Unit Seven: Family and Society

buddhist studies for secondary students

Responsibilities within the Society

Within the social unit of the family, members need to fulfil their reciprocal responsibilities if they want harmony and happiness for all. Similarly, in the society as a whole, all members of the community need to fulfil their responsibilities so that everyone will be able to live in security and happiness.

(a) Between Teacher and Pupil

The teacher-pupil relationship is important in society because of the knowledge, moral values and wisdom that a teacher can impart to his pupil in order to help him develop his potential to the fullest. Thus a pupil should show respect and gratitude to his teacher by:

(i) rising from his seat to greet his teacher; (ii) attending to his needs to make him comfortable; (iii) being eager to learn from him; (iv) giving him special services beyond his basic needs; (v) listening attentively when he is teaching.

The teacher in turn should show his affection and concern for the well-being of his pupil by:

(i) being an example of correct behaviour; (ii) seeing that he masters the knowledge and skills taught; (iii) using effective methods of teaching; (iv) introducing his pupil to his own friends and associates; (v) caring for his welfare and safety.

(b) Between Friends

Everyone desires to have friends, The test of true friendship lies in the genuine concern, sympathy and understanding shown by one person towards another at all times and in all circumstances. A person extends his friendship by:

(i) being generous; (ii) being courteous; (iii) being helpful; (iv) treating the other person well; (v) being sincere.

There are certain obligations one fulfils towards one’s friends, A person reciprocates true friendship by:
(i) protecting the other party when he is careless; (ii) protecting his property when he is neglectful; (iii) offering him refuge when he is in danger; (iv) not deserting him when he is in trouble; (v) respecting other members of his family.

(c) Between Employer and Employee

The success of any business depends on a good relationship between the employer and his employees. If the relationship between them is strained because of a lack of concern and understanding on either side, or both, they cannot do their best. With this in mind, the employer must look after his staff by:

(i) assigning them work according to their capabilities;
(ii) giving them fair salaries;
(iii) providing them with medical care;
(iv) letting them enjoy special benefits such as bonuses and allowances;
(v) giving them leave at the proper time for vacation or even leave to attend to urgent family matters.

In appreciation of their employer’s concern for them, the employees should reciprocate by:

(i) being punctual and showing initiative in performing their work;
(ii) seeing their work through to its completion;
(iii) being honest;
(iv) doing their work well;
(v) maintaining the good reputation of the employer.

(d) Between Religious Teacher and Disciple

A religious teacher plays an important role in guiding his disciples along the path to ultimate happiness. He should therefore be honoured by:

(i) deeds, words and thoughts that express their affection and regard;
(ii) being welcomed in his disciples’ homes; (iii) being provided with his material needs.

The religious teacher, treated with such affection and regard by his disciples, should show his compassion for them by:
(i) correcting them when they behave badly; (ii) encouraging them to do good; (iii) being affectionate towards them;
(iv) teaching them the Truth; (v) showing them the way to happiness in the future.

After listening to the teaching Sigala promised the Buddha and said, “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. May the Perfected One receive me as one who has taken The Refuge from this day to the end of my life.”

Although the Buddha gave this discourse to Sigala about 2,500 years ago, it is still relevant to the society of today. In pointing out how people should behave, the Buddha has provided His lay followers with guidelines that promote respect and responsibility among members of the society. If these guidelines are sincerely followed, they will result in a society in which all can enjoy harmony, security and prosperity.