Buddha’s Guide to Peace and Happiness
types of relationships to protect – The Six Directions
we begin our lives, we are children brought up at home.
youths, the next stage of our life is spent in school.
young adults, starting a family follows.
grown-ups, we have our social lives.
breadwinners, we have our businesses and work.
we mature in our lives, we seek higher goals.
The Buddha graphically
and very imaginatively depicted the various sets of relationships in
society as the ‘Six Directions’ that should be protected.
Each direction represents a different social relationship where
each party has reciprocal responsibilities towards the other.
Using the further
symbolism of the four main cardinal directions, each one signifies a
different stage that everyone goes through in life, from a child to an
adult. In addition, the Nadir or the downward direction, represents
the down-to-earth reality of earning a living, and the Zenith or the
upward direction, represents the higher spiritual life.
relationships should be reciprocal and not one-sided.
A spirit of generosity and considerate behaviour are necessary.
Thus by each person helping and being considerate to others,
everyone in-turn benefits from this positive conduct.
In this way, all relationships in society are protected and the
well-being of the community assured.
children should treat their parents
parents should treat their children
children and parents treat each other in this way, the East is protected
and the family made peaceful and secure.
students should treat their teachers
teachers should treat their students
students and teachers treat each other in this way, the South is protected
and places of learning made peaceful and secure.
a husband should treat his wife
a wife should treat her husband
husbands and wives treat each other in this way, the West is protected and
households made peaceful and secure.
the North – Friends and Associates
one should treat friends and associates
friends and associates should treat each other
friends and associates treat each other in this way, the North is
protected and society made peaceful and secure.
employers should treat their employees
employees should treat their employers
employees and employers treat each other in this way, the Nadir is
protected and places of work made peaceful and secure.
spiritual teachers should treat their lay followers
spiritual teachers and lay followers treat each other in this way, the
Zenith is protected and spiritual places made peaceful and secure.
are the East,
and employees are the Nadir,
This is the most basic duty of
children toward their parents.
To show gratitude for all the difficulties and expenses in bringing
them up, they must provide for their parents when it is necessary, and
take care of them in their old age. According
to the Buddha, the only way we can truly repay our parents is to teach and
encourage them to practice the Dhamma.
This would mean good behaviour, loyalty, and children doing the
best they can for the sake of their parents who have worked so hard to
provide them with their inheritance, whether it is large or small.
 Parents are the first teachers their children have and should actively guide them to not only avoid bad deeds, but also to encourage them to do good deeds. There is no better way for parents to do this than by being good examples and role models for their children.
 In the modern context, this duty means that parents should provide their children with at least a basic education. For Buddhist parents, this should include some education in the Dhamma too. Nowadays, many Buddhist parents overlook or ignore this responsibility, usually because they themselves do not have much knowledge in this area. However, all Buddhist parents should not neglect this crucial duty of setting their children as early as possible on the right path.
 This has practical and very serious implications especially today. Many people are not adequately prepared for death and leave ambiguous wills, or even no wills at all. This frequently results in the surviving family members fighting each other with much hatred and animosity over the estate of the deceased. Parents should try to allocate as much of the inheritance as they can to their children while they are still alive, to prevent such disputes arising and ensure a smooth transition and handing over.
 This would mean that teachers should help their students by putting them in touch with their own connections. By doing so their students will get to know the right people when furthering their studies, or when looking for jobs. The Buddha, more than 2,500 years ago, already saw the importance of social networking!
In a culture where males were very dominant and females usually
treated as second-class citizens or worse, the Buddha advocated a change
in mindset and attitudes towards women, promoting equality between
partners. It was good advice
then, as it is now, that husbands should always treat their wives with
courtesy and respect to maintain a loving and enduring relationship.
In ancient India, before there were any banks, people usually put
their savings and wealth into jewellery.
This jewellery was worn on the person and were often the only form
of savings a wife had if her husband were to pass away.
Nowadays, this would mean that husbands should have sufficient
insurance coverage for their wives and children in case of unexpected
serious illness or death. Apart
from this very practical reason, all wives enjoy some jewellery and gifts
from their husbands from time to time.
Household workers include domestic maids. How significant this advice is nowadays, as we can see so
many housewives being hauled to court for ill-treating their maids,
resulting in shame and difficulties for their own families.
 Wives have a duty towards their husbands not to over-spend or waste hard earned money. They should spend wisely and help to save whenever possible so as to preserve the family’s wealth. Again, this is another example of the Buddha’s practical and timeless advice, relevant in his time as it is in ours.
This may be taken nowadays to mean that employers should share
their profits and success by giving out rewards and bonuses to employees
when their businesses are doing well.
This builds up employee loyalty and is an incentive for them to
continue their hard work, for the long-term good of their employers.
 It is truly amazing for the Buddha to have included these points here as they were made more than 2,500 years ago when slavery was common, workers exploited and there were no such things as minimum wages or basic working conditions. Only in the last century did trade unions obtain such rights for workers.
This should not be taken to mean that kind actions, speech and
thoughts should be practiced only towards spiritual teachers. By performing these wholesome deeds towards all beings, lay
followers are in fact repaying their teachers’ efforts by putting what
has been learnt into practice, for their own benefit and that of others
This may be taken to mean that lay followers should extend their
support to all virtuous spiritual teachers in general, and not have
excessive devotion towards just one particular spiritual teacher or monk.
If the teacher is upright and imparts good teachings, then all is
well. However, the danger of
being led astray arises if such partiality blinds one to improper or
inaccurate teachings. Also,
if anything were to happen to that favourite teacher or monk, then the lay
follower with such undue devotion may fall away from valuable and
necessary spiritual guidance.