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[DhammaStudyGroup] Re: Helping elderly parents

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  • amara chay
    Hi everyone, I think this is a very profound and complex problem which does concern everybody, since we were all born by someone into being as we are now. It
    Message 1 of 9 , Feb 2, 2000
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      Hi everyone,

      I think this is a very profound and complex problem which does concern
      everybody, since we were all born by someone into being as we are now. It
      seems that no one can appreciate their parents enough, because somehow the
      instinct is for love or protection or whatever is to descend from
      generatiion to generation: most animals are extemely conscientious of their
      young, they can kill great preys to feed these helpless things they have to
      avoid stepping to keep alive, with tremendous needs to be fed and kept warm
      and clean. In Thailand there is a saying that a parent's love is like water
      that always flows downhill, from the grandparents to the parents, from the
      parents to the children, and from them to the grandchildren, etc. The
      instinct of the parents is always to protect the young, in nature as well as
      in human behavior, the older people in some cultures are expected to remove
      themselves from the struggle of life, like the Eskimos in the old days. It
      is because the Buddha teaches us that one's parents are like an arahanta to
      us that we can fully appreciate the efforts our parents put up in giving us
      birth and keeping us alive until we could more or less fend for ourselves,
      especially for those like myself who have never had any children.
      And I think most children expect everything from their parents, first as
      their due and later in signs of approval or understanding. Sometimes what
      we expect might not be so reasonable, at least to them. Or it might be
      beyond their comprehension. Perhaps what we need to do is to imitate them
      in some respects, when we were young, they probably had similar problems but
      they cared for us anyway, whether anyone appreciates it or not.
      There are no longer any arahanta nowadays and I think it is fortunate for
      those of us who still have our parents to be able to accumulate kusala by
      doing all we can for them the way one would like to do for an arahanta,
      there are only rare occasions for karuna in daily life. And once one does
      what one can in a given situation, there would not be a question of failure
      because it also depends on our parents' kamma how the results will turn out.
      Some professionals are paid to take care of the elderly and infirm, but are
      not the compensations infinitely higher when one can do good deed to the
      arahanta, whether one knows it or not, or even less importantly, whether
      others appreciate it or not? It sounds a bit selfish, but it is true, and
      also good for your parents because how can anyone really care about them as
      much as you do, even if they are well paid to do it?
      The best one could do is of course to help them understand the dhamma, but
      as it depends on their accumulations, sometimes that is impossible; my own
      mother began to study with K. Sujin before I did, but my father, who passed
      away nearly ten years ago, never had a dhamma discussion with us, when he
      read an article I wrote about thirty years ago, he made editorial notes on
      the margins! (He was a King's scholar and the first Thai to obtain a
      master's degree at MIT) He held over twenty possitions, was head of the
      charity committee for the blind and several academic boards when he passed
      away, but thought he knew all the dhamma already from the rote recitals in
      his school days. Maybe wherever he is now he can better appreciate the
      dhamma, but for us, the time is now, and as the dhamma of the good side help
      each other, caring for our parents seem one of the best ways to accumulate
      the right conditions, by doing the best we can and leaving the rest to the
      individual kamma accumulations. I think that is what I will try to do, at
      least.
      Amara

