The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)
When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!
Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to children:
‘These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me,’ with such thoughts a fool is tormented. He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth? (Dhammapada 62)
‘Here I shall dwell in the rain, here in winter and summer,’ thus the fool meditates, and does not think of his death. Death comes and carries off that man, praised for his children and flocks, his mind distracted, as a flood carries off a sleeping village. Sons are no help, nor a father, nor relations; there is no help from kinsfolk for one whom death has seized. A wise and good man who knows the meaning of this, should quickly clear the way that leads to Nirvana. (Dhammapada 286-289)
The Buddha cautions that children are not property, and thinking of them as such is folly. A wise person considers the temporal nature of life, and does not think that a family or possessions in any way can prevent or stave off death.
Consider these proverbs of Solomon:
Parent’s Righteous Life
Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. (Proverbs 14:26, NIV)
The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them. (Proverbs 20:7, NIV)
Wisdom and Righteousness
Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways [wisdom’s ways]. (Proverbs 8:32, NIV)
A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. (Proverbs 15:20, NIV)
The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. (Proverbs 23:24, NIV)
A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him. (Proverbs 17:25, NIV)
Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright? (Proverbs 20:11, NIV)
A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father. (Proverbs 28:7, NIV)
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24, NIV)
Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. (Proverbs 19:18, NIV)
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)
Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. (Proverbs 29:17, NIV)
Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Proverbs 17:6, NIV)
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22, NIV)
I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. (Ecclesiastes 5:13-15, NIV)
Solomon teaches that the righteous life of a parent is a blessing for their child, and that wise and righteous children are a blessing to their parents. Implicit in these Scriptures are an admonishment to teach our children to be wise and lead righteous lives. Training our children is first done by setting a good example, and then by actively teaching them how to seek out wisdom and make good decisions. Solomon knew first hand that children are a blessing from God, and he encourages us to leave a spiritual as well as material inheritance for our children.
The Buddha’s teachings on children center on whether they are viewed as property, or as some sort of ability to stave off death. Buddha abandoned his family on his quest for wisdom, which may inform his teaching and lack of teaching about children. Solomon’s teachings center on children as a blessing from God, and owning the importance of being a good example and teacher to them.