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.
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.
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.
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.