Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers and metta

It's said, in traditional Buddhism, that over the course of our many lifetimes every being has been our mother. In traditional Asian societies, this was meant to help us see with the eyes of love and compassion.

From the poems of Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol ~

All living beings have been your kind mothers . . .
Just as you feel love for your mother of this life,
Generate love for all beings, your mothers from the past . . .

In contemporary society, after more decades of blaming deficient mothering for all of our psychological ills, the idea of looking at every being as your mother may not generate feelings of deep,appreciative love. For some, it's more like a feeling of horror. And then there's that moment when you speak and hear your mother's voice come out of your mouth saying something that you always hated hearing ...

But here's the thing -- every parent wants the best for their children. Their ideas of what's best may not coincide with what the child needs, but they're likely unaware of that. Every parent I know would gladly take all of their children's suffering on themselves, but you can't do that. As a parent, you can only try to help them learn how to reduce their own suffering. And you don't always do that skillfully. For one thing, you can't pass on skills you don't have.

The Buddha, who was skilled at presenting his message in ways that people could hear it, also offers the inverse of seeing every being as a kind parent from a previous life:

Even as a mother protects with her life
her child, her only child,
so with a boundless heart
should one cherish all living beings:

Radiating kindness over the entire world
spreading upwards to the skies
and downward to the depths,
outwards and unbounded,
freed from hatred and ill will.

See all beings, even your parents, as your children. Happy Mother's Day.

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