The Dhamma is Our True Mother – Part 1

The Dhamma Is Our True Mother

Repaying the Blessings of Our Mothers


A Dhamma Talk by Venerable Thepvisuddhimedhī (Ajahn Paññānanda—Ajahn Panyananda)

Wat Chonprathan Rangsarit, Pakkret, Nonthaburi, Thailand; August 12, 1990

Part I:

Hon­oured lay sup­port­ers of the Bud­dhist assem­bly, today, August 12th, which hap­pens to fall on a Sun­day this year, is the birth­day anniver­sary of Her Majesty the Queen, who is a promi­nent fig­ure in Thai­land. Thai peo­ple refer to her as the Impe­r­i­al Moth­er, because she is the part­ner in mer­it and virtue of His Majesty the King. They have been unit­ed in action and spir­it per­form­ing numer­ous good deeds for the nation. We the cit­i­zens of Thai­land and the sub­jects of Her Majesty call to mind the kind­ness she has shown and wish her bless­ings, by way of the radio, tele­vi­sion and news­pa­pers, through­out the country.

The sound of the bless­ings res­onates through­out the heav­ens. If the well-wish­es of the peo­ple come true, Her Majesty the Queen will indeed live a very long time, and be free from ill­ness, grief, dan­ger and all obsta­cles. This is the nature of blessings—when one does good every­one ben­e­fits, espe­cial­ly us on this Sunday.

Mother and child with offerings at the Ajahn Chah Memorial Day in Ubon Rajathani

Today at the Bud­dhist Sun­day School there was a spe­cial Mother’s Day cel­e­bra­tion. The chil­dren had a lot of fun with the activ­i­ties. This morn­ing I met with the chil­dren and spoke to them about grat­i­tude to their moth­ers. The Bud­dhist Sun­day School is run by monks. Each year a new group of monks is select­ed to take respon­si­bil­i­ty. This year Ven­er­a­ble Mahā Ahgon is act­ing as direc­tor of the school.

This year there are many children—about one thou­sand, includ­ing three hun­dred young chil­dren. More and more, par­ents are trust­ing the monks to help shape the hearts and minds of their young chil­dren, to the point that the main meet­ing hall is becom­ing cramped. In fact the school is spacious—the chil­dren sim­ply need to divide into small­er groups. The school is thus able to ben­e­fit the wider society.

Mother’s Day is an impor­tant hol­i­day in Thai­land. In ear­li­er times Mother’s Day occurred in April. Mother’s Day in Thai­land was start­ed by Mrs. Phi­bun­songkhram, the wife of Prime Min­is­ter Field Mar­shal P. Phi­bun­songkhram. They orga­nized a con­test for pro­duc­tive mothers—the award was giv­en to moth­ers who had many chil­dren. The chil­dren also had to be exem­plary people.

These days they don’t have such a con­test for fer­til­i­ty because the pop­u­la­tion of Thai­land has increased suf­fi­cient­ly. They have there­fore aban­doned this tra­di­tion. Now they should have a con­test for moth­ers who have few chil­dren! Of course to com­pete women would have to have at least one or two chil­dren. And then one should look at the qual­i­ty of the chil­dren. Awards could be giv­en to those moth­ers whose chil­dren are suc­cess­ful, promi­nent, and virtuous.

The moth­er of Prime Min­is­ter Chuan Leek­pai is one such good per­son. She has already received awards for rais­ing her chil­dren so well. Mr. Chuan Leek­pai is an exem­plary person—a Prime Min­is­ter with lit­tle mon­ey! Even the oppo­si­tion par­ties have claimed there is only one poor per­son in Thailand—Mr. Leek­pai. He is indeed poor—he doesn’t even have a house to live in and at the moment is liv­ing with friends.

Recent­ly I sent some monks to invite him to speak in Trang Province. The monks arrived at his home, entered his lit­tle room, and asked: ‘Is this the way a Prime Min­is­ters lives?’ He replied: ‘This isn’t my home—I’m stay­ing with friends.’ He didn’t yet have his own home. In fact he had been the senior min­is­ter in sev­er­al dif­fer­ent depart­ments and had had plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty to enrich him­self. He had been the min­is­ter of the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and could have got rich with the sawmills and the forestry offi­cials. But he nev­er got rich with them because he chose not to. He was the min­is­ter of the Depart­ment of Health and could eas­i­ly have got rich, because there are many prof­its and com­mis­sions to be made buy­ing med­ical equip­ment all over the coun­try. As a senior min­is­ter he should have become wealthy, but he didn’t want to. He is some­one who is unable to take, unable to con­sume, unable to deceive oth­ers. This is why he is so small. The Thai peo­ple like him for this reason.