      >From: "Sarah Procter Abbott" <sarahhk@...>

      >We just rec'd a ltter from Gabi Hense (who is enjoying receiving these
      >postings via her brother but doesn't have a computer as yet). The last few
      >years have been devoted to trying to help her mother who now has alzheimers
      >disease (age memory loss) and is in a home. Gabi visits regularly and
      >rocks
      >her like a child. The experience has been very demanding and it has all
      >been
      >a very tough experience for Gabi....
      >
      >I think Pinna (also on the list) is also facing dilemmas concerning her
      >mother in the States too.
      >
      >It's hard when one is used to living overseas and through one's
      >understanding of the Teachings is aware of responsibilities which one isn't
      >necessarily stronger to handle than anyone else. Somehow it seems easier in
      >terms of support from others around in parts of Asia like Thailand where
      >this duty is expected and appreciated. But that sounds like a
      >generalisation and not very 'dhammic'! Of course there is a lot of
      >attachment involved as well and disappointment if one's 'good' efforts are
      >not appreciated...
      >
      >I, too, had a lot of dilemmas and difficulties in this regard when my
      >parents were having a lot of marital problems and when my father became
      >alcoholic. I still have a feeling (or rather thoughts) of conventional
      >failure in this regard. Sometimes we try to do more than we're really up to
      >and not realistic about our limits. But what are these limits? What is
      >failure?
      >
      >I'm not sure what the question is, but feel any comments would be useful
      >for
      >those of us who have faced or are facing these 'dilemmas'...is it the
      >attachment that seems to make them different from other dilemmas?

      ______________________________________________________
    • Sarah Procter Abbott
      We just rec d a ltter from Gabi Hense (who is enjoying receiving these postings via her brother but doesn t have a computer as yet). The last few years have
      Message 2 of 9 , Feb 2, 2000
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        We just rec'd a ltter from Gabi Hense (who is enjoying receiving these
        postings via her brother but doesn't have a computer as yet). The last few
        years have been devoted to trying to help her mother who now has alzheimers
        disease (age memory loss) and is in a home. Gabi visits regularly and rocks
        her like a child. The experience has been very demanding and it has all been
        a very tough experience for Gabi....

        I think Pinna (also on the list) is also facing dilemmas concerning her
        mother in the States too.

        It's hard when one is used to living overseas and through one's
        understanding of the Teachings is aware of responsibilities which one isn't
        necessarily stronger to handle than anyone else. Somehow it seems easier in
        terms of support from others around in parts of Asia like Thailand where
        this duty is expected and appreciated. But that sounds like a
        generalisation and not very 'dhammic'! Of course there is a lot of
        attachment involved as well and disappointment if one's 'good' efforts are
        not appreciated...

        I, too, had a lot of dilemmas and difficulties in this regard when my
        parents were having a lot of marital problems and when my father became
        alcoholic. I still have a feeling (or rather thoughts) of conventional
        failure in this regard. Sometimes we try to do more than we're really up to
        and not realistic about our limits. But what are these limits? What is
        failure?

        I'm not sure what the question is, but feel any comments would be useful for
        those of us who have faced or are facing these 'dilemmas'...is it the
        attachment that seems to make them different from other dilemmas? How about
        a comment from EVERYONE on the list on this one?

        metta, Sarah

        Gabi & Pinna- hope you don't mind the mention..
        Gabi...hope you get a computer or internet provider VERY SOON! Do they have
        internet cafes in yr town? S.



        ______________________________________________________
      • Ivan Walsh
        ... Our limit is the maximum drive we are capable of to fulfill our lobha. And failure is dosa, due to unfulfilled lobha. Trying to do more than we’re
        Message 3 of 9 , Feb 3, 2000
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          >I, too, had a lot of dilemmas and difficulties in this regard when my
          >parents were having a lot of marital problems and when my father became
          >alcoholic. I still have a feeling (or rather thoughts) of conventional
          >failure in this regard. Sometimes we try to do more than >we're>really up
          >to and not realistic about our limits. But what are these >limits? What is
          >failure?
          >metta, Sarah

