The Sutra about The Deep
Kindness of Parents
and The Difficulty of repaying It
Translated by: Upasika
Reviewed by: Bhikshuni Heng Tao
Edited by: Bhikshuni Heng Ch'ih and
Upasika Susuan Rounds
Certified by: Venerable Abbot Hua andBhikshuni Heng Tao
Thus I have heard, at one time, the Buddha
dwelt at Shravasti, in the Jeta Grove, in the Garden of the Benefactor
of Orphans and the Solitary, together with a gathering of great Bhikshus,
twelve hundred fifty in all, and with all of the Bodhisattvas,
thirty-eight thousand in all.
At that time, the World Honored One led the
great assembly on a walk toward the south. Suddenly they came upon a
pile of bones beside the road. The World Honored One turned to face
them, placed his five limbs on the ground, and bowed respectfully.
Ananda put his palms together and asked the
World Honored One, 'The Tathagatha is the Great Teacher of the Triple
Realm and the compassionate father of beings of the four kinds of
births. He has the respect and reverence of the entire assembly. What is
the reason that he now bows to a pile of dried bones?"
The Buddha told Ananda, "Although all of you
are my foremost disciples and have been members of the Sangha for a long
time, you still have not achieved far-reaching understanding. This pile
of bones could have belonged to my ancestors from former lives. They
could have been my parents in many past lives. That is the reason I now
bow to them." The Buddha continued speaking to Ananda. "These bones we
are looking at can be divided into two groups. One group is composed of
the bones of men, which are heavy and white in color. The other group is
composed of the bones of women, which are light and black in color."
Ananda said to the Buddha, "World Honored
One, when men are alive in the world they adorn their bodies with robes,
belts, shoes, hats and other fine attire, so that they clearly assume a
male appearance. When women are alive, they put on cosmetics, perfumes,
powders, and elegant fragrances to adorn their bodies, so that they
clearly assume a female appearance. Yet, once men and women die, all
that is left are their bones. How does one tell them apart? Please teach
us how you are able to distinguish them."
The Buddha answered Ananda, "If when men are
in the world, they enter temples, listen to explanations of Sutras and
Vinaya texts, make obeisance to the Triple Jewel, and recite the
Buddha's names, then when they die their bones will be heavy and white
in color. Most women in the world have little wisdom and are saturated
with emotion. They give birth to and raise children, feeling that this
is their duty. Each child relies on its mother's milk for life and
nourishment, and that milk is a transformation of the mother's blood.
Each child drinks one thousand two hundred gallons of its mother's milk.
Because of this drain on the mother's body whereby the child takes milk
for its nourishment, the mother becomes worn and haggard and so her
bones turn black in color and are light in weight."
When Ananda heard these words, he felt a pain in his heart as if he had
been stabbed and wept silently. He said to the World Honored One, "How
can one repay one's mother's kindness and virtue?"
The Buddha told Ananda, "Listen well, and I
will explain it for you in detail. The fetus grows in its mother's womb
for ten lunar months. What bitterness she goes through while it dwells
there! In the first month of pregnancy, the life of the fetus is as
precarious as a dewdrop on grass: how likely that it will not last from
morning to evening but will evaporate by mid-day!
"During the second lunar month, the embryo
congeals like curds. In the third month it is like coagulated blood.
During the fourth month of pregnancy the fetus begins to assume a
slightly human form. During the fifth month in the womb, the child's
five limbs-two legs, two arms, and a head--start to take shape. In the
sixth lunar month of pregnancy, the child begins to develop the essences
of the six sense faculties: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind.
During the seventh month, the three hundred sixty bones and joints are
formed, and the eighty-four thousand hair pores are also complete. In
the eight lunar month of the pregnancy the intellect and the nine
apertures are formed. By the ninth month the fetus has learned to
assimilate the different nutrients of the foods it eats. For example, it
can assimilate the essence of peaches, pears, certain plant roots and
the five kinds of grains.
