Deadbeat parents

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Deadbeat parents

Postby disjointed » Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:46 pm

I have a friend whose deadbeat father has cancer.

The father and mother divorced as he was using the family to support him while he pursued drugs and socialized.
The father molested at least one of the children and through his drug abuse disturbed the family immensely and drove them into homelessness at least once from what I understand.

The father moved to another part of the US and then began claiming disability aid while simultaneously working a high paying profession of construction, painting, and drug dealing. During this time he maintained contact with the children he was still legally allowed to contact and filled their heads with, "I miss you so much, I love you" etc.

The father was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago and all but the molested child (my friend) has gone to comfort him with what they assumed was his drawn out death. The father it turns out was exaggerating his illness. He had made it appear that he did not have money by not paying his utility bills, so one of the children has been paying his bills. It turns out the father has a large sum of money and is guarding it because he prefers to spend it on drinking (or other drugs).

Now that his has been revealed to the children they are all very upset because he is once again using them.

I have advised my friend to continue to not accept calls or otherwise communicate with their father because the father is troublesome and speaking to him will only serve to harm my friend and their father by allowing them to express their selfish intentions.

I know that the Buddha spoke about caring for parents, but this extreme situation where it seems any involvement will just make matters worse and more complicated.

Is this a dismissal of the teachings for petty reasons or is this a valid exception to the instructions?
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby smcj » Mon Oct 07, 2013 6:36 am

This question is more appropriate for an Al-Anon website.

The Mahayana texts I've seen seem to suggest endless co-dependence and enabling. The teachers I've met that have commented on the subject have said otherwise.

One thing Dharma and Al-Anon agree on is letting go of resentments. Good will and forgiveness, even if enforcing boundaries is necessary, is encouraged. Sakyamuni let his wife and son down too.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Konchog1 » Mon Oct 07, 2013 6:58 am

Bodhisattvas are supposed to give whatever is asked unless it causes harm.

This would apply to giving aid.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Ayu » Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:39 am

In this case "giving aid" can be rather a support for the sickness (which is called "abusing the relatives").
Taking care for the fathers needs (although he has some savings) feeds his bad behaviour which harms himself and others. And the helpers can become co-adicts, which is like a serious adiction also.

(For to tell how serious: I know one woman, who is strongly co-adict: when her husband stopped drinking alcohol the partnership didn't function anymore. They devorced. Her new husband is alcoholic again....)
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby lobster » Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:41 am

Do we support abusive friends, teachers or parents by fulfilling their superficial emotional, monetary or abusive requirements?

You might if you are a saintly Boddhisattva with nothing better to offer.

In the real world we avoid toxicity in order to be more able to offer real help . . . which might be more practical . . . :smile:
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby undefineable » Mon Oct 07, 2013 2:42 pm

lobster wrote:Do we support abusive friends, teachers or parents by fulfilling their superficial emotional, monetary or abusive requirements?

You might if you are a saintly Boddhisattva with nothing better to offer.

In the real world we avoid toxicity in order to be more able to offer real help . . . which might be more practical
:jawdrop: - So the "Bodhisattva" fails to counteract the destructive effect of his/her "offering"?! And in the "real world" there are no co-dependent relationships?! :rolling:

The purported aim of Buddhism is to liberate beings from suffering, not to roast them alive in it. If it can only acheive the second of those goals these days, then it's clear that the dharma-ending age has already past.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby smcj » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:37 pm

Konchog1 wrote:Bodhisattvas are supposed to give whatever is asked unless it causes harm.

This would apply to giving aid.

As I said, this is what the texts seem to say. But it's not what the teachers I know have said.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Jikan » Mon Oct 07, 2013 10:30 pm

In the case disjointed describes, it seems to me that "giving aid" (giving any kind of material resources or worldly encouragement) to the deadbeat dad would cause harm rather than help. No one needs an enabler.

Could you describe some Mahayana texts that seem to encourage enabling and co-dependence? I've either not encountered this, or I've been led to a different interpretation.

smcj wrote:The Mahayana texts I've seen seem to suggest endless co-dependence and enabling. The teachers I've met that have commented on the subject have said otherwise.

One thing Dharma and Al-Anon agree on is letting go of resentments. Good will and forgiveness, even if enforcing boundaries is necessary, is encouraged. Sakyamuni let his wife and son down too.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby smcj » Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:13 pm

Could you describe some Mahayana texts that seem to encourage enabling and co-dependence? I've either not encountered this, or I've been led to a different interpretation.


Shatideva's "A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life". Shantideva counsels giving without limit, and setting healthy non-enabling boundaries is definitely setting limits.

Enabling and co-dependence are contemporary terms that are part of the lexicon of recovery. Obviously there would be no references to that in ancient texts. But like I said, the living teachers I've met have amended the texts to say that doing so is not healthy.

