“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” An article in the diocesan bulletin by a seminary professor, begins with these words from the play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. The female heroine mentions how those who were family, were the ones who made life difficult. She had great trust in those close to her, but they gave her the biggest sorrow. The family should have been helpful but instead caused pain.
In the beginning of Hinayana Buddhism, it was understood that you had to leave family to enter Nirvana. Confucianism was against this way of thinking, and declared that persons grew in the family.
Confucianism considered the desire to achieve enlightenment by leaving the family and working to free oneself from every attachment, only attaches you more. The professor mentions the way society is influencing families in the direction of individualism that makes the family an obstacle to personal growth: similar to the thinking of the early Buddhist adherents of Hinayana Buddhism.
A Confucian scholar Huang, who was attracted to both Taoism and Buddhism became a serious believer and began his period of training in efforts to transcend this world in which he lived. One day after many years of study and discipline, he came out of his cave and sitting in meditation saw a relative coming towards him, and told his servant to prepare something. He realized that after many years of discipline, he was no way nearer to transcending this world and stopped his efforts to do so. The bond of affection he had with family members could not be broken with artificial means.
He returned to Seoul, and meeting a monk who was meditating complained: What are you doing all day in that position? What are your eyes glaring at?" The monk stopped meditating, and began talking. The Confucian scholar asked about the monk's family, and was told he had a mother living alone. "Are you able to forget your mother? "Huang asked. "No, I can't forget my mother," and started to cry. "Love for our parents is from our nature as humans," replied Huang. And he tried to convince the priest to go home and take care of his mother.
In the conversation with the monk, Huang realized what he said was our earthly reality. We may work to transcend this world, but we will never succeed in overcoming the affection that is there between parents and children. This is not a fetter that we need to break but a means of maturing, and the basis for our humanity. The meeting of a man and women to start a family is the plan of God in forming society.
Many of the groups in society can be changed, and even when they break down one can start again, but the family is different; this is a natural grouping that has come from the hands of God. A person's individual freedom and happiness are not the first things that should come to mind. In developing the family community we grow in maturity, and freedom and happiness will be a by-product of our efforts, and help to build the human family.