Those of you young men who are looking for a wife must look carefully. Don’t simply think, ‘Oh, she’s pretty enough,’ or, ‘She comes from a rich family.’ It is fine if she is pretty and rich, but she should also be rich in the Dhamma—rich in virtue.
Traditionally, there are several ‘treasures’ (sampatti) recognized in a woman, including physical form, material wealth, and her family, but if she lacks the wealth of virtuous conduct, then she is not yet complete. Completeness depends on the treasure of Dhamma—the treasure of inherent virtue. If one’s spouse lacks virtue then living together will be difficult. Especially if one thinks that after getting married one should be patient and endure. There is an old Thai saying: ‘If you have a bad hubby, you’ll be racking your brain till your dying day.’ These days people don’t think this way. If there’s a problem, people get divorced after two months and look for someone new. Things have changed.
Formerly, people held to the principle that if one was married one needed to live with and put up with one’s spouse until old-age and death, to have children and grand-children together. But these days people’s minds have changed according to the fashion, because today everything goes quickly—people’s minds have therefore also sped up. This is the age of computers and high-tech. The mind has changed according to the circumstances. But in any case, the word ‘mother’ is eternally sweet-sounding.
Often I sit and reflect on my time as a child and remember that I was born from my mother and father. I can see the images of my parents clearly, without closing my eyes. All I have to do is think of them and they appear: I can see the expression, gestures and temperament of my father. I can remember the face of my mother which was always cheerful. She was a kind woman, who never quarreled with anyone. Even in the family she never got into arguments; rather she was peaceful and calm. I can’t remember when I was an infant, resting on my mother’s lap and suckling her breast, but I can remember the time shortly after that, once I had a sense of what was going on.
My mother’s face radiated happiness. When I was young I went to school in a monastery about twelve kilometres away. In those days twelve kilometres was a very long distance. I once got sick at school. My teacher was kind and boiled some extremely bitter medicine for me to take. In the evening my friend told me: ‘Auntie is coming!’ He called my mother ‘Auntie.’ As soon as he said these words it is as if my illness vanished. I got up, walked out of the school building, and went to my mother to bow down in front of her—my heart was so happy. This is a memory that I will never forget. Seeing the joyful face of my mother my heart was at peace. Whenever I was distressed or troubled, simply seeing my mother’s face would make the suffering disappear.
Although both of my parents have now passed away, whenever I think of them I feel at ease. The image of my parents is embedded in my mind, my mother’s more than my father’s. When I think of my father I feel relatively neutral—that’s the truth of the matter. I’m not biased, it’s just that I felt closer to my mother. I wasn’t that close to my father. He was usually out and about making a living. He enjoyed travelling long distances. He would go to Phangnga, Takua Pa, and Ranong in order to buy water buffalo to use for ploughing. When I was young the cost of a water buffalo in Ranong was two baht, because the people there didn’t grow rice, rather they worked in the mines. They would raise buffalo in the fields. My father would buy the females for two baht and then drive them on foot through Kra Buri, over the mountains and down the gorges, past Chumphon, along the railway tracks, over the Ta Pi River in Surat Thani, until he arrived at our home.
Whenever my father arrived back with water buffalo we children would feel very excited and proud. It was a special occurrence—we would all go out and admire the buffalo grazing in the field. This is still a vivid memory. My father didn’t speak much, but if we did something wrong he would complain for half of the night. He would grumble and complain, but he never hit us. My mother, too, would almost never hit us, but if she spanked our bottoms two or three times, although it didn’t hurt, I would still cry, because I was being punished. It didn’t hurt, but being a child, I would still cry.
When I grew older and went to school I would often think of my parents. I was constantly reminded of the encouragement that my parents and grandparents gave me for studying in school. I would like to write a book about my life as a child. I would like to write about the customs and about society at that time as an historical account, because these days so many of the things I encountered as a child have disappeared.
