Filial Piety in Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 12, 2005

Filial Piety in Early Buddhism

Guang Xing
University of Hong Kong

Buddhist scholars like Kenneth Ch’en thought that filial piety was a special feature of Chinese Buddhism. Later, John Strong employed “popular Buddhist stories” to show that filial piety was also important in Indian Buddhism, but he asserted that it was “a Buddhist compromise with the Brāhmanical ethics of filiality operating at the popular level.” On the other hand, Gregory Schopen, who mainly used Indian Buddhist epigraphical material in his research, pointed out the same idea but he could not find definitive support from the early Buddhist textual sources. My investigation of the early Buddhist texts and analysis of the relevant passages clearly shows that filial piety is one of the important aspects of the early Buddhist ethical teachings. Filial piety was practiced by the early Indian Buddhists (1) as a way of requiting the debt to one’s parents; (2) as a chief ethical good action; and (3) as Dharma, the social order. And on this basis it also shows that the early Indian Buddhists practiced filial piety not as a “compromise with the Brāhmanical ethics of filiality” but as an important teaching taught by the master.

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