The Dhamma Is Our True Mother – Part 3

Old Women Being Carried at Wat Pah Pong

We should all con­sid­er how much trou­ble we may have caused our par­ents. What sort of wor­ries and anx­i­eties have we cre­at­ed say for our moth­ers? If we real­ize that we are caus­ing dis­tress to our par­ents, we should change our ways.

Yes­ter­day a moth­er and her son came to make offer­ings, but they were ded­i­cat­ing the good­ness to the boy’s father. The father is still alive, but he has a bro­ken leg and couldn’t come along. I asked the moth­er how her hus­band broke his leg. ‘He was jump­ing up to chase and kick his son, but he fell down.’ He has to wear a cast too. I asked the son what he had done wrong to pro­voke his father in this way. The moth­er replied that his father doesn’t like that he wears his hair long. These days boys grow pony­tails. The boy’s father didn’t like his son wear­ing a pony­tail, but how­ev­er many times he scold­ed him, his son refused to get a haircut.

On that day he returned home, saw his son, and imme­di­ate­ly became furi­ous. The father has a short tem­per and likes to drink alco­hol. He jumped up to pun­ish his son, but slipped and broke his leg. So I told the son: ‘Don’t annoy or dis­obey your par­ents. Par­ents raise their chil­dren and help in every way pos­si­ble. One should act in such a way to put them at ease. We are con­nect­ed to our par­ents and should try and make them hap­py. If they don’t want you to have long hair, why wear it that way? You have to wash it all the time because it gets all tan­gled and messy. Cut it short like me—then there are no prob­lems.’ I stroked the top of my head and he smiled.

If we have done any­thing to cause our par­ents trou­ble we should go and ask for­give­ness. We should do this while they are still alive. Don’t ask for­give­ness from them after they’ve died or when they are being placed in the cre­ma­to­ry. Do it while they are still alive. And make an effort to avoid think­ing, speak­ing and doing things that will cause them hard­ship. If one acts in such a way that puts one’s par­ents at ease, it will make one’s moth­er feel that she is sit­ting in a sev­en-tiered heav­en­ly mansion.

On Mother’s Day we should look inward­ly at our­selves. Fol­low­ing this, we should do good things for our par­ents while they are still alive. For this rea­son there is the tra­di­tion of vis­it­ing one’s moth­er on Mother’s Day and offer­ing jas­mine flow­ers. But doing this only on one sin­gle day is not enough. We should make an effort to help them every day.

Woman with Flowers at Wat Nong Pah Pong

Here, we should take into account the supreme mother—the moth­er of nature, the moth­er of all things. This moth­er is the Dham­ma. There is the say­ing: ‘The Bud­dha is our father, the Dham­ma is our moth­er, and the awak­ened dis­ci­ples of the Bud­dha are our men­tors.’ These three deserve our respect and hon­our. The Dham­ma is the true moth­er. The rea­son why our par­ents have done a good job at rais­ing us is because they were guid­ed by the Dham­ma. They are endowed with the virtues of a par­ent. At the very least, they pos­sess the four qual­i­ties of: met­tā—they wish for their chil­dren to expe­ri­ence hap­pi­ness and to thrive; karuṇā—they can­not bear to see their chil­dren suf­fer or be in trou­ble, and will be the first ones to help out; muditā—they delight in the suc­cess and good for­tune of their chil­dren; and upekkhā—if there is noth­ing they can do for their chil­dren, they patient­ly watch out for their children’s well-being, and wait for news about them when they are liv­ing far apart.

The Dham­ma is the moth­er of the world, it pro­tects the world, it safe­guards the world, it is the source of all things, pro­vid­ing us with well-being and hap­pi­ness. We should thus reflect on all those aspects of the Dham­ma that we can apply in our dai­ly lives.

Whichev­er aspect of Dham­ma we use becomes our moth­er. We may use mind­ful­ness, a sense of shame, a fear of wrong­do­ing, self-dis­ci­pline, patience, renun­ci­a­tion, con­cen­tra­tion, or wis­dom. These prin­ci­ples and virtues become our moth­er, in that they do not aban­don us or remain remote from us. But some­times we are care­less and for­get our moth­er. In times of trou­ble, instead of rec­ol­lect­ing our moth­er, we go for refuge to things that can­not help, like super­sti­tious prac­tices or reli­gious ceremonies.

