If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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pilgrim
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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by pilgrim » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:25 pm

Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:18 pm
pilgrim wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:11 pm
Suffering exists in every life in samsara. Being born as a human is extremely rare and of immense benefit. Only a human can attain to an Ariya. Just consider how much more precious is attaining a birth as a human to a parent who is practising the Dhamma. Denying a being that opportunity when you could give it cannot be a skillful act.
Dear Pilgrim, I agree with everything except the last sentence. I hope you are not saying that it's unskilful not to procreate children if one is a Buddhist. Otherwise, I would be in trouble... :smile:
Yes, you are right. Perhaps I should word it the other way - Having children cannot be an unskillful act. :D
Indeed among all the people in the world being born with ready access to the Dhamma is probably the most deserving human birth.

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DooDoot
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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by DooDoot » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:28 pm

Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:03 pm
But you can say that life is unsatisfactory (for us putthujanas).
I have read in the suttas (SN 22.59) the five aggregates rather than "life" are said to be unsatisfactory. For example, MN 29 & MN 30 say the Holy Life is Liberation:
But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood and its culmination. MN 29
:candle:
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:03 pm
Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkha - all conditioned things are dukkha, dukkha having three levels
In the suttas, 'sabbe saṅkhārā dukkha' is found together with the phrase: "Sabbe anicca dukkha". I have not read "anicca" has three levels. In SN 22.59, it appears to be said that because something is anicca (imperament) it cannot bring happiness therefore it is dukkha (unsatisfactory). SN 22.59 does not appear to refer to three levels of dukkha.
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:03 pm
(1) dukkha-dukkhata: ordinary suffering and pain;
Where do the suttas say this means "ordinary" suffering? Some suttas, such as SN 36.6, distinguish between suffering over pain & not suffering over pain, which is probably what the meaning of dukkha-dukkhata is.

An untaught worldling, O monks, experiences pleasant feelings, he experiences painful feelings and he experiences neutral feelings. A well-taught noble disciple likewise experiences pleasant, painful and neutral feelings. Now what is the distinction, the diversity, the difference that exists herein between a well-taught noble disciple and an untaught worldling?

SN 36.6
:alien:
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:03 pm
(2) viparinama-dukkhata: suffering due to change, meaning that even pleasant experience are dukkha because they are bound to pass away

The suttas appear to not support your personal ideas above. For example, SN 22.1 states:
And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his form changes (vipariṇamati) & alters (aññathā), but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change (vi­pari­ṇāma) & alteration.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
:alien:
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:03 pm
saṅkhāra-dukkhata: basic unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction of all conditioned formations.
This interpretation sounds repetitive, redundant & probably requires more reflection.
Last edited by DooDoot on Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:52 pm, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by PuerAzaelis » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:30 pm

Life is 100% suffering, all the time.

Even if I existed in a totally blissed-out state, for my whole life, I would be suffering.

Since every single thing in the world is a sand castle, and the tide is coming in, life is 100% suffering, all the time.

Even if we knew for certain that our sand castle would never be destroyed, simply by willing it to be, by simply having volition with respect to it, I would be suffering.
Generally, enjoyment of speech is the gateway to poor [results]. So it becomes the foundation for generating all negative emotional states. Jampel Pawo, The Certainty of the Diamond Mind