Mother and child at Wat Pah Nanachat, Ubon Rajathani

Lat­er, Mother’s Day was moved to the day of Her Majesty’s birth­day. This is sim­i­lar to Nation­al Day, which was orig­i­nal­ly cel­e­brat­ed on June 24th, to mark the tran­si­tion of the polit­i­cal sys­tem from an absolute monar­chy to a democracy.

Coun­tries that have been col­o­nized deter­mine their Nation­al Day as the day when they were freed from impe­ri­al­ism. For exam­ple, the Unit­ed States con­sid­er July 4th Inde­pen­dence Day, mark­ing the day that it was freed from dom­i­na­tion by Eng­land. Coun­tries like Thai­land, how­ev­er, which have a monar­chy cel­e­brate Nation­al Day as the birth­day of their monarch. Our king was born on Decem­ber 5th and there­fore this date marks both Nation­al Day and Father’s Day. Father’s Day, how­ev­er, is not as impor­tant as Mother’s Day. Moth­ers have a slight advan­tage because of the impor­tant work they do. Fathers—don’t feel slight­ed that moth­ers are giv­en more atten­tion. For when moth­ers are giv­en recog­ni­tion fathers also receive these blessings.

One of the ex-monks in Yala has many chil­dren, all of whom stud­ied well, have found good jobs, and are good peo­ple. Every time they write home they address their let­ters to their moth­er, nev­er to their father. Peo­ple ask him whether his chil­dren don’t love him. He replies that they do, but it’s enough that they write only to their moth­er. When they send mon­ey he also ben­e­fits because his wife shares it with him. There­fore, he does not feel sor­ry for him­self when peo­ple only talk about Mother’s Day.

Par­ents con­sist of both moth­ers and fathers. In Pali moth­ers are men­tioned first in the expres­sion mātā-pitā. In India moth­ers are giv­en great impor­tance. In the Thai lan­guage we men­tion fathers first—bidah-mah­n­dah—although here too moth­ers are high­ly respect­ed. If the woman of the house­hold can look after affairs skil­ful­ly, this makes life eas­i­er for every­one in the family.

Many impor­tant men in the past have found suc­cess because of the women of the house­hold. At the time of absolute monar­chy men relied on their wives in order to advance, because the women could enter the palace, have access to the inner court, and be on inti­mate terms with the queen. As a result the hus­bands were giv­en roy­al titles. This is still true today. If the lady of the house­hold is on inti­mate terms with mem­bers of the roy­al fam­i­ly, she is like­ly to know when vacan­cies to impor­tant posi­tions occur and can influ­ence the next appoint­ment. Women are thus still lead­ers in the house­hold, even if the fame often rests with the men.

This is sim­i­lar to orga­niz­ing a play. Although the actors are impor­tant, not many peo­ple think of the stage man­agers, who set the stage and arrange the scenery before­hand. The actors arrive, get dressed up, and per­form, but even then the stage man­agers are busy. One should not under­es­ti­mate their impor­tance. In every fam­i­ly the women of the house­hold are vital. If these women are vir­tu­ous and skil­ful the fam­i­ly will flour­ish. If they are not good, how­ev­er, the fam­i­ly will decline. It won’t advance in sta­tus, because peo­ple often look to see if the woman of the house is virtuous.

In the Unit­ed States, when the elec­torate is about to vote for a pres­i­dent, it is not only the mer­its of the male can­di­dates that counts. The vot­ers also look at the candidate’s wife, because she will become First Lady. Is she mod­est, kind, knowl­edge­able and ade­quate­ly skilled?—the peo­ple look at these qual­i­ties as well. The male can­di­date is more like­ly to be elect­ed if he has a vir­tu­ous wife. For this rea­son the First Ladies in Amer­i­ca tend to be good peo­ple. There appears to be only one excep­tion to this rule and that is the wife of Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lincoln.

Accord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lin­coln, was rather hor­ri­ble. On the day of his mar­riage Lin­coln got dressed up and was asked by a nephew where he was going. He replied, ‘To hell, I sup­pose.’ He said this because the bride was an aris­to­crat from French descent who was very haughty and treat­ed Lin­coln like a ser­vant. Lin­coln, how­ev­er, was a vir­tu­ous per­son, with for­ti­tude and deter­mi­na­tion, and he sur­vived this ordeal.

There are many sto­ries in Euro­pean his­to­ry of queens cre­at­ing all sorts of prob­lems and cre­at­ing dis­as­ter for the rul­ing kings. These are sto­ries of the lady of the house behav­ing bad­ly, and for this rea­son the peo­ple in demo­c­ra­t­ic coun­tries also elect the spous­es of the pres­i­dent, look­ing to see what sort of char­ac­ter she is.


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