If we are suf­fer­ing or dis­tressed we place our palms togeth­er and remem­ber our moth­er. She will help her chil­dren. The Dham­ma is our moth­er. But the Dham­ma can­not run to our res­cue; instead, we must seek out the Dham­ma, incline towards the Dham­ma, and then place the Dham­ma firm­ly in our hearts, by train­ing our­selves and cul­ti­vat­ing the heart so that it is imbued with the Dham­ma. The Dham­ma will then come to our aid imme­di­ate­ly. There is thus the Pali say­ing: Dham­mo have rakkhati dham­macāri, which trans­lates as: ‘The Dham­ma pro­tects those who prac­tise the Dham­ma.’ If one doesn’t prac­tise the Dham­ma, it can­not guard and pro­tect us. It is like an umbrella—if we don’t open it how can it keep us shad­ed and pro­tect­ed from the rain? It is only use­ful when it is opened.

This morn­ing some­one came to offer nine umbrel­las, say­ing: ‘The oth­er day I saw the laypeo­ple and the monks sit­ting in the hot sun, so I have bought some umbrel­las to offer to the monastery.’ At the moment the Bam­boo Grove is a bit hot because some of the old­er trees have died. We have plant­ed some young Nar­ra trees which will pro­vide good shade in the future, but as yet they don’t have a large canopy and so we must endure with the heat. This layper­son thought that we are sit­ting out in the open like farm­ers exposed to the weath­er. But today the laypeo­ple had some umbrel­las to sit under and were more comfortable.

Burmese Buddha under an Umbrella

The Dham­ma is like a large umbrel­la which con­stant­ly pro­tects and shel­ters the world. The Bud­dha dis­cov­ered the Dham­ma and revealed it to the cit­i­zens of the world, say­ing: ‘This is your moth­er. Look after her well. Take your moth­er and place her in your heart. You will be safe and free from trou­bles. You will not suf­fer because your moth­er the Dham­ma will pro­tect you.’

We should fre­quent­ly ask our­selves whether the Dham­ma dwells in our hearts. When­ev­er we are heed­less and lack the Dham­ma we suf­fer. Pamā­do mac­cuno padaṃ—heed­less­ness is the path to death. Appamā­do amataṃ padaṃ—heed­ful­ness is the path to the death­less. If we are heed­less we are forgetful—we for­get our moth­er the Dham­ma. We don’t prac­tise the Dham­ma. Wher­ev­er we go we should invite our moth­er along to be a part­ner and ally, to con­sult with, to sup­port us, and to give us advice.

Dur­ing all of our activ­i­ties the Dham­ma watch­es over us. In turn, we should rec­ol­lect the Dham­ma wher­ev­er we go, dur­ing what­ev­er we do and think, and when­ev­er we asso­ciate with oth­ers. We should review by con­sid­er­ing which attrib­ut­es, which qual­i­ties of the Dham­ma we should apply. This requires dis­crim­i­na­tion, which is called dham­ma-vicaya—inves­ti­ga­tion of Dhamma—which is one of the sev­en enlight­en­ment fac­tors. We first have sati—mindfulness—the aware­ness of the Dham­ma. When we have done this we ask our­selves which qual­i­ties of the Dham­ma we should apply. ‘Should I apply patient endurance? For­give­ness? Moral shame? Fear of wrong­do­ing? Lov­ingkind­ness?’ We need to choose those qual­i­ties that are suit­able for the occa­sion. If we are able to choose in this way then the Dham­ma pro­tects us at once.

Buddhist Laywomen Celebrating at Wat Nong Pah Pong

All we have to do is remem­ber the Dham­ma and it will extend a hand to pro­tect us. It won’t allow us to fall or come to harm. We there­fore must bring it to mind at all times. Espe­cial­ly while dri­ving one’s car dur­ing the rainy sea­son, take the Dham­ma with you. Tell your­self, ‘When it’s rain­ing the roads are slip­pery. If I’m not care­ful I may slide off the road.’ Dri­ve care­ful­ly, using mind­ful­ness and wis­dom. Hold on to the steer­ing wheel well, look ahead of you, and use your mir­rors. Don’t rush. Because our moth­er the Dham­ma will pro­tect us when we rec­ol­lect the Dham­ma. The Dham­ma will come to our aid right away.

This is enough for today. May I make the wish that the Dham­ma dwells in the hearts of every­one one of you.

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