Our parents love us more than life itself. How can we bear to let them cry? What can we do to make our parents happier and their lives better? This short dharma teaching will bring you the most profound and clear answers.

【You willearn】

  • The significance of showing respect to your parents
  • Ways to accumulate merits for your parents
  • The story of a disrespectfuson who caused his mother, a scrap collector, to commit suicide
  • The story of Maudagalyayana and how he saved his mother

【Featured aphorism】

  • Showing gratitude is the foundation of being a loving and righteous person.
  • Try to accumulate more merits for your parents and ancestors on Ullambana Day; let them receive the blessings of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and you shalalso be blessed with peace.
  • Express filiapiety to your parents who are stilalive; accumulate merits for deceased parents.


If you understand the basic ethical principles of humanity, you would be grateful to your parents for raising you. To be a virtuous person, first of all, you need to show filial respect to your parents. Young people might think that is lame. You wouldn’t be in the world without your parents. You are not a robot; you should understand gratitude. To set the bar higher, you need to repay more than what you received. True humanity is to show deep gratitude to your parents.

Only when you are a virtuous person will others make friends with you. If you can ignore your parents, how could you treat your friends well? To you, money is everything. Do things without thinking about what is right and what is wrong; and people will stay away from you. If you don’t see the need to restrain yourself, you may do any bad thing without thinking. A person without a soul will do anything regardless of right or wrong.

But we want to be virtuous. To be that, start by showing some gratitude. Try to get what I am saying; it is important. I will skip how hard your parents worked to raise you. After you get married and become parents, you will know what your parents have gone through. Without a child, you won’t understand. You think your parents are just chattering every day. You don’t get along with them. You have nothing but complaints about them. You think they purposely make your life harder. Or, that parents always think whatever you do is wrong.

I remember the first time I left home for Tibet. I was sick, I had a fever for 3 days. I stayed at an inn, and part of it was a restaurant. I couldn’t find help from anyone. No medicines. The rice was half-cooked. It was 20 below zero outside. I could only eat half-cooked rice. Nobody cared about me. I was in my teens, waiting for my mom to ask how I was feeling. If I fell sick at home, my mom would have prepared noodles in soup with eggs. But then, there was nothing then, except for the thick ice on the walls. My heart was as cold as the thick ice.

Only then did I realize how much my parents had cared for me. That is why you should be grateful to your parents. At the moment you are born, you become their priority. Before they became parents, it was always “me, me, me”. After their first child was born, it became “my child this” or “my child that”.

I read some online news from China. A mother once collected and sold junk parts to pay her child’s tuition. How much could she earn? Junk doesn’t sell for much. She had to sell something else, her blood, to fund her child. After graduation, the son landed a good job in the city. He disowned his mother. His poor mother was dressed shabbily and filthily, and he didn’t want to be looked down upon by coworkers. The mother sat outside the door with an old bag of homemade winter clothes. The son turned away when he saw his mother. The mother followed the son. “Do I know you? Who’s this crazy woman?”

This is a negative example of ignorance in motion. So the mother was heartbroken; she committed suicide by jumping off a cliff. She wrote a will reminding her child how she had supported his college education. The son was ashamed of himself, and would continue to live in guilt forever. Thus, one doesn’t need to die to live in hell; the son lived in hell when he was alive. He will blame himself and continue living in guilt for the rest of his life. Isn’t this hellish enough? That is why being grateful is so important.

Parents love you with everything they have got; please do not break their hearts.

Everyone has biological parents. Some are raised by adoptive parents. As long as they raise you, they will be blessed with merits. We should have deep gratitude to our parents. You can still show your gratitude even after they have passed away. You can offer lights and incense before the Buddha, or give to the poor on their behalf to accumulate merits. You can offer things you consider valuable, such as food and money. All these will bless your deceased parents, or the parents who never existed in your memory.

What does “parents of your 7 previous lives” mean? Before your current life, you have been reborn many times. Even in your lives when you were animals, you still had your own parents. Let’s hope our parents from our previous lives found the Buddha’s guidance and reached Paradise. Let’s hope they suffer no more and dwell in Paradise. In Paradise, you will be immortal. You don’t age; therefore, you won’t die. You will have no pain, afflictions, hunger, oppression or fear. You live in eternal peace, auspiciousness and freedom.

You need a bit of knowledge of astronomy to understand this. We know a day is 24 hours, but not so when we are in another space. A day on the sun is probably a month on Earth. This concerns the theories of time and space. Let’s hope the good deeds we do in this Ullambana Festival can benefit our deceased parents by leading them to the Buddha. We can only live in peace when they meet him. Can you live in peace if any of your relatives suffer? Sometimes our hearts beat fast for no reason. Is it because of our health?

Let’s put it this way. Can you live in peace if any of your children suffer in a foreign land? You can’t, and you will have frequent palpitations. It is the “bond”. When your children get into trouble, you will suffer heart problems. As parents, your hearts will always be put to the test. The more children you have, the more heart attacks you get. There are too many cases of parents dying of extreme anger. How? When children do things they knew were wrong. If parents’ hearts aren’t strong, the heart attacks will kill them. Now what if our deceased parents suffer in hell?

Maudgalyāyana was the Buddha’s brightest student. He achieved enlightenment after one month of study. He achieved the title of “Venerable”. There are other titles too, such as Vajra, Arhat, Bodhisattva, etc. Maudgalyāyana was capable of locating his deceased mother. She was starving in hell and receiving punishment from the guards. Maudgalyāyana had high awareness and powerful dharma abilities. In the sutras, he mastered every dharma ability there is to master. With such capabilities, you could call him a buddha.

However, he still needed to clear his bad karma. You can be enlightened but still suffer from bad karma. So he was still a few steps away from perfection. You can still owe somebody money after achieving enlightenment. Maudgalyāyana’s debts were in the form of his bad karma. His mother suffered because of her karmic debts. He couldn’t bear watching his mother suffering in hell, so he teleported to hell to visit his mother. He brought some delicious food for her. But somehow, the food and water turned to ashes as soon as it touched her mouth. The Buddha told him, “You need more good deeds.”

Though he had strong dharma power, he still needed his dharma brothers to help his mother. Only by combining their dharma powers, merits and compassion could his mother be freed from her sufferings. Although he could move a mountain using his dharma power, this couldn’t help the food enter his mother’s stomach. Why? Because one has to pay back for one’s sins. He hadn’t accumulated enough merits to help his mother; that means he needed to help more self-cultivators. See? Even Maudgalyāyana had trouble saving his mother. Only by helping more self-cultivators could he have enough merits to save his mother.

That is what ordinary people like us should do. It feels like the Buddha has given me the responsibility of sharing this story with you. It is wrong when people think filial piety is a joke. They think it is their parents’ fault that they have to suffer in this world. In this case, you have sinned, but your parents have not. If you get what I say, then show filial respect to your parents. Try not to make them mad. Make more efforts to be a good person. This also accumulates some merits for your deceased parents.

Filial piety is most important. You realize their love when you become a parent. Express filial piety to the parents who are still alive. Accumulate merits and virtues for deceased parents.