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by Stiphan » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:28 pm
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:03 pm
Yes, that is better put. But you can say that life is unsatisfactory (for us putthujanas). Sabbe saṅkhārā dukkha - all conditioned things are dukkha, dukkha having three levels: (1) dukkha-dukkhata: ordinary suffering and pain; (2) viparinama-dukkhata: suffering due to change, meaning that even pleasant experience are dukkha because they are bound to pass away, and (3) saṅkhāra-dukkhata: basic unsatisfactoriness or dissatisfaction of all conditioned formations.
The suttas appear to not support your personal ideas above. For example, SN 22.1 states:
And how is one afflicted in body but unafflicted in mind? There is the case where a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — does not assume form to be the self, or the self as possessing form, or form as in the self, or the self as in form. He is not seized with the idea that 'I am form' or 'Form is mine.' As he is not seized with these ideas, his form changes (vipariṇamati) & alters (aññathā), but he does not fall into sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, or despair over its change (vi­pari­ṇāma) & alteration.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
Thanks. Could you point where the contradiction is: which ideas of mine contradict the suttas? The sutta you quoted is with regards highly attained Buddhist practitioners, not the vast majority of human or other beings. That is, only a minority of people can be at peace and not suffer over the change and alteration of their bodies or minds, or the loss of well-being or possessions. What the second type of dukkha means is that even pleasant experiences - even in the midst of experiencing them - are already dukkha, according to Bhikkhu Bodhi, because they will surely pass away. Is he talking about the ordinary person only, or can it apply to the type of person you are quoting, I don't know. Are these experiences still dukkha and you, because you are a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones (perhaps a stream-enterer and above?) are simply at peace with that change, or do these saṅkhāras stop being intrinsically dukkha? I'd be interested to hear your view.

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by SarathW » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:53 pm

I would argue that a Buddhist having a child is more ethical than not.
Even be borne as any human is ethical as far as we do not teach to become suicide bombers teach them to fight unwanted wars.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by DooDoot » Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:59 pm

Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm
Thanks. Could you point where the contradiction is: which ideas of mine contradict the suttas?
I already pointed it out. SN 22.1 says a person can suffer about change or, alternately, not suffer about change. Therefore, the idea that change always causes suffering is contrary to the suttas.
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm
The sutta you quoted is with regards highly attained Buddhist practitioners, not the vast majority of human or other beings.
The sutta was spoken to an old man who was a puthujjana. The sutta shows your interpretation was contrary to the suttas. Why don't you thoroughly read SN 22.1.
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm
That is, only a minority of people can be at peace and not suffer over the change and alteration of their bodies or minds, or the loss of well-being or possessions.
This is irrelevant to the explanation given in SN 22.1.
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm
What the second type of dukkha means is that even pleasant experiences - even in the midst of experiencing them - are already dukkha, according to Bhikkhu Bodhi,
Imo, Bhikkhu Bodhi is definitely wrong here (and also the commentary he probably relies on).
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm
because they will surely pass away. Is he talking about the ordinary person only, or can it apply to the type of person you are quoting,
This is irrelevant because the Dhamma in SN 45.165 was obviously not spoken for ordinary people.
Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:49 pm
I'd be interested to hear your view.
I provided my view, namely, SN 22.1 does not support Bhikkhu Bodhi's view about SN 45.165. SN 22.1 applies viparinama to each of the five aggregates and not only to feelings.

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by Stiphan » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:19 pm

Dear Doo Doot, so does this mean that the second type of suffering (vipariṇāma-dukkha, suffering due to change), which I believe is a canonical teaching, is invalid and it is not actually dukkha simply because some people do not suffer due to change? And that we should instead have only two types of suffering: dukkha-dukkha, and saṅkhāra-dukkha?

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by DooDoot » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:35 pm

Stiphan wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:19 pm
Dear Doo Doot, so does this mean that the second type of suffering (vipariṇāma-dukkha, suffering due to change), which I believe is a canonical teaching, is invalid and it is not actually dukkha simply because some people do not suffer due to change?
No; I think not. Vipariṇāma-dukkha is referring suffering about change. However, it is not saying all change produces suffering, such as in DN 16:
Then, when the Blessed One had passed away, some bhikkhus, not yet freed from passion, lifted up their arms and wept; and some, flinging themselves on the ground, rolled from side to side and wept, lamenting: "Too soon has the Blessed One come to his Parinibbana! Too soon has the Happy One come to his Parinibbana! Too soon has the Eye of the World vanished from sight!"

But the bhikkhus who were freed from passion, mindful and clearly comprehending, reflected in this way: "Impermanent are all compounded things. How could this be otherwise?"