"Inside the mother's body, the solid internal
organs, used for storing, hang downward, while the hollow internal
organs, used for processing, spiral upward. These can be likened to
three mountains which arise from the face of the earth. We can call
these mountains Mount Sumeru, Karma Mountain, and Blood Mountain. These
analogous mountains come together and form a single range in a pattern
of upward peaks and downward valleys. So, too, the coagulation of the
mother's blood from her internal organs forms a single substance, which
becomes the child's food.
During the tenth month of pregnancy, the body
of the fetus is completed and ready to be born. If the child is
extremely filial, it will emerge with palms joined together in respect
and the birth will be peaceful and auspicious. The mother will remain
uninjured by the birth and will not suffer pain. However, if the child
is extremely rebellious in nature, to the extent that it is capable of
commiting the five rebellious acts, then it will injure its mother's
womb, rip apart its mother's heart and liver, or get entangled in its
mother's bones. The birth will feel like the slices of a thousand knives
or like ten thousand sharp swords stabbing her heart. Those are the
agonies involved in the birth of a defiant and rebellious child.
To explain more clearly, there are ten types
of kindness bestowed by the mother on the child:
The first is the kindness of providing protection and care while the
child is in the womb.
The second is the kindness of bearing suffering during the birth.
The third is the kindness of forgetting all the pain once the child has
The fourth is the kindness of eating the bitter herself and saving the
sweet for the child.
The fifth is the kindness of moving the child to a dry place and lying
in the wet herself.
The sixth is the kindness of suckling the child at her breast and
nourishing and bringing up the child.
The seventh is the kindness of washing away
The eighth is the kindness of always thinking of the child when it has
The ninth is the kindness of deep care and devotion.
The tenth is the kindness of ultimate pity and sympathy.
- THE KINDNESS OF PROVIDING
PROTECTION AND CARE WHILE THE CHILD IS IN THE WOMB
The causes and conditions from accumulated kalpas grows heavy,
Until in this life the child ends up in its mother's womb.
As the months pass, the five vital organs develop;
Within seven weeks the six sense organs start to grow.
The mother's body becomes as heavy as a mountain;
The stillness and movements of the fetus are like a kalpic wind
The mother's fine clothes no longer hang properly,
And so her mirror gathers dust.
2. THE KINDNESS OF BEARING SUFFERING DURING BIRTH
The pregnancy lasts for ten lunar months
And culminates in difficult labor at the approach of the birth.
Meanwhile, each morning the mother is seriously ill
And during every day is drowsy and sluggish.
Her fear and agitation are difficult to describe;
Grieving and tears fill her breast.
She painfully tells her family
That she is only afraid that death will overtake her.
3. THE KINDNESS OF FORGEITING ALL THE PAIN ONCE THE CHILD HAS BEEN
On the day the compassionate mothers bears the child,
Her five organs all open wide,
Leaving her totally exhausted in body and mind.
The blood flows as from a slaughtered lamb;
Yet, upon hearing that the child is healthy,
She is overcome with redoubling joy,
But after the joy, the grief returns,
And the agony wrenches her very insides,
4. THE KINDNESS OF EATING THE BITTER HERSELF AND SAVING THE SWEET
FOR THE CHILD
The kindness of both parents is profound and deep,
Their care and devotion never cease.
Never resting, the mother saves the sweet for the child,
And without complaint she swallows the bitter herself.
Her love is weighty and her emotion difficult to bear;
Her kindness is deep and so is her compassion.
Only wanting the child to get its fill,
The compassionate mother doesn't speak of her own hunger.
5. THE KINDNESS OF MOVING THE CHILD TO A DRY PLACE AND LYING IN THE
The mother is willing to be wet
So that the child can be dry.
With her two breasts she satisfies its hunger and thirst;
Covering it with her sleeve, she protects it from the wind and cold.
