The Dhamma Is Our True Mother – Part 2

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.

Young Chittagong women at an almsgiving ceremony

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.

Thai Family at the Luang Por Chah Anniversary Day 2012

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.

Water Buffalo

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.

Thai Woven Cloth

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.

Dusk at Wat Arun, Bangkok

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.

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