Dear Dharma Masters,
I have recently finished a PhD in engineering and have been involved in a startup company to commercialize my research. Unfortunately, this is a medical product and requires animal testing to get approved. I will not be directly involved in these experiments but the thought of it still causes me stress. Right now, we are still in the early stages and have not started any animal work yet.
In addition, I don’t think I want to follow this path. I am more interested in Buddhism and would like to volunteer and eventually leave the home-life in a monastery. However, my main obstacle is my worry for my mother, particularly who will take care of her. My father passed away years ago and my siblings right now are not financially stable and my mother makes minimum wage. I feel as if she had pegged the hopes of the family on me.
What do you suggest I do? Should I drop everything and follow my heart? Or should I continue down my current path and hope conditions improve?
Amituofo and thanks for your time,
Good indeed! Good indeed!
You have very lofty aspirations for a person of your background and achievements. The Buddhists believe that when one’s son leaves the home life, nine generations ascend to the heavens. Better yet, I feel that it is far more important to help generate blessings to help them escape the Reincarnation Wheel by cultivating the Proper Dharma.
It is hard to provide good suggestions without more detail. However, we would like to point out a few major concerns for your consideration:
First, it is very important to take care of your mother. It is very hard to cultivate when in the back of your mind, you are still worried about her and feel guilty that you did not try to help when you could. Perhaps one compromise is to work and save enough to take care of her financial needs. For example, a financial planner could help you figure out how much of an annuity you could set up to take care of her. It is just like the Sixth Patriarch: he took care of his mother before he set out on his spiritual journey.
Equally important is to plan carefully for your spiritual journey. The ultimate goal of leaving the home life is to attain liberation so that you can then learn how to save your parents, family and all living beings. Just like earning your doctorate, you also need to choose a competent teacher and temple to maximize your chance of success. I was very lucky that I encountered Great Master Xuan Hua when I left the home life. Even more important was his guidance in cultivation: I would not trade it for anything else in the world. I later realized that I became his disciple and trained under him only because I had already planted countless blessings with his Dharma throughout many lifetimes. In brief, select a Dharma Master with a proven success rate and intensively plant your blessings with him so that you have enough blessings to accomplish his Dharma.
Finally, one excellent way to discharge your filial piety to your mother is to send her to the Pure Land where she will never know suffering ever again and where she will become a Buddha in one lifetime. You can find more information on the American approach to the Pure Land Dharma in our publication, “The Pure Land Handbook: A Mahayana Approach to Birth and Death”.
If you wish we will be glad to discuss with you in person after your plans become clearer.