#19: Remembering and repaying the kindness of our mothers

20 May 2010 - 12:14pm Comments Off

Recognising that all living beings – humans, animals, insects, anything – in the universe seen and unseen, known and unknown have been our mothers before is such a beautiful truth revealed by Lord Buddha. Yes, before we start aiming rockets at Martians and Klingons, they too have been our mothers.

It is so embarrassing that enlightened masters and teachers have to even remind us of the next step towards ultimate happiness – to remember our mothers’ kindness!

What unhappy thoughts could possibly come to our minds when we think of our mothers? This does not mean our mothers are perfect. Of course, they have their bad moments. Of course they have been unreasonable; of course they have done stupid things. We cannot say we have no negative thoughts about them. However, those thoughts are petty when we take into consideration what mothers go through, and sacrifice for us and our wellbeing.

There are two main reasons why we lack gratitude towards our mothers. One reason is that we do not remember their care and sacrifice for us when we were young, especially when we were still womb-bound.

During these nine months, our mothers had to undergo drastic changes to their physical and mental make-up. For us, they had to forgo their freedom in doing what they like. They had to put up with sickness, carrying an increasing weight, undergo stressful distortions in their physique, and experience bio-chemical changes which often are irreversible.

At times, when things did not go well, our mothers may have been bedridden for weeks. They would have had to bear unpleasant examinations by doctors and nurses.

A revelatory Chinese proverb says that for a mother, childbirth a life-and-death affair. It is not only about the baby but the mother as well. If things go wrong, it is the mother who sacrifices herself for the sake of her baby. If our mothers were selfish, babies would not have any chance of surviving. We can witness mothers acting selflessly during disasters, when they die protecting their child with their body or while getting them out.

Our mother’s selfless actions do not end after they have given birth. It is not presumptuous to say that they will love us until the end of their lives. And remember – mothers are not perfect like Buddhas. There is no school to teach them how to be perfect mothers, and they may not be skilful enough to express their love and affection for us in a way we can appreciate. They are generally on their own; it is so courageous for them to even take up this responsibility to deliver us and bring us up. Therefore it is unfair and unreasonable to pick on our mothers’ faults. We ourselves are imperfect and one day will become imperfect parents too.

The fact that we are alive now and able to study the Dharma is principally due to our mother’s kindness. They cared for us when we need it most, when we were most helpless. His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche went so far as to say that we will never be able to repay the kindness of our parents.

So what if you are an orphan or someone who had an abusive mother?

Our present mother’s actions, however negative, should not be the only example to influence our feelings. In such situations, we should see them as being temporarily influenced by the disease of ignorance and in a suffering state. Alongside their actions, we also have to balance it with the understanding we have had countless mothers who have shown us love and kindness.

Let’s not only just salute our mothers. Let’s do something really wonderful; let’s repay their love and kindness. Let’s become a Bodhisattva so that we can help all mother sentient beings and ourselves overcome all types of suffering. Is there any better way to repay their kindness?


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