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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 July 2016

Guang Xing*
Associate Professor, Centre of Buddhist Studies, University of Hong Kong


Buddhist scholars like Kenneth Ch'en have argued that the teaching of filial piety was a special feature of Chinese Buddhism as a response to the Chinese culture. Others, among them John Strong and Gregory Schopen, have shown that filial piety was also important in Indian Buddhism, but Strong does not consider it integral to the belief system and Schopen did not find evidence of it in early writings he examined. In this article, through an analysis of early Buddhist resources, the Nikāyas and Āgamas, I demonstrate that the practice of filial piety has been the chief good karma in the Buddhist moral teaching since its inception, although it is not as foundational for Buddhist ethics as it is for Confucian ethics. The Buddha advised people to honor parents as the Brahmā, the supreme god and the creator of human beings in Hinduism, as parents have done much for their children. Hence, Buddhism teaches its followers to pay their debts to parents by supporting and respecting them, actions that are considered the first of all meritorious deeds, or good karma, in Buddhist moral teachings. Moreover, according to the Buddhist teaching of karma, matricide and patricide are considered two of the five gravest bad deeds, and the consequence is immediate rebirth in hell. Mahāyāna Buddhism developed the idea of filial piety further and formulated the four debts to four groups of people—parents, sentient beings, rulers, and Buddhism—a teaching that became very popular in Chinese Buddhism and spread to other East Asian countries.

Copyright © Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University 2016 

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1 The Suttanipata, verse no. 262. My translation from the Pāli language is based on that of R. L. Soni, Life's Highest Blessings: The Mahāmaṅgala Sutta (Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society, 1987), 15.

2 See Ch'en, Kenneth, “Filial Piety in Chinese Buddhism,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 28 (1968): 8197 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 John Strong, “Filial Piety and Buddhism: The Indian Antecedents to a ‘Chinese’ Problem,” in Traditions in Contact and Change, ed. Peter Slater and Donald Wiebe (Waterloo: Wilfred Laurier University Press, 1983), 171–86.

4 Schopen, Gregory, “Filial Piety and the Monks in the Practices of Indian Buddhism: A Question of “Sinicization” Viewed from the Other Side,” T'oung Pao 70, no. 1/3 (1984): 110–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 124. It also appears in Gregory Schopen, Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1997), 56–71.

7 Some modern scholars argue that Buddhism is not all about scriptures but includes many different practices, such as rituals, miraculous stories, objects, and images of different types. For instance, Stanley Tambiah criticized scholars like Rhys Davids for what Tambiah described as the “Pali Text Society mentality,” which “essentialized Buddhism in terms of ‘pristine’ teachings.” Stanley Tambiah, introduction to Buddhism and Spirit Cults in Northeastern Thailand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 7; see also Stanley Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), 3 (discussing “Pali text puritans”). This unfair criticism ignores the important contributions made by great scholars to the study of Theravāda Buddhism. See Charles Hallisey, “Roads Taken and Not Taken in the Study of Theravada Buddhism,” in Curators of the Buddha: The Study of Buddhism under Colonialism, ed. Donald S. Lopez (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 34; see also Justin T. McDaniel, The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011). In his review, Patrick Jory summarizes McDaniel's ideas, stating,

In the world of Thai Buddhism that McDaniel describes, the canonical scriptures are only one element of a complex, heterogeneous, ever-changing religious cacophony of vengeful ghosts, charismatic monks, protective amulets, incantations conveying supernatural powers, personal child ghost servants, magical corpse oil, tree spirits, yantras, continually changing rituals and liturgies, and a pantheon of gods, Buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities, and ancestral spirits. McDaniel even questions whether it makes any sense to use the term “Theravada Buddhism” to refer to the contemporary religious scene in Thailand at all. Instead, he uses the concept “religious repertoires” to make sense of a religious sphere that seems to defy systematic description.

Patrick Jory, review of The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand, by McDaniel, Justin T., Journal of Religion 93, no. 1 (2013): 126 Google Scholar.

5 According to the Xiaojing, one of the five Confucian classics, Confucius said to his disciple Zengzi, “Now filial piety is the root of (all) virtue, and (the stem) out of which grows (all moral) teaching.” Thus Confucianism considers filial piety as the foundation of ethics. The English translation is from The Hsiao King, trans. James Legge, in the Sacred Books of the East, vol. 3 (London: Clarendon Press, 1879), 494. The publication may be outdated, but the translation is faithful to the original. In contrast with Confucianism, the foundation of Buddhist ethics is karma and rebirth. See Xing, Guang, “Early Buddhist and Confucian Concepts of Filial Piety: A Comparative Study,” Journal of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies 4 (2013): 846 Google Scholar.