In kindness, her head rarely rests on the pillow,
And yet she does this happily,
So long as the child is comfortable,
The kind mother seeks no solace for herself.
6. THE KINDNESS OF SUCKUNG THE CHILD AT HER BREAST AND NOURISHING
AND BRINGING UP THE CHILD
The kind mother is like the great earth.
The stern father is like the encompassing heaven
One covers from above' the other supports from below.
The kindness of parents is such that
They know no hatred or anger toward their offspring,
And are not displeased, even if the child is born crippled.
After the mother carries the child in her womb and gives birth to
The parents care for and protect it together until the end of their
7. KINDNESS OF WASHING AWAY THE UNCLEAN
Originally she had a pretty face and a beautiful body,
Her spirit was strong and vibrant.
Her eyebrows were like fresh green willows,
And her complexion would have put a red rose to shame.
But her kindness is so deep she will forego a beautiful face.
Although washing away the filth injures her constituion,
The kind mother acts solely for the sake of her sons and daughters
And willingly allows her beauty to fade.
8. THE KINDNESS OF ALWAYS THINKING OF THE CHILD WHEN IT HAS
The death of loved ones is difficult to endure.
But separation is also painful.
When the child travels afar,
The mother worries in her village.
From morning until night, her heart is with her child,
And a thousand tears fall from her eyes.
Like the monkey weeping silently in love for her child,
Bit-by-bit her heart is broken.
9. THE KINDNESS OF DEEP CARE AND DEVOTION
How heavy is the parents' kindness and emotional concern!
Their kindness is deep and difficult to repay.
Willingly they undergo suffering on their child's behalf.
If the child toils, the parents are uncomfortable.
If they hear that he has travelled afar,
They worry that at night he will have to lie in the cold.
Even a moment's pain suffered by their sons or daughters
Will cause the parents sustained distress.
10. THE KINDNESS OF ULTIMATE PITY AND SYMPATHY
The kindness of parents is profound and important.
Their tender concern never ceases.
From the moment they awake each day, their thoughts are with their
Whether the children are near or far away, the parents think of them
Even if a mother lives for a hundred years,
She will constantly worry about her eighty-year-old child!
Do you wish to know when such kindness and love ends?
It doesn't even begin to dissipate until her life is over.
The Buddha told Ananda, "When I contemplate
living beings, I see that although they are born as human beings,
nonetheless, they are stupid and dull in their thoughts and actions.
They don't consider their parents' great kindness and virtue. They are
disrespectful and turn their backs on kindness and what is right. They
lack humaneness and are neither filial nor compliant.
For ten months while the mother is with
child, she feels discomfort each time she rises, as if she were lifting
a heavy burden. Like a chronic invalid, she is unable to keep her food
and drink down. When the ten months have passed and the time comes for
the birth, she undergoes all kinds of pain and suffering so that the
child can be born. She is afraid of her own mortality, like a pig or
lamb waiting to be slaughtered. Then the blood flows all over the
ground. These are the sufferings she undergoes.
Once the child is born, she saves what is sweet for him and swallows
what is bitter herself. She carries the child and nourishes it, washing
away its filth. There is no toil or difficulty that she does not
willingly undertake for the sake of her child. She endures both cold and
heat and never even mentions what she has gone through. She gives the
dry place to her child and sleeps in the dump herself. For three years
she nourishes the baby with milk, which is transformed from the blood of
her own body.
Parents continually instruct and guide their children in the ways of
propriety and morality as the youngsters mature into adults. They
arrange marriages for them and provide them with property and wealth or
deviseways to get it for them. They take this responsibility and trouble
upon themselves with tremendous zeal and toil, never speaking about
their care and kindness.
When a son or daughter becomes ill, parents
are worried and afraid to the point that they may even grow ill
themselves. They remain by the child's side providing constant care, and
only when the child gets well are the parents happy once again. In this
way, they care for and raise their children with the sustained hope that
their off-spring will soon grow to be mature adults.
