Serving parents are considered as the most rewarding service in a lifetime amongst Hindus as parents are supposed to be in a place next to God. In some holy books, it is also said that parents should be devoted more than God. Mother is more important and worship worthy than father as per the Hindu mythology. A mother gives birth to a child by bearing a lot of pain and looks after the child sacrificing everything.
As the father and mother combine to form the body of a child, they are considered as the God for them. As the mother carries the child in her womb for nine months, bearing a lot of pain and giving the child good thoughts through this period, parents are worthy of reverence.
Serving parents are known as Pitru-rin – a debt from the parents amongst the Hindus. A child is supposed to take care of his parents being obedient to them throughout his life, till they are alive. He is not supposed to put them in any kind of pain ever.
A mother is always considered as the first teacher of a child as she makes a child learn to walk and talk.
In the Manusmriti, 2/145, the situation has been described as:
A religious teacher is 10 times more important than a teacher. A father is 100 times more than the religious teacher. A mother is 1000 times worthier than the father.
In the Manusmriti, 2/227, it is further clarified:
Parents who give birth and rear children face agony that cannot be got over in a hundred Therefore the father, mother and teacher must always be kept happy and content through care service. This is important to attain truth and success in life.
In the Manusmriti, 2/233, it is further written:
One attains happiness in the community through reverence to the mother. One attains happiness the world through reverence to the father. One attains happiness of Brahmlok (the abode of Brahma) by serving the teacher. Those who have the blessings of all three, find happiness. As long as parents and teachers are alive, they must be served. No rituals and customs are necessary. Serving them is a duty. It is the best religion.
In the Shivpuran, the importance of parents is described thus:
That son who serves his father and mother wholeheartedly, earns all happiness in the world. Even leaving them alone to visit a pilgrimage can also be considered as sinful as killing them. For a son, the feet of the parents are like a pilgrimage. For a man, the love and respect of his parents and for a woman, the love and respect of her husband are the best pilgrimages in the world.
Your Questions answered…
Is it not unfair to bind people to many responsibilities like those to teachers, parents, and forefathers? Why can’t one decide what one wants to do or not?
No one is bound to perform their duties for their parents and teachers. They are free to decide whatever they want to do. Yet the holy books suggest, people do find happiness by serving them.