In Chinese culture, the Tomb-Sweeping Festival is a time to pay respects to one’s ancestors, by remembering their kindness and the value of filial piety.

Buddhism and the Traditional Chinese Concept of Repaying Kindness

The Chinese people value the kindness of parents in raising and nurturing their children. In Chinese history, the spirit of filial piety has long been promoted ever since the Pre-Qin Era, as a fundamental value in Confucian ethics. Today’s Chinese people still honor the tradition of tomb sweeping, a customary practice to remember one’s ancestors or deceased relatives, as well as to express gratitude to one’s parents and ancestors.

Repay the Kindness of Their Ancestors by Studying Buddhism and Practicing the Dharma

As Master Sheng Yen pointed out in his book, Mindfulness of the Buddha for Rebirth in the Pure Land, about the idea of repaying kindness: “The best way to repay kindness is to use the body given to us by our parents to do things that benefit ourselves and sentient beings; to say things that benefit ourselves and sentient beings; and to embrace thoughts that benefit ourselves and sentient beings. This is repaying kindness in its true sense.” He encouraged people to repay the kindness of their ancestors by studying Buddhism and practicing the Dharma, which helps purify human minds and society. For this purpose, Dharma Drum Mountain hold various Dharma assemblies during the Tomb-Sweeping Festival for people to engage in practice themselves, while sharing the merit of reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name with their deceased relatives.

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Video: True Filial Piety

From a Buddhist point of view, filial piety really means that we support our parents, take care of their daily lives, their health and medical care, and even their religious and spiritual needs. Moreover, we should always be grateful for our parents' loving concern, although we don't necessarily need to stick to our parents' ways, as times and society may have changed

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Video: What's the Best Way to Repay Kindness?

we are able to survive, live in peace and free from disturbance, and follow and practice the Dharma well, we should be thankful to the many people who help and support us. That is why Buddhism teaches us to repay four types of kindnesses: the kindness of parents, the kindness of the Three Jewels, the kindness of one's country, and the kindness of other sentient beings. Some people also count the kindness of teachers.

Translation: Elenda Huang
Editor: Chang ChiaCheng (張家誠)
Photos: Nung Chan Monastery

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