‘The Best Way to Take Care of Children’
Lama Zopa Rinpoche cares deeply about children. Indeed, his Vast Visions include a focus on young people. What does Rinpoche say about children and youth?
Rinpoche has commented, “[FPMT should] help young people through meditation and consultation, and also help them offer volunteer service as part of their practice. This brings immediate benefit.”
Rinpoche has also explained his thoughts on raising children: “The best way to take care of children is to think of them simply as a sentient being rather than as my child. For example, when you generate bodhichitta for all sentient beings … it goes without saying that you [include] your own children … If you think in this way, you will have the same motivation to care for your children as you would any sentient being … So when you begin a practice with the motivation of bodhichitta, the thought to achieve enlightenment for all sentient beings, recall that your child is one of those sentient beings and do the practice with that awareness. Similarly, when you conclude a practice with the dedication to achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, remember that your child is one of those sentient beings …”
Rinpoche adds, “Because you, as a parent, have a particular karmic connection with and are responsible for the specific sentient beings that are your children, you should always pay special attention to the fact that your children are included among those sentient beings. By thinking in this way, you will have a totally different attitude toward your children; there will not be the slightest negative thought caused by the eight worldly concerns, and instead you will take care of them motivated by the positive thought of cherishing a sentient being.”
“On the other hand,” he continues, “if you allow yourself to come under the influence of the eight worldly concerns, when your children do something to please you, something that you like, you will happily take care of them. However, when they do something that is contrary to your wishes, something that upsets you or makes you angry, you may even be tempted to give them up entirely. This change in your attitude towards them happens because you are attached to your own happiness and want to avoid suffering and problems. With bodhichitta, you feel that your children are the most precious and the kindest beings in your life. If you have this attitude, you will take care of them with a healthy positive mind rather than with a negative emotional mind and the pain of attachment.
“As a parent, you can make yourself happy by thinking:
How wonderful that my life can be beneficial for even one sentient being.
How wonderful that I can take care of even one sentient being.
How wonderful that my limbs can be useful for looking after and bringing happiness to even one sentient being.
“Especially when you encounter difficulties—when your children do not listen to you, when you cannot control them and when you feel disappointed with them—it is good to rejoice in these ways.”
In 2013, Rinpoche dictated a special prayer for children to do, and gave a short commentary on it, in response to one center’s request for a prayer for children to recite:
As a result of the interest Rinpoche and others take in the welfare and spiritual development of children, FPMT has various initiatives aimed at young people including Tara Redwood School, Creating Compassionate Cultures, Maitreya School, and children’s programs at some centers.
Read the complete teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on raising children with bodhichitta:
Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains how we can teach our children the good qualities and behavior that are essential for achieving every type of happiness, both short- and long-term, in the book Joyful Parents, Successful Children. Get the ebook from the Foundation Store and support FPMT International Office: http://shop.fpmt.org/Joyful-Parents-Successful-Children-eBook_p_2710.html
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service.