Special Topics

Q3: Why do some infants get sick immediately after birth? How does Buddhism view this?

A: Talking about the law of cause and effect or karmic obstacles often makes people feel somewhat negative. The monastics at Dharma Drum Mountain visit hospitals, and, when interacting with patients and their families, they often ask the parents, "Life is suffering, do you agree?" Some people immediately nod in agreement because they have already felt it through their child, especially mothers who have experienced a life-or-death situation when giving birth to their child, thereby gaining a deeper understanding regarding death and suffering.

Why is life suffering? Because throughout our lives we are constantly pursuing things—love, wealth, status, fame, and even wanting to be healthy and free from illness. The process of pursuing what we want is suffering, while not obtaining what we seek is also suffering.

When a child falls ill, parents feel sad and distressed. For example, after eagerly anticipating the arrival of new life during a ten-month pregnancy, they are suddenly confronted with the diagnosis of a tumor or a severe illness that may soon lead to the child's departure from this world. The parents are shocked and unable to accept it. They may wonder why their child is born in this condition, since they have not done anything wrong or evil. These reactions are normal and should not be suppressed. However, we must understand that there are two purposes in life: receiving karmic retribution and fulfilling vows.

Although children who come to this world to receive their karmic retributions may suffer, their suffering is short-lived. In Buddhism, the end of life is not referred to as death, but as "rebirth" because it is the beginning of another life, marking a future filled with infinite brightness and hope. When this current life comes to an end, depending on the power of our vows, we will quickly return to this world to continue unfinished tasks from our previous lives. The Buddha himself went through such a process. The Sutra of the Buddha's Reincarnated Manifestations records the Buddha's previous lives when he reincarnated as an elephant, a deer king, a monkey, a king, a brahmin, and so on. After countless rebirths and practice, he finally attained the ultimate enlightenment and became a Buddha.

Parents cannot bear to see their child suffering from illness. But, instead of dwelling in sadness and reluctance, it is better to offer blessings to the child by reciting Buddhist scriptures and dedicating the merit to them. Regardless of how the illness develops, at least the blessings from parents and loved ones can help their condition to improve.

Extended Reading:

Taking illness as teacher and learning to live well with illness

Buddha's Teachings on Suffering from Illness

Practicing the Dharma While Ill

Q1: Why am I getting this illness?

Q2: I've been in and out of the hospital so many times. When will I recover?

Q3: Why do some infants get sick immediately after birth? How does Buddhism view this?

Q4: What can be done if someone is sick in bed for a very long time and feels hopeless about life?

Q5: I have recited the Buddha's name, practiced generosity, and performed good deeds, so why do I still get sick?

Q6: When a family member of mine is suffering from an illness, what can I do to alleviate his fear and pain?

Q7: If the body is in unbearable pain, isn't reciting Buddha's name an additional burden?

Q8: My health is deteriorating, and I feel like there is not much time left for me. How should I prepare myself for death?

Resource: Issue 380 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 380 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation 
(Photos painted by 劉建志)
Translation: Olivia
Editing: Keith Brown,
Chia-cheng Chang (張家誠)