‘Like a mother who protects her child, her only child, with her own life, one should cultivate a heart of unlimited love and compassion towards all living beings.’
Today, is Mother’s Day in many countries, a time for all to remember the great and unrepayable kindness of mothers everywhere. Many great texts compare Bodhisattvas to mothers, whose love and compassion for their children endures all sorts of hostility, obstacles and requires much patience, especially in these lockdown Covid-19 times.
In Tibetan, the word ‘yum’, the honorific for ‘mother’, is used to describe the great ‘mother’ of wisdom, prajñāpāramitā, as well as female consorts of deities. Noble Tara is also described as ‘mother’ Tara. Why is this? Because the mother of all the buddhas, is that which gives ‘birth’ and is the source of everything and there is no greater love or compassion than that a loving mother has for her only child. Today let us remember the great love of compassion of mothers everywhere and remember that all beings seek for and wish to be cared for with that kind of love!
In the Mahayana Sutras, the mother of all the Buddhas is the Yum Chenmo, the Great Mother prajñāpāramitā , source of all phenomena that lack any inherent existence. For more on that see here. As it says on Himalayan Art Resources;
“The goddess prajñāpāramitā is the personification of the sutra literature of the same. She represents emptiness itself. There are a number of different iconographic forms that are employed as meditational deities. She is commonly portrayed on manuscript pages and carved on wooden book covers. The letter ‘A’ is also used to represent the goddess and there is a text known as the Prajnaparamita in a Single Letter.
Teachings on Heart Sutra live today
Today, in honour of Jetsun Taranatha’s Parinirvana, Jonang master Khentrul Rinpoche is giving an online teaching on the Heart Sutra and the view of Empty-of-Other (Zhentong), see here. For more on that topic, see my book Taranatha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra (LTWA, 2017).
I also gave a talk on this commentary at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute, Nepal in 2019, for an audio (not great quality) of that talk, see here.
Vajrayana, Chod and Machig Labdron
In the Vajrayana, tantric scriptures, all women (especially mothers) must be respected and never denigrated, as women’s bodies are the source of wisdom and bliss and dakinis can appear in human form!
Machig Labdron (1055-1183) (whose name Machig, literally means ‘single mother’ and who was mother to three children) is popularly considered to be both a dakini and a deity, an emanation of Yum Chenmo, or Prajñāpāramitā , the embodiment of the wisdom of the buddhas. She is the founder and lineage holder of Chod (severance) practice. For more on Machig, see here.
Praises and Songs
To commemorate this Mother’s Day, I am re-posting my poem (originally published here) praising the ‘Mother’ relative and ultimate included in the poetry pamphlet, Tales from the Yoni Stone (Dakini Publications, 2020) and some beautiful songs praising their great qualities. May we all be continually embraced and loved by the kindness and compassion of a loving mother at all times!
THE MOTHER OF WISDOM
”No thing anywhere
is ever born from itself,
from something else,
from both or without a cause.’
–Nagarjuna – from ‘Root Verses on the Wisdom of the Middle Way’
For there to be a Birth-day
there must be a ‘mother’ and ‘child’
but who causes who to arise?
For something to be ‘born’
there must be a ’cause’
but when does the ‘seed’ become the ‘tree’ ?
For the ‘seed’ to ‘grow’
there must be ‘conditions’
but when do the sun, earth and air become ‘growing’?
For something to ‘die’
there must be ‘change’
but when does the ‘change’ become the ‘death’?
For there to be ‘objects’
there must be ‘words’
but when did the ‘words’ become the ‘objects”?
All I know is,
when I watch you sleep,
even the words ‘love’ and ‘compassion’ fall away;
like countless tears from a billion mothers,
into a deep ocean of timeless peace.
Child, you are my guru
You gave birth to me, a mother
and for that I am eternally grateful.”
Written and dedicated to my son, by Adele Tomlin, from Tales of the Yoni Stone (Dakini Publications, 2020).
A personal tribute drawn and given to me by a very talented boy today 🙂 :
Here are two lovely songs about ‘mother love’: