On Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day May 8, 2010


The thought “mother” cannot be separated from that of “love.” Love is sweet, tender, and delicious. Without love, a child cannot flower and an adult cannot mature. — Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, A Rose for Your Pocket

Question: To what does the Buddha liken metta ? (Metta can be translated as lovingkindness.) The Buddha compares cultivating  metta … as to a mother, who’d risk her life to protect her child.

Consider a newborn baby bird, just hatched from its egg.  It’s been pecking away from the inside. Its mother has been pecking away from the outside. Now,still not fully formed and still wearing the sticky fluids of its matrix in the egg, it might look to us not just gawky but downright icky: but not to its mother!  Mama birdy will be sure this scrawny, wobbly,to us weird-looking creature has enough worms to eat, learns to walk, learns to fly … … … such is but an instance of a mother’s love.

Cherishing and nourishing this universal motherly impulse can open our heart to all living beings, over the entire globe.  It extends across time as well as space, as we recognize how in the course of our lives, in our interconnectedness, we mother each other, and are mothered in return.

Indeed, in our own lives, we can see how our generation is the first to both be parent to our children, and be parent to our own parents as they grow old and dependent upon our care, now  that human beings are living longer. And so our generation has double the opportunity to nourish our motherly compassion, our lovingkindness.

Actually, Buddhism holds to far fewer calendrical holidays than in most other traditions. (Right now, Spring, devotees are celebrating the birth of the Buddha.) After all, this path is about being attuned to the present moment, without concept, in all its fullness.  And when we do so, it’s only natural we are reminded of the depth and grace of our mother’s love, for so long invisible to us.

Remembering our mother’s love doesn’t require a single day.   It’s lifelong.

To make a simple circle of these random thoughts, I’ll close with a few more words from which I began.  In his marvelous, compact prose poem on motherhood,  A Rose For Your Pocket, Vietnamese Buddhist teacher writes:

People in the countryside do not understand the complicated language of city people;. When people from the city say that mother is “a treasure of love,” that is already too complex for them. Country people in Vietnam compare their mothers to the finest varieties of bananas or to honey, sweet rice, or sugar cane. They express their love in these simple and direct ways. For me, a mother like a a huong banana of the highest quality, like the best nep mot sweet rice, the most delicious mia lau sugar cane!

Sweet Mother’s Day thoughts !


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