The concept of filial piety has been a strong influence on Chinese society since thousands of years ago. In fact, according to historical texts from different dynasties, we can understand how important filial piety is to the Chinese culture.
Buddhism places a great emphasis on the human relations, the three bonds and the five constant virtues, and especially the practice of filial piety. There are many records related to filial piety in scriptures such as the famous sutra of “The original vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva”, “The Sutra of Paying Gratitude to Parents”, and et cetera. They are indeed scriptures that endorse the notion of filial piety.
Moreover, filial piety is reinforced in Buddhism through the teachings of Buddha. Not only did Buddha educate his disciples to pay filial obedience to their parents in present life, but he also stressed an importance to extend their filial obedience to their parents in their past seven lives and even to all the sentient beings.
“The Sutra of the original vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva” is also known as the canon of filial piety in Buddhism. With his great vow- “If the Hell is not empty, I shall not attain Buddhahood”, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva has received great respect and trust from all since long ago. Not only did he point out to us a road to achieving Buddhahood, but he also lighted up for us a hope in Dharma. For these reasons, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva is known as “The King of Great Vows”.
On the 30th of every lunar month July when it is Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Birthday, people would go to the temple offering fragrant flowers, reading the “Sutra of the original vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva” and or reciting the name of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. On one hand, they wish that with the great compassionate blessings from Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, their ancestors and deceased family members could be liberated and thereby paying them their gratitude. On the other hand, they also wish that they could follow and bring the spirit of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva into practice: to resolve to the will of practicing filial piety and liberating all sentient beings.
It is therefore said that Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva can help and nurture us, taking on the miseries of all sentient beings. He will fulfill all of our requests with his Dharma treasures and merits, thereby inspiring us to uncover our Buddha nature.
The lunar month July is known as the “Month of Filial Piety”, during which we read the “Sutra of the original vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva”. We wish that by relying on the merits from the great vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, our parents in the past lives could be liberated and that all could be relieved from miseries, hence achieving Buddhahood together. Indeed, we should follow the spirit of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, recite and pay respects to him so that one day, we could become like Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. (Source: IBPS Vancouver)