Six months ago, my father came down with a cerebral infraction, so I returned home to nurse him, and at the same time, I worked desperately at my job to keep
both ends going. One day, when I was having an argument with my brother, my father said to him, “Don’t make her angry. If you do, she’ll stop nursing me and I’ll be
in a bind.” When I heard him say that, I wondered whether the “thank you” he was saying to me was only to please me. So what is the meaning of being grateful to
your parents? Does thinking “thank you very much” mean that one is truly grateful? What should a person do to express gratitude? I felt disappointed and sad that
what I had been doing so unwittingly for the family was all for naught.
(A.M., 36 years old, female)
Response given by Reverend Yasuhiro Hosokawa, Seicho-No-Ie Ordained Minister
I sincerely respect you for your unselfish efforts in caring for your father and your family while working, coping with both ends. Judging from all you are doing, I know that you love your father deeply and that was the reason you decided to return home to take care of him. However, you were shocked by his words which you did not expect to hear. Now, let us give some thought to what took place. I wonder if the words your father said, “Don’t make her angry for she won’t take care of me and I’ll be in trouble,” were his true feelings. If you accept exactly what he said, then you may be right and I, too, would have difficulty accepting them.
However, this is where we need to reflect. Generally a father, being a man, has difficulty expressing his feelings clearly. Besides, it may be possible that your father, who had lost his freedom and was lying in a sick bed, in his irritated state spoke words entirely opposite to how he was feeling in spite of being grateful to you. There is a need to take that into consideration. Another point is that there are times your mind may subtly be influencing your father’s mind. There is an ancient poetry, “The mind of the one who comes before you is like a mirror. See the reflection as your own self,” (by Munetada Kurozumi).
This means that those in your surroundings and the natural environment, including your family around you, are all reflecting your mind. This world appears as if everything is existing separately, however, they are all given God’s life and are one with one another (self and others are one). Hence, I wish you would reflect on yourself and see whether you are being arrogant with the feeling that “I am caring and nursing him.” We can say that such feelings may return to you as your father’s harsh words.
You asked what it means to be grateful to your parents. However, you don’t need any reason to be grateful to them. You should be grateful that they gave you life. Seicho-No-Ie teaches that we are born on this earth with eternal life from God to express this joy of birth and to elevate our soul. It is our parents who have served as intermediaries for our birth; therefore, we can only be grateful to them. Parental love does not seek return. It would never ask anything from their children.
Reverend Masaharu Taniguchi, the founder of Seicho-No-Ie, has taught us the following in his book, Shinri Nyûmon 25 Shô, “Introduction to the Truth -25 Chapters.” “A child is born from his parents and from this standpoint, they are one with each other. Generally speaking, to love means to feel that the child and self are one with each other in life.” (Partial omission) When you were a baby, your mother washed your diapers by hand no matter how dirty they were and did not feel they were dirty because she loved you very much. You know how much your father and mother have loved you since you were a baby and still love you. Let us remember this and be grateful to them.” (pp 70-72)
People have been saying for many years, “A person realizes how much his parents loved him when he has a child of his own,” or “When you wish to be good to your parents, they are no longer with you.” Don’t you think now is the chance to do filial piety for your parents? This is what is going to make your life a happy one in the future.
From Riso Sekai (Ideal World), March 2008, pp. 58-59
©Reverend Yasuhiro Hosokawa