How sad that all too often the children are
unfilial in return! In speaking with relatives whom they should honor,
the childre~n display no compliance. When they ought to be polite, they
have no manners. They glare at those whom they should venerate, and
insult their uncles and aunts. They scold their siblings and destroy any
family feeling that might have existed among them. Children like that
have no respect or sense of propriety.
Children may be well taught, but if they are
unfilial, they will not heed the instructions or obey the rules. Rarely
will they rely upon the guidance of their parents. They are contrary and
rebellious when interacting with their brothers. They come and go from
home without ever reporting to their parents. Their speech and actions
are very arrogant and they act on impulse without consulting others.
Such children ignore the admonishments and punishments set down by their
parents and pay no regard to their uncles' warnings. Yet, at the same
time, they are immature and always need to be looked after and protected
by their elders.
As such children grow up, they become more
and more obstinate and uncontrollable. They are entirely ungrateful and
totally contrary. They are defiant and hateful, rejecting both family
and friends. They befriend evil people and under their influence soon
adopt the same kinds of bad habits. They come to take what is false to
Such children may be enticed by others to leave their families and run
away to live in other towns, thus denouncing their parents and rejecting
their native town. They may become salesmen or crvil servants who
languish in comfort and luxury. They may marry in haste and that new
bond provides yet another obstruction which prevents them from returning
home for long periods of time.
Or, in going to live in other towns, these
children may be incautious and find themselves plotted against or
accused of doing evil. They may be unfairly locked up in prison. Or they
may meet with illness and become enmeshed in disasters and hardships,
subject to the terrible pain of poverty, starvation, and emaciation. Yet
no one there will care for them. Being scorned and disliked by others,
they will be abandoned on the street. In such circumstances, their lives
may come to an end. No one bothers to try to save them. Their bodies
swell up, rot, decay, and are exposed to the sun and blown away by the
wind. The white bones entirely disintegrate and scatter as these
children come to their final rest in the dirt of some other town. These
children will never again have a happy reunion with their relatives and
kin. Nor will they ever know how their ageing parents mourn for and
worry about them. The parents may grow blind from weeping or become sick
from extreme grief and despair. Constantly dwelling on the memory of
their children, they may pass away, but even when they become ghosts,
their souls still cling to this attachment and are unable to let it go.
Others of these unfilial children may not
aspire to learning, but instead become interested in strange and bizarre
doctrines. Such children may be villainous, coarse, and stubborn,
delighting in practices that are utterly devoid of benefit. They may
become involved in fights and thefts, setting themselves at odds with
the town by drinking and gambling. As if their own debauchery were not
enough, they drag their brothers into it as well, to the further
distress of their parents.
If such children do live at home, they leave
early in the morning and do not return until late at night. Never do
they ask about the welfare of their parents or make sure that they don't
suffer from heat or cold. They do not inquire after their parents' well
being in the morning or the evening, nor even on the first and fifteenth
of the lunar month. In fact, it never occurs to these unfilial children
to ever ask whether their parents have slept comfortably or rested
peacefully. Such children are simply not concerned in the least about
their parents' well being. When the parents of such children grow old
and their appearance becomes more and more withered and emaciated, they
are made to feel ashamed to be seen in public and are subjected to abuse
Such unfilial children may end up with a
father who is a widower or a mother who is a widow. The solitary parents
are left alone in empty houses, feeling like guests in their own homes.
They may endure cold and hunger, but no one takes heed of their plight.
They may weep incessantly from morning to night, sighing and lamenting.
