After I requested my father’s permission to leave the home life, he gave me three options:
1. Continue to live as I am presently: go to college, get married and plan for raising a family or a career like ordinary people. I can go to the temple as often as I like because it’s my decision.
2. I can do as I please after my father passes away. Until then, I may not leave the home life.
3. If I insist on leaving the home life, then he will renounce me and will no longer consider me as his daughter. I can move away from home and do as I please [I’ll get evicted from under the family roof] and then he no longer wants to see me. He feels that he went through so much hardship to sponsor me to come here from Vietnam [3 years ago]. Once I got here, I did nothing to enjoy the better life and instead wanted to leave the home life: What is the point of coming to America? Now that our family is reunited here, I then decide to leave and break it up: he cannot accept such decision.
My father is very opinionated and will not listen to anyone once he’s convinced that he’s right. He feels that Buddhism is too abstract and that my using it to help him is ineffective and meaningless and that he does need not need my help in any fashion.
I still wish to leave the home life but my father’s position makes me very sad and afflicted. These past few days back home have been very unpleasant because I know that I am the reason for his unhappiness. My weakness is that I do not want to make others unhappy. I am trying to work on my weakness but have not been able to do much. For my entire life [ I am in my late twenties], I’ve always listened to his advice except for when I chose my fiancé [which was against his will as well as the family’s wishes].
May I look at you as my second father? If you agree then please never hesitate to point out my mistakes or teach me. I like criticism because it gives me opportunity to look at my flaws.
I am incapable of convincing my father [ The rest of my family is OK with my leaving the home life]. What should I do?
This is such a beautiful love story. You are so fortunate because your family is so fond and attached to you. Let me clarify the mindset behind his three choices:
1. Unlike your mother whom he derides for going to the temple, your father makes a special exemption for you. Perhaps, he feels that at least you should have the opportunity to experience spirituality before your future husband may decide to prevent you from doing so like he’s doing to your mother.
2. As long as he is alive, he wants you to be happy. I am sure that if you make wrong choices and become unhappy, he’ll be there to shoulder the burden until the day he dies. That makes me feel mushy, still.
3. They went through a lot of trouble to sponsor you here from Vietnam three years ago. And yet, now you want to break up the family by leaving the home life. In his eyes, you are a little home wrecker. How could you reject his love for you by severing the family ties? He’d rather make a preemptive strike in order to protect his own hurt feelings because you dare reject his unconditional love for you.
This is not unusual because it takes a while before the family attachments and ties can be effectively resolved. They can be. I’ll talk to you in person to make suggestions that I will not publish for obvious reasons of privacy and effective problem-resolution.
I decided to publish the remaining part because I often witness this type of problem.
It happens frequently with the Asian families.
Someday, I wish that the Asian parents in America will wake up and realize that in this new world, they are supposed to allow their children to explore and live their lives the way they see fit once they become of legal age.
Unfortunately, the Asian parents place so much emphasis and pride on the success of their children that they put undue pressure on them. That could have serious consequences that could be handed down to future generations and thus create a tradition of meddling and causing unhappiness to their children and descendants.
For example, I feel that the Asian Yale law professor who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is so misguided. The Asians’ tradition of getting pride from their children’s achievements should stay in Asia. I feel America’s culture is much better for the children’s development. I hope that the readers will not read “irresponsibility” in this. Rather, parents of all nationalities should encourage their children to explore and make mistakes. Making mistakes builds character and develops wisdom. Only experiencing success tends to make one dependent on continued success and become arrogant.
Going back to this father, I really like this man because he truly and deeply loves his daughter. Unfortunately, when you are like that, you lack clarity of mind.
As far as I am concerned, this father’s refusal to grant permission for her to leave the home life is because he cannot handle her rejection of his love. How could she even consider severing her emotional ties to him? At least, if she ever gets married, she is still his daughter. However, if she becomes a nun, there is no more father and daughter relationship as per his understanding of the Buddhist tradition. Leaving the home life is the ultimate act of filial piety.
To all the fathers of the world, I advise you all to learn a better way to love your children.
It is far better to allow your children to choose their own path and be there for them regardless, especially when they get in trouble. Even though let’s say you believe that your daughter is making a serious mistake, you still love and respect her so much that you are prepared to suffer with her mistakes. This is the greater love than only worrying about yourself getting hurt because you can’t stand watching her getting hurt.
That is what we call in Buddhism, selfish love. Most of the so-called “conditional love” that I often hear about is really just selfish love. It’s just fear of oneself not being able to bear it when one’s beloved children get hurt.
Greater love would have room to allow one to get hurt privately while shouldering the children’s pains. That’s right. Parents are supposed to get the double whammy when the children are hurt. That is part of better parenting.