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The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong feeling that all living beings are definitely our mothers, and then to contemplate this feeling in light of wishing love.
I began by thinking about how the flame in a lamp will go out when the oil is exhausted, because the flame arises from the oil – they are the same continuum. But it is different for our minds. When our body dies, our mind is not extinguished because our mind does not arise from our body – they are not the same continuum.
I thought about this for a while and it seemed to me that my mind was a formless continuum of thoughts which extended far far in to the past, far more ancient than the duration of my short life. It will continue far far into the future, way beyond the death of this short lived body. I dwelt on this recognition for a while, and when this idea was firm, I considered that in each of my past lives, I have had a mother. Where are these mothers now? They are all the living beings I see around me now. I thought about my relationship with my mother, and I thought about how my children love their mother dearly. I thought about this connection, and then imputed this connection between myself and all other living beings. I slowly began to feel a very close connection with all living beings because I saw them as my mother. When I had this feeling firmly in mind, I rested my mind upon it, and let it fill my awareness.
After a while I thought about what this means in light of wishing love. It seemed to me more clear than ever that wishing love is not a ‘stand alone’ mind, but a mind made up of parts, one of which is the recognition that all living beings are my mother. It seemed clear that when I think ‘wishing love’ I am really trying to keep a simultaneous awareness of all the Lamrim objects which ‘precede’ it. With this delightful recognition, I returned to that part of wishing love which was the recognition that all living beings are my mother, and stayed in that feeling for the rest of the meditation.
Through the virtues I have collected here, may I become a Buddha for the benefit of all my kind mothers, and may they soon be released from their sufferings within samsara.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to remember and ‘see’ that all living beings are my mother.
The purpose of this meditation is to realise that all living beings are our mothers, and then to meditate on this realisation in light of their kindness.
I began with a long session of breathing meditation. I was able to take my time today and really enjoy the feeling of my mind gradually slowing down and then finally coming to a complete stop. An almost indescribable feeling of calm and profound stillness.
After some time I began thinking about how all living beings are our mother. This is one of those proposals made by the Buddha which ‘sounds strange to new ears’ as my teacher, Geshe Kelsang says. In his magnificent book ‘Meaningful to Behold‘ he gives many balanced reasons why we can develop the strong conviction that all living beings are indeed our mother. As he says, it all depends on a correct understanding of our mind.
If we think about our thoughts, we will be able to trace them backward to the previous moment, the previous minute, hour and so on. In principle we could trace our train of thoughts back to our childhood. Why stop there? Was there some point in time (let’s say when we were 12 months old, to pick a nonsense, arbitrary point) when our mind ‘started’? No – it is obvious that our continuum of thought continues back further still. Back to our birth, back to our time in the womb.
At some point in the development of our embryo our nervous system was not fully developed, and most scientists would propose that our mind ‘starts’ spontaneously when our nervous system has a sufficient number of connections. However, Buddhist thought suggests an alternative hypothesis. Our mind is a formless continuum which is related to the body and brain, but is not created by them. Our mind forms a link with our body and brain at the moment of conception, but the main cause of the mind at this time was (as always) the previous moment of mind, before conception. Where was this mind? As a formless continuum it makes little sense to ask ‘where’ this mind was before conception, except to say that it was ‘linked’ to another body and brain which died.
The current state of scientific knowledge is that no-one knows how to demonstrate that the mind is produced by the brain. It is called ‘The Hard Question’ and although most scientists firmly believe that the mind is created by the brain, currently there is not a shred of evidence that supports that proposal. So it boils down to this: is the mind created by the brain, or is the mind a separate formless continuum, and the output of FMRI scanners simply the ‘wake’ of the mind as it operates in relation to our reality?
As my teacher says, we need to approach this topic with an open mind and with as few preconceptions as possible if we are to be able to investigate it thoroughly.
I thought about my mind and how it feels. I traced my thoughts back as far as I could, and drew the conclusion that my mind is a continuum of thoughts which extend back through my life to the womb.
I thought about how the continuum of my mind extended back prior to my birth to a previous life, and how I must have been born of a mother in that life. I repeated the thought experiment back to the birth of that life, and further back in time to the life before that. It seemed that my mental continuum extended back through countless lives – with countless mothers. Where are these mothers now? They are all the living beings around me now.
I thought about the logic of this point of view, and felt a deep sense of all living beings being my mother. I felt an overwhelming love for all living beings and a closeness and intimacy with them. I stayed with this feeling for a while.
I then thought about this in the light of the kindness of all living beings. It seemed to me very obvious that all my mothers would naturally love me and cherish me when they were my mother. I felt loved and cherished, and in turn I felt a love and cherishing feeling towards them. I stayed with this very lovely feeling for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings come to see their true relationship with others, and through this realisation, become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to keep this realisation and feeling alive and see all living beings as my mother. It will not be appropriate to address them as such or show the feelings I have generated in meditation, because although I can see my true relationship with them, they cannot see their true relationship with me. Remembering my commitment to ‘remain natural while changing my aspiration’, I will cherish all living beings as my mother – in my heart.
The purpose of this meditation is to remember the kindness of all living beings, and then consider what this means in the context of death and impermanence.
I began the meditation by thinking about how kind my mother has been to me. She gave up her job when she was pregnant with me – a job she loved. She stayed home when her friends went out enjoying themselves. She cared for me all day and all night. She took on my welfare and happiness as her personal responsibility. All the opportunities I now have are directly linked to her kindness. I felt a very deep sense of appreciation and gratitude towards my mother.
I then remembered my previous meditation where I proved that all living beings have also been my mother, and treated me in the same way. I also remembered that even today, all living beings are helping me in my quest to become enlightened. They are giving me help, advice, friendship and encouragement. Others are giving me equally precious gifts, such as the opportunity to practice patience, equanimity, love and compassion. Whoever I look at, they are being kind to me.
I thought about all this kindness from each and every living being, and I felt a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation in my heart, which I stayed with for a while.
I then asked myself what this means in the context of death and impermanence. It seemed to me that death masks the relationship I have with all living beings, but with Dharma wisdom I can see through this mask to the truth. Changing appearances cannot fool me – all living beings are my kind mothers!
This reinforced my feeling of gratitude and appreciation, and I remained on this thought for the rest of my meditation.
May all living beings see clearly the kindness of all living beings, and thereby become Buddhas for the benefit of all.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will try to see all living beings as my kind mother today, and with equanimity see all their actions as kind.
The purpose of this meditation is to develop an urgent wish that all living beings be freed from their suffering quickly.
“No-one wants to suffer, yet out of ignorance living beings create suffering by performing non-virtuous actions.”
I thought about how kind all other living beings have been to me, and how much I care for them. Then I thought about their actions, and how, because they simply do not understand the karmic connections between their actions and their experiences, they engage in acts of lying, killing and covetousness which only cause them immense suffering in the future. I though about how tragic it was.
I thought about how living beings are like children wandering into danger’s way without realising. They are not stupid: they just don’t recognise the danger they are putting themselves in. An image came to mind of seeing children playing on a railway track. I felt horror in the knowledge that as they happily played, a train was coming towards them at great speed, and would kill them all. I felt a deep horror and concern for them. I felt a deep wish for them to leave the place of danger and find a place of safety.
I focused on this very strong wish for them to come away from the danger and find safety. I stayed with this wish for the rest of the meditation.
May all living beings develop Great Compassion for all living beings, and through this mother, be born as Buddhas.
Practice in the Meditation Break
I will maintain the sincere wish that all living beings be freed from their suffering, and make prayers for them when I see or think of their suffering.