Mother, Buddha and Me

In order to cope with afflictive emotions, sometimes I split myself into three: the child in pain, the mother who soothes, and the awakened Buddha.

The mother kind of represents my “ideal self,” who is this feminine nurturing figure that can sympathetically relate to my “actual self,” the child in pain, while holding him in compassionate embrace and offering words of wisdom. The Buddha represents my “highest self,” which is the awakened mind itself undisturbed by the turbulence of suffering and unclouded as crystal clarity. The mother is empowered by the Buddha to bring the child closer to the mother’s state and thereby closer to the Buddha’s state. All these are indivisible aspects of the same person: me.

While not common to me, in my deepest states of suffering I desperately seek refuge in my mother. But my actual mother is a bit estranged from me, and I don’t have other stable mother figures in my life, so I had to learn how to mother myself. Sometimes I find that it’s best to lean into that desire to seek refuge in the mother, so that by summoning the motherhood within me I also remember to recognize my own Buddha-nature — since the powers and qualities of the mother are none other than the endowments of her Buddha-nature.

This is one way I try to “take obstacles as the path.” Instead of trying to get rid of or change my painful emotions, leaning into feeling them full-heartedly in order to mother them with an awakened eye proves to be the most useful in overcoming them. It is a way of showing and experiencing how I already have the means to the end of my own suffering and how the ultimate refuge is not something I need to seek beyond myself. In this sense even the child is a manifestation of Buddha-nature and the loving support of the mother (who is also a manifestation of Buddha-nature) is the means by which the child comes to recognize himself as such.