Earth Store Sutra, Preface, with commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The United States has a great legal system and many fine institutions, especially the education system, which has made education widely available and better. It serves as an exemplar for the world.
Just one more thing [to add to that]: if everyone also learns to be filial to his or her parents, and—as it is said,
A superior person tends to the basis,
for when the basis is established,
the Way comes forth;
Filial piety and fraternal regard—
are they not the basis to being human?
If they can further find that basis and source, then when everyone is filial to their parents, this country will definitely prosper.
A superior person needs to find the foundation and source, and once the foundation and source can stand firm, the Way will come forth.
What is the foundation? Filial piety toward parents and fraternal regard for siblings, i.e., courtesy toward one's siblings [and peers]--no fighting. Filial piety and fraternal regard are the foundation for everyone.
People who are filial to their parents steer clear of the various illegal dealings, and abide by the law making them good citizens of the country. When all the people of the country have become good citizens, they can serve as good citizens of the entire world. They will lead humanity as a whole well onto the right track.
That is why the first order of business for everyone is to know to be filial to his or her parents. Otherwise, what is the point in parents having kids? After giving birth to them, the parents still have to raise them for the next 18 years, and then the kids fly away from the nest, leaving their aging parents behind.
Sure, the parents can move into retirement homes and will have the government as their support system, but there is no kindred affection to speak of. They are left on their own, almost like they are all alone [in the world] and with no one to rely on.
It would be best for children to show filial devotion and care for their own parents, allowing them peace of mind in the waning years of their lives. Or else, once the kids grow up they fly away just like birds, off to no-one-knows-where.
A Chinese saying goes:
The lamb kneels to nurse;
the crow returns to feed its parents.
When a young crow grows up, it finds food for its parents, and nourishes them until the old crows are strong enough to fly again—only then will the young crow's duties come to an end. Therefore, to the Chinese people, the crow is "the filial bird." When a suckling lamb takes milk from mom, it kneels down on its forelegs.
Humans who fail to be filial to their parents do not even measure up to lambs or crows—that is not intended as a put-down, rather a principle [that] everyone should be aware of. It is especially efficacious if humans can be filial to their parents. How is that so?
There is a "Guoju Burying His Baby" story in China that goes like this:
Guoju was a very poor man—the poorest of the poor. He had a wife and a baby son. He also had a very old mother. His mom had lost all her teeth and could not eat any solid food. So she would take the milk of her daughter-in-law—that is, up until the baby came along. Now with two mouths to feed, there was not enough milk to go around, and both grandma and the baby were left hungry.
If the milk were to go to feed grandma, the baby would starve to death; if the milk were allotted to the baby, grandma would die. So it was up to Guoju to come up with a solution.
Guoju talked it over with his wife and, being the most filial person, presented this rationale: Since they both were still young, they could have many more children in their long, married life ahead, but mom was very old and her days were numbered. So they should dispose of the baby for now to focus on keeping mom alive.
Tough as it was for his wife to give up the baby, in order to fulfill their filial duties she relented in the end.
After reaching a decision in their family meeting and with the baby in tow, the couple headed out to the wilderness. What had been their pride and joy they were now going to bury in the ground. No sooner had they begun digging than they hit the jackpot—a huge trove of gold and silver ingots, all with the wording "Heaven's Gift to Filial Son Guoju" inscribed on them! The idea to bury the baby came about because they were poor. Now that they had struck it rich, they could afford to scrap that plan.
This public record is well known to every Chinese person. Many Chinese willingly follow filiality, not out of greed for riches but because they recognize the importance of filial piety.
The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth
Bodhisattva, Preface, with commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua