The Buddha said “The Highest Gift of all is the the Gift of Dhamma”.
For most lay people, Dana, the practice of giving, means giving material support. This includes giving Robes, Food, Lodging and Medicine, the four requisites. Some communities provide avenues for lay people to offer food on a daily basis before noon. Others also put up their phone and utilities bill for voluntary offerings. All these requisites support existing sangha members in their monastic life, so that they can focus on their learning and practice of the Buddha’s teachings.
Lay people can also further their giving by making invitations of Dhamma books or Suttas to the sangha. This would help monastics have access to the Dhamma without having to go through the monetary route. Still, this is really external to us, and is relatively easy.
The toughest dana that a lay person can do is to ‘offer’ their child to Buddhism as a monastic! Time and again, I’ve seen how devote Buddhist would praise the virtue and wisdom of the sangha and how Buddhism has changed their lifes and yet cringe at the thought of their children becoming monastics.
Monks are not from outerspace. Neither are nuns.
The last I check, monks are not from outerspace and neither are nuns. But it is common to see monastics without their prior background as a lay person. Without that prior background, we lose the context to relate to them, and it becomes uneasy or unnatural for some to see that they were someone else’s son or daughter.
Not seeing this relation, it can then appear as a shock when one’s child expresses their wish to go forth as a monastic.
I think many parents fear for their child to become monastics because of a lack in knowledge of a monastic life. For most people, monastics are whisked around in entourages to perform prayers or to give Dhamma talks; then they are whisked back to their sanctuary, away from human contact. That is a misconception. Buddhist monastics tend to be simpler and circle around learn, practising and sharing the Buddha’s teachings. Sure there are those who prefer the quietude of the forest, which is recommended by the Buddha Himself, but many also have a good balance between personal practice, interaction and teaching of the Dhamma to the public. This of course includes his family and friends who are so inclined to learn more.
Most parents are afraid of ‘losing’ their child upon their ordination, but if you consider how some families drift apart through marriages, careers or lifestyles, one have to rethink if ordination as a monk really causes the parents to lose their child. In reality, there is lesser conflict for parents with their child who goes forth, as they are taught and trained even more deeply on how they should relate to their parents and people around them. This can only improve communications, and not lead to ‘losing’ them.
But my son or daughter has defilements and is not pure enough.
This is yet another misconception and invalid excuse for not allowing one’s child to be a monastic. The whole point of going forth to become a monastic, is to start an earnest course of learning, training and practise that help to reduce and ultimately eradicate one’s defilements, leading to Enlightenment. If one is already pure, then one is already Enlightened and does not need to go forth for training. But if one is indeed Enlightened, one would also go forth into the Sangha order, so that one can reach out to the masses, without the limitations and responsibilities of a family life.
Further, one should not think that having bad habits or defilements would disqualify oneself from going forth. Ven. Angulimala was a killer before he was transformed by the Buddha’s teachings and through going forth and training, became one of the Arahants! Since the first five monks, monks and nuns alike come from all walks of life, and while their background are different and their purity and defilements may vary, they have one thing in common: They all wanted to learn from the Buddha and train to put an end to Suffering and attain Enlightenment!
Since monastic life is conducive for happiness here and now and the attainment of Enlightenment, why should one fear for one’s child in becoming a monastic?
‘Giving’ one’s child to Buddhism
So think about it. Buddhists teachings advocates giving and sharing, why not ‘share’ and ‘give’ one’s child to Buddhism?
Giving starts from oneself. Start giving today. 8)