6 The five kinds of gravest bad karma are killing one's mother, one's father, and a worthy one (arahant), causing the blood of a Tathāgata (the One Thus Come and Thus Gone) to flow, and causing a split in the Buddhist community (Sangha). They are mentioned in many places, such as the Aṅguttaranikāya, ed. Richard Morris and E. Hardy, 6 vols. (1897; reprint Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1979), 3:146; the Chinese Saṃyuktāgama (792), Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō [《大正新脩大藏經》], eds. Takakusu Junjirō [高楠順次郎] and Watanabe Kaigyoku [渡邊海旭], 100 vols. (Tokyo: Taishō Issaikyō Kankōkai, 1924–1932), vol. 2, no. 99, 205a (hereafter references to the works within the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō [Taishō Tripitaka] will be in the standard abbreviated form of T[volume], no. [sutra number (sutra number within larger collection, where appropriate)], [page and column]. For instance, the Dīrghāgama, T1, no. 1 (27), 107a, the Ekottarāgama, T2, no. 125 (20.11), 601a; and the Madhyamāgama, T1, no. 26 (200), 769a, 724a.

8 I use the term early Buddhism to describe the teachings found in both the Pāli Nikāyas and Chinese Āgamas, which are over 90 percent the same, although they were transmitted from different early Indian Buddhist schools that split roughly one hundred years after the parinirvāṇa of Gautama Buddha. These writings are considered by all modern Buddhist scholars as the earliest Buddhist resources. I have adopted Hirakawa Akira's chronology of Indian Buddhism. According to Hirakawa, “Indian Buddhism may be divided into the following five periods: (1) Early Buddhism, (2) Nikāya or Sectarian (often called Hīnayāna) Buddhism, (3) Early Mahāyāna Buddhism, (4) Later Mahāyāna Buddhism, and (5) Esoteric Buddhism. Although the five periods are arranged in the chronological order in which the traditions arose, they are also based on a categorization of types of Buddhism as much as historical criteria.” Akira Hirakawa, A History of Indian Buddhism from Śākyamuni to Early Mahāyāna, ed. and trans. Paul Groner (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990), 7.

9 See Xing, Guang, “Filial Piety in Early Buddhism,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 12 (2005): 82106 Google Scholar.

10 The Aṅguttaranikāya (2.31), 1:62. The translation is from The Numerical Discourse of the Buddha, A Translation of the Aṅguttaranikāya, trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012), 153–54. This sutta is also found in the Chinese translation of the Ekottarāgama (20.11), with the same message, but the last paragraph, about four ways of paying the debts to parents, is missing.

11 I use sutta when the original sources is in Pali language; otherwise, I use sūtra. This sutta must have been quite popular in India as it is quoted in at least ten Chinese translations of Indian texts, such as (1) the Dharmapada T4, no. 212, translated by Zhu Fonian in 374; (2) the Sengjialuocha Suoji Jing [sūtra compiled by Saṅgharakṣa] T4, no. 194, translated by Saṅghabhūti in 385; (3) the Mahīśāsakavinaya T22, no. 1421, translated by Buddhajīva and Zhu Daosheng in 423 or 424; (4) the Abhidharmavibhāṣā Śāstra T28, no. 1546, translation by Buddhavarman and Daotai in 437–439; (5) the Foshuo Asuda Jing [Sūtra Spoken by the Buddha to Asuda], T2, no. 141, translated by Gunabhadra in 435–443; (6) the Zabaozang Jing (Saṃyuktāratna Sūtra) T4, no. 203, translated by Kekaya and Tanyao in 472; (7) the Itivṛttaka Sūtra T17, no. 765, translated by Xuanzang in 650; (8) the Abhidharma Mahāvibhāṣā Śāstra T27, no. 1545, translation by Xuanzang in 656–659; (9) the Zuisheng Foding Tuoluoni Jingchu Yezhangzhou Jing (Sarvadurgatipariṣodhana Uṣṇīṣa Vijaya Dhāranī Sūtra) [sūtra of the most excelling Buddha's heads Dhāranī which purifies all the obstacles of karma] T19, no. 970, translated by Divākara in 676–688; and (10) the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya T23, no. 1442; and (11) the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya Bhaiṣajya T24, no. 1448, both translated by Yijing in 700–711. All the dates of Chinese translations of Indian texts in this essay are according to Lewis R. Lancaster and Sung-bae Park, eds., The Korean Buddhist Canon: A Descriptive Catalogue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979). All references to dates are to the common era (CE).

