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Unit 7: Family and Society

   Responsibilities Within the Family
   Responsibilities Within the Society

The Buddha delivered many discourses on the life of lay followers. In one of these discourses, which is called the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha talked about the roles and responsibilities of members within the family and within the society. He defined the ideal relationships that the lay follower should develop with respect to his family and the society at large. These relationships are based on the acceptance of reciprocal responsibilities between people.

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The Jataka Tales
> The Buddha & his Disciples

Honouring the Six Directions

One day, according to the Sigalovada Sutta, the Buddha saw Sigala bowing to the six directions, that is, east, south, west, north, above and below, immediately after his morning bath. Sigala had promised at his father's deathbed to observe this ritual faithfully. It was then believed that when people practised this ritual, they were honouring the gods residing in the six directions. As a result, these gods would be pleased and would bestow good luck, happiness and prosperity on them.

The Buddha, however, explained to Sigala the meaning of paying respect to the six directions. He said that the east represents the parent; the south, teacher; the west, spouse; the north, friends; above, religious teacher; and below, employee. The six directions represent the six types of human relationships, namely those between parent and child, teacher and pupil, husband and wife, friends, religious teacher and disciple, as well as employer and employee. Thus honouring the six directions means fulfilling one's reciprocal responsibilities in each of these relationships. As every person assumes several roles in life whether as a parent, a child, a friend or employer, he has to be aware of and fulfil his responsibilities in each of these roles.


The Buddha explained to Sigala that honouring the six directions really means fulfilling one's reciprocal responsibilities in six social relationships. The six types of human relationships are those between parents and children, husband and wife, teacher and pupil, friends, employer and employee, and religious teacher and his disciples. Through fulfilling one's responsibilities, one can achieve harmony, security and prosperity both within the family and in the society as a whole.

Secondary Level Unit 7: Family and Society
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Activity Box

Sigalovada in Pictures: An Illustrated version of the Sigalovada Sutta (eBook Library)
Buddhist History & Culture: Buddhist Timelines, Scriptures, Women, Countries, Deities, Culture, Statistics.
The Meditation Class: Instructions in Insight and Loving-kindness meditation - showing techniques in sitting and walking.
eBook Library: Nine Maha (Great) Buddhist Crossword Puzzles.
The Book of Projection: A selection of the texts.

Let's Continue! Work Unit 8

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