It's only right that children should provide for ageing parents with
food and drink of delicious flavours, but irresponsible children are
sure to overlook their duties. If they ever do attempt to help their
parents out in any way, they feel embarrassed and are afraid people will
laugh at them. Yet, such offspring may lavish wealth and food on their
own wives and children, disregarding the toil and weariness involved in
doing so. Other unfilial offspring may be so intimidated by their wives
that they go along with all of their wishes. But when appealed to by
their parents and elders, they ignore them and are totally unfazed by
It may be the case that daughters were quite
filial to their parents before their own marriages, but that they become
progressively rebellious after they marry. This situation may be so
extreme that if their parents show even the slightest signs of
displeasure, the daughters become hateful and vengeful toward them. Yet
they bear their husband's scolding and beatings with sweet tempers, even
though their spouses are outsiders with other surnames and family ties.
The emotional bonds between such couples are deeply entangled, and yet
those daughters hold their parents at a distance. They may follow their
husbands and move to other towns, leaving their parents behind entirely.
They do not long for them and simply cut off all communication with
them. When the parents continue to hear no word fromtheir daughters,
they feel incessant anxiety. They become so fraught with sorrow that it
is as if they were suspended upside down. Their every thought is of
seeing their children, just as one who is. thirsty longs for something
to drink. Their kind thoughts for their offspring never cease.
The virtue of one's parents' kindness is
boundless and limitless. If one has made the mistake of being unfilial,
how difficult it is to repay that kindness!"
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak
about the depth of one's parents' kindness, everyone in the Great
Assembly threw themselves on the ground and began beating their breasts
and striking themselves until all their hairpores flowed with blood.
Some fell unconscious to the ground, while others stamped their feet in
grief. It was a long time before they could control themselves. With
loud voices they lamented, "Such suffering! What suffering! How painful!
How painful! We are all offenders. We are criminals who have never
awakened, like those who travel in a dark night. We have just now
understood our offenses and our very insides are torn to bits. We only
hope that the World Honored One will pity us and save us. Please tell us
how we can repay the deep kindness of our parents!"
At that time the Tathagata used eight kinds
of profoundly deep and pure sounds to speak to the assembly. "All of you
should know this. I will now explain for you the various aspects of this
"If there were a person who carries his
father on his left shoulder and his mother on his right shoulder until
his bones were ground to powder by their weight as they bore through to
the marrow, and if that person were to circumambulate Mount Sumem for a
hundred thousand kalpas until the blood that flowed out from his feet
covered his ankles, that person would still not have repayed the deep
kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, during the
period of a kalpa fraught with famine and starvation, sliced the flesh
off his own body to feed his parents and did this as many times as there
are dust motes as he passed through hundreds of thousands of kalpas,
that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his
"If there were a person who, for the sake of
his parents, took a sharp knife and cut out his eyes and made an
offering of them to the Tathagatas, and continued to do that for
hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have
repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of
his father and mother, used a sharp knife to cut out his heart and liver
so that the blood flowed and covered the ground and if he continued in
this way to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, never once
complaining about the pain, that person still would not have repayed the
deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of
his parents, took a hundred thousand swords and stabbed his body with
them all at once so that they enteredone side and came out the other,
and if he continued in this way to do this for hundreds of thousands of
kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of
"If there were a person who, for the sake of
his parents, beat his bones down to the marrow and continued in this way
to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would
not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of his parents, swallowed
molten iron pellets and continued in this way to do this for hundreds of
thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep
kindness of his parents."
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak
about the kindness and virtue of parents, everyone in the Great Assembly
wept silent tears and felt searing pain in their hearts. They reflected
deeply, simultaneously brought forth shame and said to the Buddha, "
World Honored One, how can we repay the deep kindness of our parents?"
The Buddha replied, "Disciples of the Buddha,
if you wish to repay your parents' kindness, write out this Sutra on
their behalf. Recite this Sutra on their behalf. Repent of
transgressions and offenses on their behalf. For the sake of your
parents, make offerings to the Triple Jewel. For the sake of your
parents, hold the precept of pure eating. For the sake of your parents,
practice giving and cultivate blessings. If you are able to do these
things, you are being a filial child. If you do not do these things, you
are a person destined for the hells."
