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Should Buddhists have Children?

A reader asks :

Can you please explain the Buddha’s teaching on the concept of having children? Whether it is true by the 4 noble truths if you want stop suffering you have to find the cause and stop the causing. So the suffering related to children and raising them and leaving them when you die can be stopped by not having them in the first place if one decided to do so?

My Response:

There is certainly physical suffering in childbirth. No doubt about that. There’s also mental and emotional suffering when your children are sick and in pain. They have emotional and personal issues as they grow up, which also cause you suffering as a parent. Over the years, the roles reverse, and your aging will cause suffering for your children, as will your eventual death. Yes, children are a great source of suffering.

On the other hand, I think most parents will say that it’s worth it. The pleasure of having children and watching them grow into successful adults is one of life’s greatest rewards. Is this attachment? Yes. Did Buddha warn against attachments? Yes.

This is a pretty deep question when you start thinking about it. If you, as a Buddhist, have children and do your best to reduce their suffering, then teach your children about the eightfold path, and they grow up to reduce the suffering of others, does that balance out the suffering? Suppose they have grandchildren who spread loving-kindness around the world as well. Children are a long-term legacy that can have effects long after we are gone.

Are you, right now, affecting your great-grandparents karma, just by existing? It seems reasonable to me. The goodness (or badness) that we do in life continues long after we’re gone.

There are many other point-of-view on this complex topic. I’d love to hear yours below!

6 comments to Should Buddhists have Children?

  • Justin

    I think there are a couple of views to this subject. As a Buddhist with 3 children I find it only logical that for procreation alone it is essential to have children. As with many of the facets within Buddhism it is important to have a positive perspective. I have the opportunity to teach my children to be tolerant, self sufficient and mindful. If I have done my job correctly as their father they will return to me (because they are mindful of my love), and I will not have any pain from their departure because I will know they are out in the world living their own adventure and with the skills I have given them there is no need to worry.

    So in summary I don’t believe there is pain in their growing up, I see it as a continuous opportunity to teach them the Noble Truths and ensure they are ready for the world.

    Look forward to any comments

  • Thanks Justin and Brian.

    My argument is that just for the sake of having ability to teach and guide your kids through a correct path should we or the kids be put through so much suffering as such from them being sick or misbehaving etc and we in return being sick or die in each others life time. And isn’t it a one step closer to removing all the attachments if you don’t have any children and have nothing to long for when you die.

    My feeling is that your mind is at rest and can die any minute without having to worry about another human being who is dependent on you. And also since the world is already having issues with over population and poverty etc doesn’t it make more sense for buddhists or anyone to help out the world at large to overcome these issues than adding more to the cycle. Ofcourse I don’t mean everyone should follow this path, but if someone feels strongly that no good can come out of this cyclical procreation is that wrong ? And does that count as breaing the duties of a good husband or a wife as per Buddha’s teachings.

    Please Comment !

  • Please comment- would love to hear more thoughts about this topic….

  • 21st century Buddha

    Anything that captures your mind is going to cause suffering. Children do just that.
    In order to get to “no mind.” you need as few distractions as possible.
    That is why the Buddha didn’t want female disciples. By nature women capture a man’s mind. Keeps him from focusing on the task at hand.
    Non-attachment to things of this world.
    It’s difficult to not to be attached to your own child because you will cause the child to also take the chance your mate would become attached to you and again cause suffering.
    A Buddha’s job is to help end all human suffering.
    He or she would never have a mate to begin with unless that mate was also a Buddha.
    Until all are Buddha’s there is no time for Buddha to play with sex.
    If all were Buddha’s yes he’d play. Because he could play and not be attached and the one he’d be playing with would be of the same. Where would be the suffering?
    He could also have children and not be attached. But most likely would not. There is nothing of this world to exist for. All is folly.

  • Konrad

    There’s not route to Nibanna without life. No children, no life, no life, no Nibanna. There is suffering with childbirth, yes, to from what does it spring? Maybe from the ignorance which is the root of life to begin with, desire for existence.

  • Eugenia

    Hi everyone. What I really don’t understand about this ussue is the following: If life is suffering, so why make somebody else suffer? Why would you give birth and make a new human being suffer, only because you want children as a “long-term legacy”? Isn’t it just egoistic?
    Please comment! This is very important to me!