          Our limit is the maximum drive we are capable of to fulfill our lobha. And
          failure is dosa, due to unfulfilled lobha.
          Trying to do more than we�re really up to and not being realistic about our
          limits is due to excessive lobha. A very common state of mind, as are
          thoughts of failure of regret.
          Our limits and our successes and failures are just thinking (a story), due
          to the rising and falling away of cita/cetasika. Every moment has its
          characteristic that can be known and the story that they are creating
          distracts from knowing the moment for what it is. If the moments of dosa or
          lobha etc. do not arise, then how can there be contemplation and eventual
          understanding of their characteristics? The stories that cita/cetasiaka
          create can be confusing, the characteristics of each moment are not. Is the
          answer found in manipulating the story to make it different from what it is
          or understand the moments ( kusala or akusala) that create the story?
          Ivan
          ______________________________________________________
        • Indorf,Pinna Lee
          As Amara said, it is a complex problem. One side of the issue is duty and duty seems clear. But how duty is carried out is also not clear. The other side is
          Message 4 of 9 , Feb 3, 2000
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            As Amara said, it is a complex problem. One side of the issue is duty and
            duty seems clear. But how duty is carried out is also not clear. The other
            side is allowing someone to keep their independence and do things for
            themselves (as my mother still wants to); allow them to make their own
            decisions as long as they can. I have observed in my family (extended as
            well as immediate) decisions about health care left to the patient and it is
            not easy to judge when someone knows best for themselves; it is also not
            always easy to see the critical turning point in a person's ability to take
            care of herself / her own health (life-threatening crises are of course
            clear). Is it a duty to impose a change of lifestyle or a different approach
            to health? Other aspects are unfortunately mundane financial issues, also
            complex: the USA does not have a universal social welfare system, neither
            my mother nor I can be fully 'covered' (me not at all) and private insurance
            is out of the question. Either one of us could fall ill and wipe out both
            our life-savings in a few months. While I'm working here, I'm 'covered' to
            some extent and will not be such a potential burden on my mother's
            resources. There are home-care services available in her area, but only if a
            doctor recommends them can they be initiated. My mother is still 'too
            healthy' for those, but suffers from allergies and loss of strength and
            short-term memory which comes with age (not an illness yet), and her
            community of peers is decreasing. There are no purely commercial care
            services avialable within a 50 mile radius, and likewise not many job
            opportunities for me, well it would be a complete change of 'career.' And
            there is a lot of clinging to my study of Asian (Hindu and Buddhist)
            architecture! Ending a 'career' is also a dilemma!
            Pinna

            > ----------
            > From: Sarah Procter Abbott
            > Reply To: dhammastudygroup@egroups.com
            > Sent: Thursday, February 3, 2000 7:50 AM
            > To: dhammastudygroup@egroups.com
            > Subject: [DhammaStudyGroup] Re: Helping elderly parents
            >
            > We just rec'd a ltter from Gabi Hense (who is enjoying receiving these
            > postings via her brother but doesn't have a computer as yet). The last few
            >
            > years have been devoted to trying to help her mother who now has
            > alzheimers
            > disease (age memory loss) and is in a home. Gabi visits regularly and
            > rocks
            > her like a child. The experience has been very demanding and it has all
            > been
            > a very tough experience for Gabi....
            >
            > I think Pinna (also on the list) is also facing dilemmas concerning her
            > mother in the States too.
            >
            > It's hard when one is used to living overseas and through one's
            > understanding of the Teachings is aware of responsibilities which one
            > isn't
            > necessarily stronger to handle than anyone else. Somehow it seems easier
            > in
            > terms of support from others around in parts of Asia like Thailand where
            > this duty is expected and appreciated. But that sounds like a
            > generalisation and not very 'dhammic'! Of course there is a lot of
            > attachment involved as well and disappointment if one's 'good' efforts are
            >
            > not appreciated...
            >
            > I, too, had a lot of dilemmas and difficulties in this regard when my
            > parents were having a lot of marital problems and when my father became
            > alcoholic. I still have a feeling (or rather thoughts) of conventional
            > failure in this regard. Sometimes we try to do more than we're really up
            > to
            > and not realistic about our limits. But what are these limits? What is
            > failure?
            >
            > I'm not sure what the question is, but feel any comments would be useful
            > for
            > those of us who have faced or are facing these 'dilemmas'...is it the
            > attachment that seems to make them different from other dilemmas? How
            > about
            > a comment from EVERYONE on the list on this one?
            >
            > metta, Sarah
            >
            > Gabi & Pinna- hope you don't mind the mention..
            > Gabi...hope you get a computer or internet provider VERY SOON! Do they
            > have
            > internet cafes in yr town? S.
            >
            >
            >
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          • tanarong@econ.cmu.ac.th
            I think when you have tried to do your best with good intention, it is not lobha is the limit. The limit is conditioned by many factors most of them outside
            Message 5 of 9 , Feb 3, 2000
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              I think when you have tried to do your best with good intention, it is not
              lobha is the limit. The limit is conditioned by many factors most of them
              outside your ability. Then you just let it go. Realization at that moment
              that it is only dhamma. I think Ivan's reply is pessimistic that he saw it
              as only lobha. With your good intention though without panna, it is still
              kusala citta.
              -------------------