The Buddha told Ananda, "If a person is not
filial, when his life ends and his body decays, he will fall into the
Spaceless, Avici Hell. This great hell is eighty thousand yojanas in
circumference and is surrounded on all four sides by iron walls. Above,
it is covered over by nets, and the ground is also made of iron. A mass
of fire bums fiercely, while thunder roars and bright bolts of lightning
set things afire. Molten brass and iron fluids are poured over the
offenders' bodies. Brass dogs and iron snakes constantly spew out fire
and smoke which burns the offenders and broils their flesh and fat to a
"Oh, such suffering! Difficult to take,
difficult to bear! There are poles, hooks, spears, and lances, iron
halberds and iron chains, iron hammers, and iron awls. Wheels of iron
knives rain down from the air. The offender is chopped, hacked, or
stabbed, and undergoes these cruel punishments for kalpas without
Then they enter the remaining hells, where
their heads are capped with fiery basins, while iron wheels roll over
their bodies, passing both horizontally and vertically until their guts
are ripped open and their bones and flesh are squashed to a pulp. Within
a single day, they experience myriad births and myriad deaths. Such
sufferings are a result of committing the five rebellious acts and of
being unfilial when one was alive."
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak
about the virtue of parents' kindness, everyone in the Great Assembly
wept sorrowfully and addressed the Tathagata, "On this day, how can we
repay the deep kindness of our parents?"
The Buddha said, "Disciples of the Buddha, if
you wish to repay their kindness, then for the sake of your parents
print this Sutra. This is truly repaying their kindness. If one can
print one copy, then one will get to see one Buddha. If one can print
ten copies, then one will get to see ten Buddhas. If one can print one
hundred copies, then one will get to see one hundred Buddhas. If one can
print one thousand copies, then one will get to see one thousand Buddhas.
If one can print ten thousand copies, then one will get to see ten
thousand Buddhas. This is the power derived when good people print
Sutras. All Buddhas will forever protect such people with their kindness
and can immediately cause the parents of such people to be reborn in the
heavens, to enjoy all kinds of happiness, and to leave behind the
sufferings of the hells."
At that time, Ananda and the rest of the
Great Assembly--the asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, people,
non-people, and others, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandarvas,
wheel-turning sage kings, and all the lesser kings--felt all the hairs
on their bodies stand on end when they heard what the Buddha had said.
They wept grievously and were unable to stop themselves. Each one of
them made a vow saying, "All of us, from now until the exhaustion of the
bounds of the future, would rather that our bodies be pulverized into
small particles of dust for a hundred thousand kalpas, than to ever go
against the Thus Come One's sagely teachings. We would rather that our
tongues be plucked out, so that they would extend for a full yojana, and
that for a hundred thousand kalpas an iron plough would run over them;
we would rather have a hundred-thousand bladed wheel roll freely over
our bodies, than ever go against the Tathagata's sagely teachings. We
would rather that our bodies be ensnared in an iron net for a hundred
thousand kalpas, than ever go against the Tathagata's sagely teachings.
We would rather that for a hundred thousand kalpas our bodies would be
chopped, hacked, mutilated, and chiselled into ten million pieces so
that our skin, flesh, joints, and bones would be completely
disintegrated, than ever go against the Tathagata's sagely teachings."
At that time, Ananda, with a dignity and a
sense of peace, rose from his seat and asked the Buddha, "World Honored
One, what name shall this Sutra have when we accord with it and uphold
The Buddha told Ananda, "This Sutra is called
THE SUTRA ABOUT THE DEEP KINDNESS OF PARENTS AND THE DIFFICULTY OF
REPAYING IT. Use this name when you accord with it and uphold it."
At that time, the Great Assembly, the gods,
humans, asuras, and the others, hearing what the Buddha has said, were
completely delighted. They believed it, received it, and offered up
their conduct in accord with it, and then bowed and withdrew.
Source: Buddhism Study and Practice Group
Collected by Dieu My
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