12 It is found in the Aṅguttaranikāya 8.54, 4:281. Also named the Vyagghapajja Sutta, it teaches the things leading to the happiness of a lay Buddhist in this life and the future life.

13 The five precepts are abstaining (1) from the destruction of life, (2) from taking what is not given, (3) from sexual misconduct, (4) from false speech, and (5) from liquor, wine, and intoxicants.

14 Numerical Discourse of the Buddha, 453–54. The sutta in fact appears twice: once in the Threes (3.31), Aṅguttaranikāya, 1:132, and once in the Fours (4.63), Aṅguttaranikāya, 2:70. I have quoted the longer version in the Fours (4.63), which is the same as no. 106 in the Itivuttaka, ed. Ernst Windisch (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1975), 109–11. The difference between the two suttas is that the longer version adds one more item: “Those families dwell with the first deities where at home the mother and father are revered by their children.”

15 Brahmanism refers to those forms of Hinduism that revolve primarily around the mythic vision and ritual ideologies presented by the ancient Indian religious texts called Vedas. According to Jan C. Heesterman, “Brahmanism developed as the Vedic Indians moved further into the subcontinent to settle in the regions drained by the Ganges River and then southward to the tip of India. It is loosely known as Brahmanism because of the religious and legal importance it places on the brāhmaṇa (priestly) class of society.” Heesterman, “Vedism and Brahmanism,” in Encyclopedia of Religion, vol. 14, ed. Lindsay Jones (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005).

16 In the shorter version of the Chinese translation of the Saṃyuktāgama T2, 404a, the same sutta is also found. In addition to parents being worshipped as Brahmā, teachers, and all devas, another two items are added: (1) parents are also worshipped as Mahādeva, and (2) the family is also respected by others if parents are supported with all kinds of things. The last item means that people will think that this is a good family with loving supportive children. The same sūtra is also quoted in the Saṃyuktaratnapitaka Sūtra T4, 455b (translated by Kekaya and Tanyao in 472), where mother and father are worshipped as Worthy Ones and Buddhas.

17 In the Max Müller translation of the Taittirīya Upanishad, the above passage reads, “Do not neglect the (sacrificial) works due to the Gods and Fathers! Let thy mother be to thee like unto a god! Let thy father be to thee like unto a god! Let thy teacher be to thee like unto a god! Let thy guest be to thee like unto a god!” “The Upanishad 2.52,” in Sacred Books of the East, trans. Max Müller (London: Clarendon Press, 1879), 14:494. Here we can see that both mother and father are treated as gods.

18 The Analects 2.7. The English translation is from Confucian Analects with Selections from Traditional Commentaries, trans. Edward Slingerland (Cambridge: Hackett, 2003), 10.

19 This sūtra is also found in both Chinese translations of the Saṃyuktāgama 93, T2, 24c–25a and T2, 464c, where the first is named the root fire because all children are born from parents. Therefore, the root should be respected, honored, supported, and made happy.

20 The Aṅguttaranikāya (7.47), 4:44. The translation is from The Book of Gradual Sayings (Aṅguttaranikāya), trans. E. M. Hare, vol. 4 (1935; repr. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1995), 26.

21 J. Estlin Carpenter, ed., “The Sigālovāda Sutta,” in Dīghanikāya vol. 3 (1911; repr. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1976), 189. This sutta is so important to Chinese Buddhists that it has been translated into Chinese five times. The first three are independent translations and the last two are included in the Āgamas. The five points in supporting parents are one's duty and they are also found in the four extant Chinese translations of the sūtra. For an English translation, see Maurice Walshe, trans., The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987), 467.

22 The Mātuposaka Sutta is found in both the Saṃyuttanikāya, ed. L. Feer, vol 1. (1884; repr. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 2006), 181, and the Saṃyuktāgama, T2, no. 99 (88). It is also found in the shorter version of the Saṃyuktāgama, T2, no. 100 (88).

23 Feer, Saṃyuttanikāya, 1:181. For an English translation, see Bhikkhu Bodhi, trans., The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṃyuttanikāya (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000), 277.