              At 21:03 3/2/00 PST, you wrote:
              >>I, too, had a lot of dilemmas and difficulties in this regard when my
              >>parents were having a lot of marital problems and when my father became
              >>alcoholic. I still have a feeling (or rather thoughts) of conventional
              >>failure in this regard. Sometimes we try to do more than >we're>really up
              >>to and not realistic about our limits. But what are these >limits? What is
              >>failure?
              >>metta, Sarah
              >
              >Our limit is the maximum drive we are capable of to fulfill our lobha. And
              >failure is dosa, due to unfulfilled lobha.
              >Trying to do more than we�re really up to and not being realistic about our
              >limits is due to excessive lobha. A very common state of mind, as are
              >thoughts of failure of regret.
              >Our limits and our successes and failures are just thinking (a story), due
              >to the rising and falling away of cita/cetasika. Every moment has its
              >characteristic that can be known and the story that they are creating
              >distracts from knowing the moment for what it is. If the moments of dosa or
              >lobha etc. do not arise, then how can there be contemplation and eventual
              >understanding of their characteristics? The stories that cita/cetasiaka
              >create can be confusing, the characteristics of each moment are not. Is the
              >answer found in manipulating the story to make it different from what it is
              >or understand the moments ( kusala or akusala) that create the story?
              >Ivan
              >______________________________________________________
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            • amara chay
              Hi Pinna, I m glad to see your messages, do you remember when we last saw one another in CM? You know, K. Sujin is going to there again on the 22-26 this
              Message 6 of 9 , Feb 4, 2000
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                Hi Pinna,
                I'm glad to see your messages, do you remember when we last saw one another
                in CM? You know, K. Sujin is going to there again on the 22-26 this month,
                I will be staying at the same resort, will really miss you! I haven't been
                back up there since either. Wish you could come with us like last time,
                Amara
                ______________________________________________________
              • Jonothan Abbott
                I recall reading in a sutta that even of you were to carry your parents around on your shoulders for the rest of your life, you would not have repaid the debt
                Message 7 of 9 , Feb 9, 2000
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                  I recall reading in a sutta that even of you were to carry your parents
                  around on your shoulders for the rest of your life, you would not have
                  repaid the debt owed to them. This is probably because they were the means
                  by which we obtained rebirth in this life, and nurtured us to an age of self
                  dependence.

                  This does not mean we should try to act in this manner, or anything like it.
                  There are many ways of giving support, the best of which is to help with
                  the understanding of the dhamma. As one who has lived outside his parents'
                  country for all but 2 of the past 25 years or so, I have come to realise
                  that, like other forms of kusula, it is a matter of taking opportunities
                  that arise and not having preconceived ideas of what I ought to be doing.
                  There is the tendency to think we should be doing certain thinks, or at
                  least something!

