On this Mother's Day weekend, I have been pondering what it must have been like to have been Machik Labdron's mother.
So much emphasis is placed in the Buddhist teachings on the energies of our mothers—how they protect and care for us when we are helpless, without asking for anything in return. We are encouraged to extend this lovingkindness—the wish for a tiny baby to be happy—and compassion—the wish for a tiny baby not to suffer—to all sentient beings, beginning first with ourselves and then extending outward in spirals to include those people for whom we feel affection, those people toward whom we feel neutral, and finally to those people we dislike and toward whom we feel hatred and revulsion.
But what must it have been like to have been a mother who had prophetic dreams in which her heart was cut out of her and feasted on by dakinis, to be replaced by a glistening white right-turning conch shell? It's said that Bumcham, Machik's mother, was not disturbed by this dream imagery—in fact, it brought her bliss, and she felt better than before!
While she was pregnant with Machik, at age 48, Bumcham's wrinkles faded and everyone commented on how young she looked. It was said she could see in the dark, that at night her room was lit as from the glow of butter lamps, and that she knew the thoughts of other people.
And then there was her daughter, Machik, "One Mother," who would one day become a mother herself, born with three eyes and able to speak. What a shock that must have been! It seems Bumcham dealt with the shock gracefully. By the time Machik was born, Bumcham probably had a good idea that she was birthing someone special.
Bumcham—who, with her husband, was a dharma practitioner—was likely little Machik's first dharma teacher. It's said that the two of them recited sutras together in the family chapel.
Bumcham died when Machik was 10 or 13 (I've read both ages), so the two of them had only a short time together, but I'm sure her influence on Machik was important for both of them.
I wonder if Bumcham took rebirth or went to a pure land? I've never read anything more about her, other than in Machik's biography.
Of course, to each mother her baby is special, a gift, and all time together is special. On Mother's Day, let us honor the best about our mothers, who are often our first spiritual teachers, and honor ways to pass the lessons of lovingkindness and compassion on to the young people in our lives.
Happy Mother's Day!