24 Saṃyuttanikāya, 1:228; see also Saṃyuktāgama, T2, no. 99, at 1104, 1105, 1106; Saṃyuktāgama, T2, no. 100, at 33. There are seven good deeds of Sakka: “(1) As long as I live may I support my parents. (2) As long as I live may I respect the family elders. (3) As long as I live may I speak gently. (4) As long as I live may I not speak divisively. (5) As long as I live may I dwell at home with a mind devoid of the stain of stinginess, freely generous, open-handed, delighting in relinquishment, devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing. (6) As long as I live may I speak the truth. (7) As long as I live may I be free from anger, and if anger should arise in me may I dispel it quickly.” The translation is from the Connected Discourses of the Buddha, 329.

25 Ekottarāgama, T2, no. 125, 600c.

26 Aṅguttaranikāya, 3:146. The translation is from Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Access to Insight (1997), These five kinds of gravest bad karma are mentioned in many places in the Chinese Āgamas, Saṃyuktāgama, T2, no. 99 (792), 205a; Madhyamāgama, T1, no. 26 (200), 769a, 724a.

27 See Guang Xing, “Chinese Translation of Buddhist Sutras Related to Filial Piety as a Response to Confucian Criticism of Buddhists Being Unfilial,” in Buddhism in East Asia: Aspects of History's First Universal Religion Presented in the Modern Context, ed. Anita Sharma (New Delhi: Vidyanidhi Prakashan Press, 2012), 75–85.

28 The story is found in the Saṃyuktāgama, sūtra no. 506, and the Ekottarāgama, section 36, sūtra no. 5. It is also found twice in the Pāli commentary of the Theravāda tradition: the Atthasālinī: Buddhaghosa's Commentary on the Dhammasaṅgañī, ed. E. Muller, vol. 1 (1897; repr. Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1979), 15; the Dhammapada Atthakathā (Commentary to the Dhammapada), ed. H. C. Norman, vol. 3 (1912; repr. London: Pali Text Society 1993), 216f. For an English translation, see E. W. Burlingame, Buddhist Legend: Translated from the Original Pali Text of the Dhammapada Commentary, iii, 47. “The Buddha visited Tāvatiṃsa immediately after the performance of the Twin-Miracle at the foot of the Gaṇḍamba tree, on the full moon day of Āsāḷha, and there, during the three months of the rainy season, the Buddha stayed, preaching the Abhidhamma Piṭaka to his mother (who came there to listen to him), seated on Sakka's Paṇḍukambala-silāsana, at the foot of the Pāricchattaka-tree. (It is said that, during this time, at certain intervals, the Buddha would return to earth, leaving a seated image of himself in Tāvatiṃsa to continue the preaching while he attended to his bodily needs, begging alms in Uttarakuru and eating his food on the banks of Anotatta, where Sāriputta waited on him and learnt of what he had been preaching to the devas.).” G. P. Malalasekera, ed., The Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (1937; repr. New Dehli: Asian Educational Services, 2003), 1:609 (citing the Atthasālinī, ed. E. Müller, 1897 [repr. London: Pali Text Society, 1979], i.15; the Dhammapada Atthakathā, iii.216f).

29 As early as in Western Jin dynasty (265–316), Dharmarakṣa already translated the Foshengdaolitian Weimushuofa Jing, which can be translated as the “sūtra of the Buddha's ascension to the trāyas-triṃśa heaven to preach the Dharma to his mother.” According to The Korean Buddhist Canon, it was translated in 280–290 in Chang'an. However the Chinese translation of the text seems to teach filial piety from its title, but it, in fact, concentrates on the discussion of Mahāyāna ideas similar to the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra.

30 Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, s.v. “Suddhodana.”

31 Ibid., s.v. “Gotama.”

32 The story is found in the Jingfanwang Banniepan Jing, T14, no. 512, translated by Juqu Jingsheng in 455.

33 Ancestor worship is an important part of human life in both India and China. There are two traditional occasions in China during which people make offerings to their deceased parents or ancestors: the Qingming Festival in spring and the Ghost Festival in summer. The first is a native Chinese tradition and the second is a Buddhist-inspired festival. For detailed discussion of Chinese ancestor worship, see William Lakos, Chinese Ancestor Worship: A Practice and Ritual Oriented Approach to Understanding Chinese Culture (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010). For Buddhist practice of ancestor worship in China, see Stephen Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). In India, ancestor worship is part of the śrāddha rite, a central aspect of domestic religiosity in many Indians’ lives. See Matthew R. Sayers, Feeding the Dead: Ancestor Worship in Ancient India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

34 Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, s.v. “Gotami.”