And the Venerable Anuruddha addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Enough, friends! Do not grieve, do not lament! For has not the Blessed One declared that with all that is dear and beloved there must be change, separation, and severance? Of that which is born, come into being, compounded and subject to decay, how can one say: 'May it not come to dissolution!'?

DN 16

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by Stiphan » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:48 pm

Well, isn't it a type of suffering then?

I agree that some people do not suffer when things change for the worse, but the suffering due to change does exist, and most people, when they lose their happiness, health, youth, loved ones, or cherished possessions - they suffer.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html
"Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering.[1] What three? Suffering caused by pain,[2] suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),[3] suffering due to change.[4] It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated..."

4. Viparinaama-dukkhataa, the suffering associated with pleasant bodily and mental feelings: "because they are the cause for the arising of pain when they change" (VM XIV, 35).
So it's a type of suffering. I don't know why you don't agree with that, my friend. Just because some are able to deal with it, doesn't mean it's not a type of suffering.

By the way, we are taking this thread off topic - it's supposed to be about the merits of having children.

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by Stiphan » Sat Dec 09, 2017 12:38 am

Being a parent is a great responsibility. You are basically heavily responsible for the life of the child you are bringing up and how they turn up to be as human beings. That means that first of all you have to have developed yourself well enough before thinking of having kids - otherwise how are you going to help them develop themselves? The OP asks whether it would be unethical to give birth to children in a world of suffering. I think it would be unethical to give birth to children if you are not a well-developed person in terms of wisdom, compassion and virtue because then you would be very much contributing to a poor upbringing of your child and that would lead to great suffering and harm to him or her.

But to answer the OP, it's not unethical to give birth to a child because they already exist anyway - it's just that they are towards the end of their lifespan and seeking birth - if you don't give them birth, someone else will because they are bound to get reborn since they are not enlightened. It would only be unethical if you can't properly care for them or bring them up - and that depends on your moral standard.

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by Dhammanando » Sat Dec 09, 2017 3:44 am

pilgrim wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 10:25 pm
Yes, you are right. Perhaps I should word it the other way - Having children cannot be an unskillful act. :D
It could be if the parents happen to have no sense of irony and are inspired to procreate after reading Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal:
"A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Modest_Proposal
:stirthepot:

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by Digity » Mon Jan 01, 2018 6:46 pm

Do you think all the people in third world countries having kids is unethical? They tend to have a lot of kids too. If you live in an affluent society then you can bring up a child with a decent lifestyle, but if you live in poverty stricken Ethiopia and decide to have kids...is that wrong?

I personally don't want to have kids. I never felt I could handle such a big responsibility. Also, the thought of having kids just never interested me much. I've always seen having kids as a lifestyle choice, rather than a moral decision. I think the moral issue comes into play when you know that you're bringing the child into the world in a less than ideal scenario. Like living in a poverty stricken country, not being mentally/emotionally ready to raise a child, etc.

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Re: If life is suffering, then wouldn't it be unethical to have children?

Post by manas » Mon Jan 01, 2018 9:58 pm

mddrill wrote:
Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:36 am
Wouldn't that be bringing a child into an existence which is suffering?
In case it's not been pointed out already, the Buddha didn't phrase it like that. He didn't say 'life is suffering', he said, 'there is (this noble truth of) suffering'. He then lists all the stressful things beings can experience. Do we want these things? No. What can we do about it? Develop the Noble Eight-fold Path to completion. Then, no more suffering.

It can take a while to grasp the subtlety, but there is a difference between these two statements, 'life is suffering', and 'there is (this noble truth of) suffering'. They are not the same.

In goodwill :anjali:

NB: 'suffering' as a term, does not fully express what is meant by the Pali term, 'dukkha', which (as I understand it) encapsulates not just obvious, gut-wrenching instances of pain or distress, but also milder experiences such as irritation, dissatisfaction, or even just disturbance (lack of peace).

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