Friends and relatives (Mangala Sutta 17)

The support of mother and father,
The welfare of spouse and children,
Engaging in unconflicting livelihood;
This is the greatest blessing.

Selfless giving, and living by the Dhamma,
Looking after relatives and friends,
And blameless actions;
This is the greatest blessing.

We now return to a line by line consideration of the Mangala Sutta, taking up consideration of “looking after relatives and friends” as a great blessing. How are we to understand this advice?

First, it means that we are concerned not only with ourselves, but also with other people, at least those in our immediate family and our significant friends. How can we look after the particular individuals who form our inner circle? The answer will be different for each of us, but the question of how we are actually doing this, and whether we could be doing it better, warrants our attention.

For me, the first line of attention goes to my husband; and we’ve developed a pretty robust system for looking after each other with care and affection, making regular adjustments. My step-children and my mother form the next level, and each of them has different needs and desires for how they like to be “looked after”. The main form this takes is to be in touch regularly with each of them and try to be responsive to what the immediate need is, including the need for space. My siblings, nieces and nephews, in-laws and close friends are in the next ring, and to them I feel a different mix of responsibility and desire to discover how they are doing and whether I can offer encouragement, support, or anything else.

For our intimates, non-harming is the bare minimum of behavioral requirements. Our active intention to look after whatever these people need (which, of course, changes over time), and is in our power, is what is asked of us.

May I be well, happy, and peaceful.
As I wish to be well, happy, and peaceful, may all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

Is our wish for others to be well, contented, and to feel cared for, as strong as our desire to take care of ourselves? Does it have the same urgency? I believe this is what the Buddha was pointing to; not just that we have a care for others, but that we care for others with the same automatic intention with which we look after ourselves.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in Friendships, General, Mangala Sutta. Bookmark the permalink.

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