                  I believe that it was in the Sigolavada Sutta that the Buddha set out the
                  duties that various classes of lay people owe to each other. I recall
                  reference to honouring the 6 directions. Can anybody fill us in on the
                  meaning of this in the context of this discussion?
                  ______________________________________________________
                • Sarah Procter Abbott
                  Pinna, as you comment, how duty is carried out is not clear. We could say, how kusala is carried out is not clear either...the best kusala is understanding
                  Message 8 of 9 , Feb 10, 2000
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                    Pinna,
                    as you comment, how duty is carried out is not clear. We could say, how
                    kusala is carried out is not clear either...the best kusala is understanding
                    reality and it maybe that nothing is done!

                    Like you say, (especially in the West I think), maintaining 'independence'
                    is very important to the elderly. Both Jonothan's mother and mine would hate
                    anyone to live with them and much prefer to take care of themselves..indeed
                    it's what keeps them going...They are also fortunate that this is possible.
                    Sometimes we are too concerned to impose our value judgments rather than
                    allow them to make their own choices.. On my last visit, I tried to urge my
                    mother to get a part-time cleaner to help do the chores she avoids, but she
                    didn't appreciate my comments at all (or my offer to pay for it)! S'times,
                    positive encouragement rather than shows of our concern or worry is more
                    helpful. It reminds me of when Jonothan discovered his tumour. One close
                    friend, kept calling & urging us to send him for surgery immediately and
                    giving us 'scare' stories of what would happen if we didn't. I'm sure she
                    meant well, I know she meant well, but in the end we found it a condition
                    for extra worry and I had to politely ask her not to call anymore...We need
                    to make our own choices even if they're not the 'best'.

                    If you stay based in Asia as you'd prefer w/plenty of visits 'home', maybe
                    your mother would prefer it...seeing you well and happy may be most
                    important to her..No right or wrong of course, and however much thinking and
                    planning there is, we don't know what will happen or what we'll do even on a
                    conventional level!

                    As Ivan pointed out, attachment makes life difficult for us in this
                    regard....But I also think like Thanarong that it's not just
                    attachment....many different moments, kusala and akusala...

                    I'm glad to hear your mother is still well and healthy....

                    Sarah>
                    >

                    >As Amara said, it is a complex problem. One side of the issue is duty and
                    >duty seems clear. But how duty is carried out is also not clear. The other
                    >side is allowing someone to keep their independence and do things for
                    >themselves (as my mother still wants to); allow them to make their own
                    >decisions as long as they can. I have observed in my family (extended as
                    >well as immediate) decisions about health care left to the patient and it
                    >is
                    >not easy to judge when someone knows best for themselves; it is also not
                    >always easy to see the critical turning point in a person's ability to take
                    >care of herself / her own health (life-threatening crises are of course
                    >clear). Is it a duty to impose a change of lifestyle or a different
                    >approach
                    >to health? ......
                    ______________________________________________________
                  • Jonothan Abbott
                    ... Ivan I agree. And I think that thinking in terms of success or failure has in particular a large element of mana to it ie, a particlar type of lobha
                    Message 9 of 9 , Mar 24, 2000
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                      >Our limits and our successes and failures are just thinking (a story), due
                      >to the rising and falling away of cita/cetasika. Every moment has its
                      >characteristic that can be known and the story that they are creating
                      >distracts from knowing the moment for what it is. If the moments of dosa
                      >or
                      >lobha etc. do not arise, then how can there be contemplation and eventual
                      >understanding of their characteristics? The stories that cita/cetasiaka
                      >create can be confusing, the characteristics of each moment are not. Is
                      >the
                      >answer found in manipulating the story to make it different from what it is
                      >or understand the moments ( kusala or akusala) that create the story?
                      >Ivan

                      Ivan
                      I agree. And I think that thinking in terms of success or failure has in
                      particular a large element of mana to it ie, a particlar type of lobha
                      citta. Otherwise the association with/lack of association with the desired
                      would be just that and the 'story' would be so much less.
                      Jonothan

                      ______________________________________________________
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