How to Improve Your Relationship


Translated By Tara Lau

Last time I answered a lay follower’s question about why family and relatives have to endure resentments. 

He asked, “I feel helpless and hopeless that I have to endure these sufferings at home. How could I resolve these? “

I replied: “There is a lot of suffering going on in this world: suffering from birth, ageing, sickness and death. Fire, flooding and various natural disasters; suffering of separation and resentment; suffering of bullying, oppression, and war.  These many sufferings are inevitable but one must overcome and transcend them. In fact, it could further turn into a superior cause for the pursuit of awakening, known in Buddhism as an adhipatipratyaya. (note)

If you want to improve your relationship with your family, you must first reflect on yourself, and make changes. Do not blame your family and relatives. In life, it is inevitable that there will be conflicts and misunderstandings. We cannot be at peace if we only look for flaws in other people, finding faults and negatives in others. 

As the saying goes, “those who respect others will always be respected.” You must first respect yourself and your family members. Do not rake over the past, be tolerant and considerate. This is how you can live peacefully with your spouse and family. “A happy family is not built on material things. Regardless of being rich or poor, one must have the virtue of gratitude. Being grateful means we feel thankful for everything we have in life, even a grain of rice or a bowl of porridge, and be grateful for every minute that we can spend with our family. We often don’t cherish what we have. Only when we lose it do we start to appreciate how important they are.

As another saying goes, “Eliminate old karma as its consequence rises, and make no more new karma.”One must not hold resentment when we encounter unpleasant situations, we learn lessons from bad karma, review their own faux pas and stop repeating them. We embrace our ordeals with compassion. How do we practise compassion at home? Compassion means showing your love and understanding. It also means being supportive and caring for their well-being. 

Ekottarika Āgama sutra says: “All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, have great compassion and they use it to benefit all living beings.” There are incredible merits in practicing compassion. If everyone can treat each other with compassion, all sentient beings will find peace and happiness.”

The lay follower nodded in agreement: “I understand now Venerable. The suffering we have within a family is essentially the cause and effect of the three lives. Because of the resentment we held in the previous life, we come to live together again in this present life and feel the bitter consequences. If we continue to hold grudges and resentment, it will bring forward to the next life after death. It is a vicious cycle of cause and effect.

“You are right, so it is better to resolve conflicts with the enemies than to make enemies, otherwise the mutual resentment will become deeper and deeper!”

The lay follower looked enlightened. He smiled and asked, “Venerable, I find your words of wisdom very inspiring. May I bring my family here to meet with you and listen to your teachings?”

“Do you think they will be happy to do so?”

“For the good of my family, I am willing to let go of my pride and prejudices, and I will invite them to come here to listen to your words of wisdom. Venerable, just now you talked about how we should first change ourselves if we want to improve our relationship, right? 

The lay follower’s speech was very pleasant and genuine which gave me a blissful burst of joy in my heart.

Note: adhipatipratyaya refers to the indirect cause of the emergence or result of all conditioned phenomena.

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