Should Buddhists Have Kids?

Question: When a child is born, he/she returns to the samsaric cycle of birth, ageing, sickness and death. If so, is desiring to have a child a mistake?

Answer: Simply wanting a child is not a mistake, unless there is ill intention, of wanting the child to suffer. That there is incidental suffering once conceived is not the same as intentional causing of suffering. Usually, no one desires to have a child with the intention to cause suffering. In fact, having children is envisioned by most with potential for happiness for the parents and children, although it might not turn out this way, as the karmic coming of very ill and/or wayward children can lead to great suffering. Not being able to conceive, or just not conceiving though able to might not be a bad thing – if the child otherwise to be born might be a source of grief. Karma is complex, often with the good and not so good aspects mixed in expression.

For birth to be possible, it takes two hands to clap. No one can force another being to be reborn if that being does not have the karma to be reborn in the first place. Also, one will not be able to conceive if lacking the karma to be able to fulfil this wish. Thus, when born, we do not say the parents caused the child to have samsaric suffering, as the main cause is the child being samsaric in nature, to deserve being reborn. However, many parents are samsaric in nature too, in desiring for children more for worldly happiness. The conception by the parents and quality of care (or lack of care) thereafter are merely conditions for the child’s ripening of his/her karma accordingly. Of course, this does not excuse parents from possibly creating new negative karma on their part if they are intentionally irresponsible.

QuestionShould Buddhists not have children then?

Answer: Only those who have taken vows of celibacy (to totally cut lust and attachment), such as monastics, should definitely not have children. Of course, children are better born within proper existing families to have the best care. To have children or not depends on whether one is willing to risk potentially having not so ideal children. It is not unethical to have children if there is no ill intention, if there is only good will, in wanting to nurture them well, especially with the Dharma, so as to facilitate liberation from Samsara. (This is while not having children does not automatically liberates any being.) Likewise, it is not unethical to not have children, especially there is lack of confidence in being able to have ‘good enough’ children, whom can be taken care of well enough.

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