Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day/Words of Yeshe Tsogyal

It's Mother's Day here in the USA, and I am reminded of the Buddhist teaching that all beings, in one lifetime or another, have been our mothers—and so deserve to be treated with the same kindness and compassion that we owe our mothers in this present life.

Our mothers, after all, cared for us unselfishly when we were helpless; they loved us unconditionally.

There's a scene in the movie Kundun where one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's tutors tells him, when he is a young child, that it's his job to love everyone unconditionally. I often wonder how our world be different if every young child were taught this lesson.

I think of this unconditional love as a form of generosity, and it reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of poetry; it's a description of the way she works to benefit beings, spoken by a Tibetan woman, Yeshe Tsogyal, who was one of the 25 main disciples of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). Guru Rinpoche is credited with firmly establishing the practice of Buddhism in Tibet, and Yeshe Tsogyal greatly assisted him in that effort.

Her life is described quite wonderfully in a book, Lady of the Lotus-Born (Shambhala Publications, 1999), which includes the following passage (in which the "he" who has vanished from sight is to Guru Rinpoche).

So today, I offer Yeshe Tsogyal's words as a happy gift for mothers everywhere:

"And with these words, he vanished from our sight. Whereupon I, Tsogyal, made my way to the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, where I caused Namkhai Nyingpo to progress in the meditation on the subtle channels and energies. I granted the attainment of immortality, so that the bhikshu gained accomplishment, both supreme and ordinary.

Afterwards, I abided evenly in the view of the Great Perfection beyond all action, and as the experience dawned on me wherein all phenomena are extinguished in the nature of reality, I was perceived in various forms according to the needs of beings.

To the hungry I was heaps of food and all good things, and thus I brought them joy.

To the cold and freezing I was fire and sun-warmth, thus their joy.

To the poor and needy I was wealth and riches, thus their joy.

To the naked I was every kind of raiment, thus their joy.

To the childless I was sons and daughters, thus their joy.

To those who craved a woman, I became a lovely girl and thus their joy.

To those who sought a lover, I was a handsome youth and thus their joy.

To those who wanted magic powers, I gave prowess in the eight great siddhis, and thus I brought them joy.

To the sick I was their remedy and thus their joy.

To the anguished I was all their mind desired, and thus I was their joy.

To those hard pressed by punishments of kings, I was the loving friend to lead them to the land of peace, and I was thus their joy.

To those in fear of savage beasts, I was a haven, thus their joy.

To those who fell into the depths, I was their drawing out and thus their joy.

To those tormented in the fire, I was a quenching stream and thus their joy.

To those in prey to any of the elements, I was their medicine and thus their joy.

For those who could not see, I was their eyes and brought them joy.

And for the halt and crippled I was feet and thus their joy.

I was a tongue for those who could not speak, and thus I brought them joy.

To those in fear of death I granted immortality, and thus I was their joy.

I led the dying on the path of transference and brought them joy.

To those who wandered in the bardo state, I was their yidam, bringing them to joy.

I cooled the burning heat and warmed the cold of those lost in the realms of hell. 

Howsoever they were tortured, I changed myself to shield them, being thus their joy.

To those who lingered in the land of hungry ghosts, I was their food and drink and thus their joy.

I was freedom from stupidity and servitude for those caught in the wordless state of beasts--and thus I brought them joy.

Those beings born in savage lands--I turned them from barbarity and brought them joy.

I was a truce from war and strife for the asuras and was thus their joy.

The gods I guarded from their bitter fall and I was thus their joy.

I shielded all from everything that tortured them and was their every joy.

Wherever there is space, five elements pervade,

Wherever the five elements, the homes of living beings,

Wherever living beings, karma and defilements,

Wherever is defilement, my compassion also.

Wherever is the need of beings, there I am to help them.

And thus I remained for twenty years in the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible."

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