They are further explicated in the following passage. Book of Ritual 7.2.19: Cf. I Ching 37, p. 260. Tattvarthasutra 6.18.24: Cf. Acarangasutra 1.35-37, p. 739; Tattvarthasutra 9.6, p. 169.