35 See Ohnuma, Reiko, “Debt to the Mother: A Neglected Aspect of the Founding of the Buddhist Nuns’ Order,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74, no. 4 (2006): 861901 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 I use the dhamma when the sources are from the Pali canon and dharma in all other cases.

37 This story is found in both the northern and southern traditions. Mahāsāmghikavinaya, T22, no. 1425, 347a. I. B. Horner, trans., The Book of Discipline (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1997), 2:277.

38 This text was again translated by Huijian in 457 as the Fomu Bannihuan Jing [sūtra of the passing away of the Buddha's mother]. The story is also found in the Chinese translation of the Ekottarāgama, the first sūtra of the 52nd vagga: Mahāpajāpatī Gotami's parinirvāṇa and in the Theravāda tradition of the Therī-Apadāna.

39 The Pāli version Sāma Jātaka (no. 540) is in the Pāli Jātaka. See also J. J. Jones, trans., Mahāvastu: Translated from the Buddhist Sanskrit (London: Luzac and Company, 1952), 2:199–231. The Chinese translation is the Foshuo Pusashanzi Jing, T03, no. 174.

40 There are two pieces of artifacts of the the Śyāma jātaka story in the British Museum. “The Śyāma Jātaka,” no. 1880–54, The British Museum Collection Online, accessed August 2, 2015,; and “The Śyāma Jātaka,” no. 1880–55, accessed June 8, 2016,

41 B. Subrahmanyan, Jataka in Buddhist Thought and Art (Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan, 2009), 2:286–93. In cave no. 10 (Ajanta) four incidents of Jataka tale are extant: (1) the king with his retinue shooting an arrow towards Sama; (2) the king grievously repentant on his accidental mistake; (3) Sama's blind parents wailing upon the wounded body of their son in the hermitage; (4) Sama's resurrection to life.

42 For detailed study of the Foshuo Pusa Shanzi Jing, see Ch'en, “Filial Piety in Chinese Buddhism.” The Śyāma Sūtra was first translated by an unknown person as early as in the Western Jin dynasty (265–316) and was mentioned in Daoan's catalogue, which is preserved in the Chu Sanzang Jiji, a collection of the records of translations of the Tripiṭaka compiled by Sengyou in 518. The sūtra was again translated by Shengjian in 388–409 as an independent text, Foshuo Shanzi Jing (Śyāma Sūtra). The story is also found in other large collections, such as the Chinese translations of the Sengjialuocha Suoji Jing (Sūtra Compiled by Saṅgharakṣa) translated by Saṅghabhūti in 385 as the Śyāma Jātaka, T4, no. 194, 116c–117a; the Liuduji Jing (Ṣaṭpāramitā-saṃnipāta Sūtra), translated by Kang Senghui in 251 as the birth story of the ascetic Śyāma, T3, no. 152, 24b–25a; and in the Zabaozang Jing (Saṃyuktaratna Piṭaka Sūtra) as the third vignette in the story “Prince Who Saves His Parents with His Own Flesh.”

43 See Dharmarakṣa, trans., Foshuo Yulanpen Jing (Ullambana Sūtra). According to The Korean Buddhist Canon, the Ullambana Sūtra was translated between the second year of Tai Xi and the first year of Jian Xing, Western Jin dynasty (266–313).

44 For a detailed study, see Schopen, “Filial Piety and the Monk in the Practice of Indian Buddhism.”

45 Ibid., 113.

46 Ibid., 114. Filial practice to the dead is ancestor worship, which is very important in Asian societies, particularly in China and India. The activities are various, such as making offerings to the dead, feeding hungry ghosts, and transferring merits by doing good deeds in the name of one's parents.

47 Ibid., 115.

48 Buddhist scholars generally agree that Mahāyāna is a developed form of Buddhism and its literature is later than the Pāli Nikāyas and Chinese Āgamas. The four debts are explained by the great Buddhist master Yongming Yanshou (904–975) as debts to teachers, parents, kings, and donors.

49 The Zhengfa Nianchu Jing reads, “There are four debts that are difficult to pay. What are four? First is mother, second is father, third is Tathāgata and fourth is one's Dharma teacher. If one makes offerings to these four people one obtains much merits and will be praised in this life by people and be attaining enlightenment in the future.” See T17, no. 721, 359b. The translation is mine.

50 The Dasheng Bensheng Xindiguan Jing says, “There are four debts: debt to parents, debt to sentient beings, debt to kings and debt to Buddhism.” See T3, no. 159, 297a. The translation is mine.

