Remembering My Mom, and My Shortcomings as a Son, on Her Death Anniversary
May 20th was my mom's death anniversary. Every year I do my best to post something meaningful to honor her, with the intent to prompt you to think about your relationship with your mother and parents so you can ponder its meaning. How has it affected you, your relationship to others, and your spiritual life? I was a bitter young man for many years until I came to realize that my mom did the best she could, and was struggling in a very abusive relationship. Thus with maturity and knowledge I gradually forgave her for leaving me with my dad--I came to find out that he had threatened to kill both of us if she had tried to get custody. He had a gun and a very bad temper, so it didn't seem an idle threat. As I have shared often, when I became a devotee in 1970 and moved into the temple ashram as a monk, I was not very sensitive and thoughtful in my dealings with my mother. While in the ultimate sense we are souls with nothing to do with the body, we still have to deal with our material life responsibly according to our realization--and this certainly includes being kind and understanding to others who aren't on our path, and/or who raised us.
As a lad of 19 years coming from a shallow understanding of the counterculture of everything young and anti-establishment, I had no common sense, or practical experience. Plus I had no wise devotee elders to soften my fanaticism, but only other very young persons to teach me, who although sincere, didn't have a balanced perspective. In general, the culture at that time in the Krishna movement was very black and white--you either lived in the temple, or you were in illusion (maya), and if you were a devotee you were good, and if not, you were bad and to be avoided. In the beginning while we were trying to gain faith and experience in bhakti, this "all or nothing" attitude had some utility, but for most of us, in the long run it wasn't helpful in our relationships and in dealing with the material world. I would, of course, do things much differently now if I could live my life over, but what was done can't be changed. Still, for future generations I write much about my mistakes and immaturity with the hope of educating others.
As an interesting aside, this last weekend my wife and I performed a wedding, and met the parents of the bride and groom. Plus many children and their parents attended, as did older devotees. Thus most of the life stages from birth to near death were represented and I naturally thought of my upbringing and the upcoming death anniversary of my mom. This couple may soon give birth to their own children with the opportunity to raise them well, both from the material and spiritual perspective. My wife and I will do our best to share what we have learned in our own marriage and by recommending books that support a healthy marriages and child rearing, in addition to encouraging them to remain a dedicated devotee of Krishna, or Gaudiya Vaishnava. Our book, which we co-authored with the Grihastha Vision Team, Heart and Soul Connection, has been published in India ( http://touchstonemedia.com/heart-and-soul-connection-a-devotional-guide-... ) , and will soon be available on Amazon.com (and Krishna.com) and as an eBook. Our hope is that future devotee families will have much support and help in meeting their material and spiritual needs and providing an ideal environment for the children taking birth--which could be all of us!
Here are two of the series of 10 or so blogs I wrote four years ago: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2010/05/4/krishnas-perfect-arrangements and perhaps more importantly regarding reconciling with one's parents: http://www.krishna.com/blog/2010/05/2/primal-scream-spiritual-joy I hope you will find it helpful in thinking about your relationship with your parents and perhaps motivating you to improve your dealings with them--if you need to. Learning from, and deepening our understanding with, our parents and others is one of the most important points of this blog--as it is part of preparing yourself for their death (and your own), or moving on to the next life. Ideally, we should be able to send off the dying with spiritual love, mature wisdom, and prayers, but without resentments, regrets, anger, or even materially possessive, conditional, selfish, love--all of which bind us to another person. We could call this, as did HH Bhakti-tirtha Maharaja, "Die before dying," or getting our mental/emotional house in order before we leave our body behind for good. I was trained as a hospice volunteer--a good skill for devotee to learn--( http://www.spiritofmaat.com/archive/aug2/cia.htm ) to help people in hospice make peace with their past, and thus be ready to move on to the next life with no regrets and in peace. Otherwise, we will have to deal with our attachments and resentments in the next life--so it better to cut these cords now, through introspection, wisdom, and loving forgiveness. Hare Krishna!