Another example of teacher vs. text is in the realm of merit. Recently I saw a westerner at a Dharma center answer a question from the audience from a social worker asking about how to help people get off of welfare. The westerner gave the answer from the texts, which is you need merit in order to have wealth, merit comes from generosity, and so they should be generous. That is supported by texts. But the teachers I've met have said that work is also merit. So he should have said that they should make good karma (merit) by working. It's kind of obvious really, but not clear if you're just reading texts.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Alfredo » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:07 am

This is one of those situations where Buddhism is not the answer to everything.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby asunthatneversets » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:52 am

My teacher has said sometimes compassion must be expressed in the form of 'tough love', meaning that if the circumstances call for it, the best course of action may not appear to be (what we would conventionally consider to be) compassionate. If we simply give aid to someone and allow their abusive behavior or habits to continue, then this isn't being compassionate, because all we are doing is enabling them. Compassion doesn't mean rolling over and letting people get away with murder, or becoming a doormat and letting people walk all over us (or others). It's important to find a strong balance and be able to give peaceful and wrathful compassion in accordance with whatever circumstances we are faced with.

In my opinion; 'giving without limit' means precisely that. Being able to adapt and give the proper aid the situation calls for. Not limiting ourselves to associating compassionate activity with being a 'nice person' who simply enables people to do whatever they want, that's being stupid, not compassionate.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Kim O'Hara » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:58 am

asunthatneversets wrote:My teacher has said sometimes compassion must be expressed in the form of 'tough love', meaning that if the circumstances call for it, the best course of action may not appear to be (what we would conventionally consider to be) compassionate. If we simply give aid to someone and allow their abusive behavior or habits to continue, then this isn't being compassionate, because all we are doing is enabling them. Compassion doesn't mean rolling over and letting people get away with murder, or becoming a doormat and letting people walk all over us (or others). It's important to find a strong balance and be able to give peaceful and wrathful compassion in accordance with whatever circumstances we are faced with.

In my opinion; 'giving without limit' means precisely that. Being able to adapt and give the proper aid the situation calls for. Not limiting ourselves to associating compassionate activity with being a 'nice person' who simply enables people to do whatever they want, that's being stupid, not compassionate.

:good:
"being a 'nice person' who simply enables people to do whatever they want, that's being stupid, not compassionate."
I've heard it called "idiot compassion", a good memorable phrase for it.

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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Jikan » Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:04 pm

Alfredo wrote:This is one of those situations where Buddhism is not the answer to everything.


Would you like to elaborate on this? Specifically: what shortcomings in Buddhism have you identified, and how do they pertain to this thread?
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby uan » Mon Oct 21, 2013 3:25 pm

Alfredo wrote:This is one of those situations where Buddhism is not the answer to everything.


This is more like another in an infinitely number of situations where an Internet forum is not the answer to everything.

Or inversely, another situation on the Internet where 6 or 7 people is seen to represent the combined knowledge and experience and wisdom of a school of thought that is over 2000 years old with hundreds of millions of adherents and they come up lacking.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby invisiblediamond » Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:39 pm

Buddhas and bodhisattvas are wise which means not stupid. Helping a doper get dope is obviously stupid. But if the doper needed dope to avoid death, then you help get dope. This is how wisdom works.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby undefineable » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:02 pm

invisiblediamond wrote:Helping a doper get dope is obviously stupid. But if the doper needed dope to avoid death, then you help get dope.
Unless you're enlightened and you perceive that immediate death would be the most beneficial outcome :thinking:
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby invisiblediamond » Mon Oct 21, 2013 11:59 pm

undefineable wrote:
invisiblediamond wrote:Helping a doper get dope is obviously stupid. But if the doper needed dope to avoid death, then you help get dope.
Unless you're enlightened and you perceive that immediate death would be the most beneficial outcome :thinking:


Some dopers will die if they stop suddenly. So they need help to taper off.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby Will » Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:41 pm

Was disjointed asked for advice or did he volunteer it? The karmic family web of any family is tangled enough as is.

If he was asked, he gave his best advice on the problem. Getting input from we strangers at Dharma Wheel may help disjointed, but I doubt the father will be.
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby avisitor » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:07 pm

What one gives ... should be from the heart.
Holding out for a better parent won't come.
There are lessons to be learned but if one isn't ready for them
then, giving aid, whether monetary or emotional or physical is pointless

I believe the idea is to understand ones actions while living in this world
If they don't make sense then why do it??
Buddhism is all about doing what makes sense to you at the time you are doing it.
Why else would a person work on a Koan that has no sensible answer to it?
"What is the sound of one hand clap?" or "MU?"
Things don't make sense until they suddenly do ... :shrug:

Caring for a parent??
Just do what makes sense to you ...
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Re: Deadbeat parents

Postby theanarchist » Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:53 pm

disjointed wrote: I know that the Buddha spoke about caring for parents, but this extreme situation where it seems any involvement will just make matters worse and more complicated.

Is this a dismissal of the teachings for petty reasons or is this a valid exception to the instructions?


Caring for someone does not mean allowing the person to use you as a door mat. You don't do the person a favour if you support such behaviours by tolerating and allowing them as he accumulates more negative karma by successfully doing so.

Sometimes a strict "no" is more compassionate than being endlessly lenient with destructive behaviours.
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