51 See Patrick Olivelle, The Āśrama System: The History and Hermeneutics of a Religious Institution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 46–53, which contains a detailed discussion of the four debts in Brahmin tradition: The Taittirīya Saṃhitā ( mentions only three debts: “A Brahmin, at his very birth, is born with a triple debt—of studentship to the seers, of sacrifice to the gods, of offspring to the fathers. He is, indeed, free from debt, who has a son, is a sacrificer, and who has lived as a student. This (debt) he satisfies … by these cuttings … That is how the cuttings get their name” (page 47). But the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa (–6) adds a fourth debt: “Now, whoever exists is born indeed as a debt at his very birth to the gods, to the seers, to the fathers, and to men” (page 48). These texts are much older than Buddhism.

52 The Samaññāphala Sutta of the Dighanikāya gives a simile that even a slave who worked for a king and who became a recluse (samana) would be respected by the king when he visits the king's palace. See “The Samaññāphala Sutta,” in Dīghanikāya, 60–61; see also The Dialogues of the Buddha, trans. T. W. Rhys David, Sacred Texts of the Buddhists 2 (1899; repr., Oxford: Pali Text Society, 2002), part 1, 77; Long Discourses of the Buddha, 61–62. The simile is also found in the Chinese translation of the Dīrghāgama, T1, no.1, 109a.

53 My translation of this passage is based on those of James Legge, trans., The Book of Poetry (Taipei: SMC Publishing, 1991), 2:360, and Wang Rongpei, trans., The Book of Poetry, trans. Wang Rongpei (Changsha: Hunan People's Publishing House, 2008), 2:431.

54 The Xiaojing basically discusses filial piety with a political purpose, dividing filial piety into five categories according to social status: the son of the heaven, the princes of states, high ministers and great officials, inferior officials, and common people. The practice of filial piety in each of these categories is different. See Keung, Lo Yuet, “On the Dearth of Filial Daughters in Pre-Tang China,” Zhongguo Wenzhe Yanjiu Jikan [Journal of Chinese Culture and Philosophy] vol. 24 (2004): 293330 Google Scholar [中國文哲研究集刊]. See also Henry Rosemont, Jr., and Roger T. Ames, trans., The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2009).

55 See E. Zurcher, Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 281–85; Kung-chuan Hsiao, History of Chinese Political Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 1:658–62.

56 See Stanley Weinstein, Buddhism under the Tang (London: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 32–34. The issue of monks bowing to the throne was still controversial during the Tang dynasty and different emperors expressed different attitudes toward the practice. However, even Emperor Tang Taizong faced difficulty when he issued his edict requiring monks to bow to the throne and parents, as Buddhists supported by eminent people protested.

57 The translation is from Rosemont and Ames, Chinese Classic of Family Reverence, 107.

58 See Xing, Guang, “A Buddhist-Confucian Controversy on Filial Piety,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37, no. 2 (2010): 248–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

59 The Zhufo Jingjie Shezhenshi Jing, T18, no. 868, 284b.

60 The verse continues: “May those who see or hear of these efforts / generate Bodhi-mind, / spend their lives devoted to the Buddha Dharma, / and finally be reborn together in / the Land of Ultimate Bliss. / Homage to Amita Buddha!” Inside cover, Sutra of the Medicine Buddha, trans. Minh Thanh and P. D. Leigh, 2nd. ed. (Taipei: Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, 2001),

61 See Xing, Guang, “A Study of the Apocryphal Sūtra: Fumu Enzhong Jing ,” International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture 11 (2008): 105–46Google Scholar. “Difficulty” in the context of paying parents’ debt means that parents’ compassion and dedication to their children is so great that children can never pay back their debts by ordinary means of supporting and honoring them. That is why the Kataññu Sutta mentions four different ways to repay the debt to parents.

62 See Xing, Guang, “Popularization of Stories and Parables on Filial Piety in China,” Journal of Buddhist Studies 8 (2010): 129–37Google Scholar.

63 See Wenho, Hu, “A Re-study of the Stone Carving of Parental Love at Paoding, Dazu,” Journal of Chinese Buddhist Studies 15 (2002): 115–40Google Scholar [in Chinese].

64 See Xing, Guang, “Buddhist and Confucian Attitudes toward Life: A Comparative Study,” International Journal of Buddhist Thought and Culture 23 (2014): 748 Google Scholar.

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Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

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