The Kindness of the Mother

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 2000 (Archive #1257)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught on the kindness of the mother at the 33rd Kopan Course held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in 2000.

This teaching is an edited excerpt from Lecture Seven of the course. Click here to read more.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche with Ama-la (his mother) at Lawudo Retreat Center, Nepal, 1990. Photo: Merry Colony.

There are two meditation techniques to develop bodhicitta. One is developing altruism to achieve enlightenment through the seven-point technique of Mahayana cause and effect. Based on the realization of equanimity—how all sentient beings are equal to us—we reflect on how all sentient beings have been our mother and how kind they have been. Then we determine to repay the kindness and we develop affectionate loving kindness, like the love that a mother feels for her beloved child that she’s cherished so much in her heart.

Affectionate loving kindness means generating that kind of love towards every single sentient being without discrimination. The Tibetan term for that feeling in our heart is yi-ong jam-pa. It’s similar to saying “most dear.” We generate love exactly like that towards every single sentient being, even towards the people who abuse us, even towards those we call enemy. We generate that love to every sentient being in the six realms without discrimination, not only to human beings. Affectionate loving kindness is feeling that every sentient being is most dear.

We see the sentient beings who are the object of our meditation as beautiful. Their beauty is not physical—they can be totally ugly, most horrible—but we see that person as beautiful, because we have meditated on their kindness before. That person has shown kindness to us from beginningless rebirths, by being our mother.

If the person who has been most kind in this life is our father, then we can use the father for this meditation. If it’s easier to meditate on the kindness of the father, think that all sentient beings have been our father. We can see that every sentient being has been kind exactly like this, numberless times from beginningless rebirths. If our father is the one who has been most kind to us, we can try to generate the same feeling towards all sentient beings and that helps us to repay their kindness, by seeing our father’s beauty when we look at all sentient beings. Or if we use the mother or somebody else that we feel is most kind, similarly, think that everybody has shown us that kindness.

It’s not made up. This is according to reality and it has been like this from countless rebirths for every sentient being. So then, we can see the beauty in every sentient being. As I mentioned, even a person who is physically ugly, terrible ugly, when we think of the kindness of that person then we feel affectionate love and in view of that affection we see their beauty. It has nothing to do with physical beauty.

So the mother is used in the texts because she gave us life, when our consciousness took place on the fertilized egg. She took care of us for nine months in the womb, where our consciousness took place. We were born from our mother, we came out from her body, and that in itself is an unbelievable kindness. Even if that was the only thing she did—even if she did nothing after that—that in itself is an unbelievable kindness. She didn’t have an abortion or think more about her own comfort and making her own life easier. She gave up her freedom and she chose to take care of us, even though it made her life uncomfortable or uneasy.

Think that if she hadn’t taken care of us, we wouldn’t have this precious human body. Not only that, we wouldn’t have these human pleasures. Not only that, but the most precious thing is to meet Dharma and practice and learn Dharma, so we can be free from samsara. The Dharma, which is the Buddha’s teaching, is the only thing that has the means, that has the complete path to liberate us from samsara and, not only that, to achieve enlightenment so we can liberate numberless sentient beings from all the sufferings and causes, and bring them to enlightenment. It allows us to bring infinite benefit to sentient beings. We can think that all this came from the mother’s kindness. We have all these opportunities due to the mother’s kindness.

Even if all our mother ever did for us was give birth, then she gave us to somebody else to take care of us. Even if somebody else raised us, and we think, “Oh, my mother’s abandoned me. My mother is terrible. Somebody else took care of me and that’s totally bad. My mother is totally bad.” We see the kindness of the person who’s raised us, but we don’t see the kindness of our mother. We don’t see that all these opportunities that we have now come from the mother—not only temporal pleasure and comforts, but all these unbelievable chances to practice Dharma, as I mentioned before. This would all be impossible if she hadn’t taken care of us in the womb.

By now, we could be in the hell realm. We could be a fish in the water, caught in the fisherman’s net, or whatever. By now, we could be a worm eaten by a bird, cut in pieces. We could be in the mouth, in the beaks of those big birds on the beach, in the ocean. They have these huge beaks. Pelicans. They have long beaks and are very terrifying. They somehow swallow the fish whole and keep it down. So, anyway, we could be there by now, we could be in that mouth.

Anyway, you never know. We could be a mosquito, disturbing people and annoying people. You never know. We could be a crocodile, with a very long mouth and teeth hanging here, such an unbelievable body. We could be like that in the mud. Or we could be that big animal that lives in the mud, a rhinoceros. A rhinoceros or a hippopotamus. A hiponomas or happyinomas. We could be anything, we wouldn’t have this chance.

When we think like that, even if all she did was just keep us for nine months in the womb, taking care of us and giving birth, that is unbelievable. Just that is unbelievable. Due to that, all these things happen. It’s the cause of all this unbelievable, incredible opportunity we have now. It’s all come from her unbelievable kindness, because she took care of us in the womb and gave birth to us. Now having the opportunity to practice Dharma came from her, from her kindness. It’s dependent on her. Just as the fruit that we enjoy depends on the seed that was planted, this is the same. All these incredible comforts and pleasures that we have and the most fascinating thing that is a miracle—having the opportunity to practice Dharma to achieve all the happiness of future lives and liberation from samsara and enlightenment—it all depends on her taking care of us and giving birth to us, giving us a human body.

We cannot repay even this life’s kindness, without thinking that she has been our mother in numberless past lives, giving us not only temporary happiness but the opportunity to practice Dharma. Without thinking about that, just thinking about her kindness in this life, even if we sacrifice all our lives for her, if we give up our lives equaling the number of atoms on this earth for her, if we sacrifice that many lives for her, still it’s nothing. We cannot repay her kindness, because she gave us this incredible opportunity. Sacrificing our own life for her is nothing, we cannot repay her kindness.