Many of the activities of that time have vanished, for example weaving. When people were finished in the rice paddies they would weave cloth. Every open lower-storey of the houses would have a loom, where people would weave clothes, blankets, and waist-cloths. People would engage in all sorts of other crafts as well. My mother was the manager of the weaving operations. In those days if one wanted to look at someone’s daughter, one would go and look at them weaving and inspect the quality of their work along with their general disposition. The mothers would then bring their sons to secretly watch as well and to see if he fancied her. Usually, the boys fancied the girls, because in those days they weren’t very choosy. If the parents liked the girl then the son liked her too. They would then go and ask for an engagement to be married. This is how it was about sixty years ago. I should write a book about it, but I haven’t had time yet. When I have time I will write it so that the laypeople can study what things were like back then.
The relationship between mother and child is profound. We can see this throughout history. Take for example the second fall of Ayutthaya, when Phra Chao Taksin courageously led a large contingent of soldiers and cut his way out of the city, escaping the clutches of the Burmese. They fled in all directions and secretly assembled in Chanthaburi. Taksin was separated from his mother, who didn’t know where he was. The following year, Somdet Phra Bawornrajachao Maha Sura Singhanat, also known as Bunma—the younger brother of King Rama I—also escaped from Ayutthaya and headed for the North. He passed through Ang Thong and then circled back, heading for Ratchaburi. The direct path to Ratchaburi, however, went through dense jungle, and so he had to travel towards Bangkok. He wanted to visit his older brother who was governor of Ratchaburi at the time. When Bunma escaped, he took a small boat.
At night he reached the village of See Kook. Any of you who have been there may have seen the monastery which is by the narrow and winding canal. The Burmese soldiers were encamped on both sides. When Bunma escaped he took a small Burmese gong, which he would strike as he went along. The Burmese thought that he was one of them. When he reached See Kook, there were soldiers on both banks. If he met them they would ask him where he was going. He therefore flipped the boat over and stuck his head underneath, using the air there to breathe. The boat floated down with the current and the Burmese soldiers thought it was simply a log floating past. When Bunma escaped this garrison he turned the boat upright again and paddled further.
He made it to Wat Maha That, which in those days was right on the river. It’s still by the river now, but it has been cheated out of much of its land. He entered the monastery and sought out the monks in their residence. The monks looked after him well, providing him with food and a place to rest. When he recovered from his fatigue he got back in his boat and travelled to Ratchaburi to find his older brother. When he found his brother he asked the whereabouts of Phra Chao Taksin. His brother told him that he had heard that Taksin was in Chanthaburi and suggested that Bunma travel there to see him. Before he went he had to search for Taksin’s mother, Nok Eeang, because he knew that Taksin loved his mother very much. His search was successful and he took Taksin’s mother along to Chanthaburi.
When he arrived at Taksin’s encampment Bunma left Nok Eeang outside and went in alone. Taksin complained: ‘It makes me feel good to see you, and I trust your brother in Ratchaburi is comfortable there, but there is one matter that still causes me a lot of unease—I don’t know where my mother is, and I don’t know what sort of trouble she may be experiencing!’ Bunma replied: ‘Don’t worry—I brought your mother with me.’ ‘Where have you left her?!’ When he heard that she was outside, he got up immediately and went to her. He bowed down to her to show his delight in seeing her again, and then made sure that she was properly looked after.
No matter how important a person is he will feel love for his mother. In this case, Phra Chao Taksin loved his mother and took great care to look after her. Virtuous people love their mothers. Bad people, on the other hand, don’t even love themselves—how are they able to love anyone else, including their parents?
Before we can love others we need to be able to love ourselves—to value ourselves.
- To know the value and meaning of being born a human being.
- To know the true purpose for our lives.
- To know what is good and appropriate for us to do.
We reflect in this way and then we ask ourselves who gave birth to us? Who nourished, taught, and looked after us? Who was responsible for our present success and prosperity? The answer is our parents: our father and mother. Without our parents how could we have grown up? If our parents don’t teach us how to be responsible we won’t improve. The reason we have found success is because of these two noble guardians—our mother and father. Mothers, however, get more attention because they tend to be the ones who are closest to us as we grow up and who look after us. In most families this is the duty of the mother. If children misbehave the fathers tend to scold the mother, accusing her of not looking after the children and neglecting to discipline them. Mothers, therefore, have quite a heavy burden, of raising the children to be virtuous individuals.