This morning I quizzed my eight-year-old daughter on her knowledge of Buddhism. This isn’t catechism class, just question and answer. I’m curious about how much she knows. We don’t belong as a family to any formal Buddhist organization, but since birth she has seen various bhikkhus, rinpoches, and Zen masters pass through our house—friends from my monk days or because of my writing. She asks lots of questions and remembers the answers she gets.

This morning it’s my turn. The questions are historical and not esoteric at all.

“What name did the Buddha give his son?” It sounds like a game show question, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she answered, “What is Rahula, or ‘Hindrance.’” But she doesn’t.

“Wasn’t it ‘Get-in-the-Way’?” she ventures. Which the judges deem a correct answer, since it tells it as it is.

The bald fact of the matter is that children do get in the way of monastic practice. How could it be otherwise? Monastic practice must be done with single-minded devotion. Parenting is the same. Those people who think you can have both, it seems to me, must either not be very good parents or not very good monks—or possibly either. That is why the Buddha abandoned his son. It just doesn’t work.

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