Dharma Mom

The Dharma Mom: Raising Baby Buddhas


Through exploring the teachings and practices of Buddhism, one can realize that mothering is an ongoing process of cultivating compassion, wisdom, and mindfulness, rather than simply an identity or role that one assumes.

In fact, the act of mothering can be seen as a universal human experience, as we all have the capacity to nurture and care for others, regardless of our gender identity or family structure. Through exploring the teachings of Buddhism and the metaphor of the dharma mom, we can deepen our understanding of the art of mothering and the qualities it requires, and learn how to apply these insights to our own lives and relationships.

The figures of Avalokitesvara, Tara, and the Buddha all embody the qualities of compassion, wisdom, and nurturing care that are essential to the path of spiritual growth and development. The Heart Sutra, also known as the Mother of All Buddhas, teaches us that all beings have the potential to awaken to their true nature, and that the qualities of compassion and wisdom are necessary for realizing this potential. In Buddhism, it is also believed that we have all been each other’s mother at one point, highlighting the interconnectedness of all beings and our shared responsibility to care for one another. By exploring these teachings and embodying the qualities of the dharma mom, we can deepen our understanding of our role as mothers and cultivate a more mindful, compassionate, and fulfilling approach to mothering and family life.

Overview of Buddhism

Buddhism is a spiritual tradition that originated in ancient India and is based on the teachings of the Buddha, also known as Siddhartha Gautama. At the heart of Buddhism is the recognition that life is marked by suffering, and that our experiences of pleasure and pain are ultimately fleeting and impermanent. However, the Buddha also taught that it is possible to overcome suffering and find lasting peace and happiness through the cultivation of wisdom and compassion. One of the most famous teachings of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths, which outline the nature of suffering and the path to liberation. Buddhism also emphasizes the importance of ethical and mindful living as a means of cultivating wisdom and compassion, and offers a wealth of practices and teachings for individuals seeking to deepen their spiritual understanding and connection to the world around them.

Four Motherings of Buddhism

I. Buddha as the Mother of All Beings

In Buddhism, the Buddha is often seen as the mother of all beings, who guides and nurtures us along the path of spiritual growth and development. Just as a mother cares for and guides her children, the Buddha offers teachings and practices that can help us overcome the suffering and ignorance that keep us trapped in cyclic existence. The Buddha embodies the qualities of compassion, wisdom, and equanimity, and serves as a source of inspiration and guidance for all who seek to cultivate these qualities in themselves. Like a loving mother, the Buddha offers us the wisdom and guidance we need to navigate the challenges of life and find lasting peace and happiness. By following the teachings of the Buddha, we can learn to embody the qualities of the dharma mom and become compassionate and wise caregivers for all beings.

II. Avalokitesvara as the Bodhisattva of Compassion

Avalokitesvara is the bodhisattva of compassion, who hears the cries of all beings and responds with loving-kindness. Like a mother who responds to the needs of her children, Avalokitesvara embodies the qualities of compassion and wisdom that are essential to the path of spiritual growth and development. Avalokitesvara is often depicted with a thousand arms, each one representing a different way of helping beings in need. This image symbolizes the boundless compassion and limitless capacity for love that Avalokitesvara embodies. By meditating on Avalokitesvara and embodying the qualities of compassion and wisdom that she represents, we can learn to become more attuned to the needs of others and respond to their suffering with kindness and understanding.

III. Tara as the Female Buddha of Wisdom and Compassionate Action

Tara is the female Buddha who embodies the qualities of wisdom and compassionate action. Like a mother who guides her children along the path of growth and development, Tara offers teachings and practices that can help us cultivate these qualities in ourselves. Tara is often depicted as a beautiful green goddess who radiates compassion and wisdom. Her name means “star,” and she is seen as a guiding light that illuminates the path of spiritual growth and development. Tara is also associated with the concept of shunyata or emptiness, which teaches that all phenomena are ultimately empty of inherent existence. This insight can help us overcome our attachment and craving for things that are impermanent, and cultivate a more compassionate and wise approach to life.

IV. The Heart Sutra as the Mother of All Buddhas

The Heart Sutra, also known as the Mother of All Buddhas, is a central text in Mahayana Buddhism that teaches the nature of emptiness and the potential for awakening. The Heart Sutra is seen as the mother of all Buddhas because it embodies the wisdom and compassion that are essential to the path of spiritual growth and development. The Heart Sutra teaches that all phenomena are ultimately empty of inherent existence, and that the qualities of compassion and wisdom are necessary for realizing this truth. The Heart Sutra is often chanted as a meditation practice, and is seen as a powerful tool for cultivating the qualities of the dharma mom. By studying and meditating on the Heart Sutra, we can deepen our understanding of emptiness and compassion, and learn how to embody these qualities in our daily lives.

5. Buddha’s Mother

The mother of the Buddha, Queen Maya, played a pivotal role in the birth and early life of Siddhartha Gautama. According to Buddhist tradition, Queen Maya had a dream in which a white elephant entered her side, signifying the conception of a special child. This dream was interpreted by the royal seers as a divine message, foreshadowing the birth of a great spiritual leader.

During her pregnancy, Queen Maya embarked on a journey to her ancestral home, where she sought a safe and peaceful environment for the birth of her child. Along the way, she encountered various auspicious signs, such as blooming flowers and celestial music, further emphasizing the sacredness of the impending birth.

Upon reaching Lumbini, a grove of beautiful trees, Queen Maya went into labor and gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama. The moment of his birth is often depicted with the image of Queen Maya holding onto a tree branch for support as her son emerged into the world, symbolizing the strong connection between mother and child.

However, Queen Maya’s life was cut short shortly after Siddhartha’s birth. She passed away seven days later but not before imparting her blessings and love to her newborn son. This bittersweet narrative highlights the impermanence of life and the cyclical nature of existence.

According to the story, Queen Maya was reborn in the Tusita Heaven as a result of her virtuous actions and the merit accumulated during her lifetime. The Buddha, out of compassion and gratitude for his mother’s support, used his supernormal powers to travel to the heavenly realm. There, he preached the Dharma to Queen Maya and other celestial beings, guiding them towards liberation and enlightenment.

6. Mahamayuri

7. Dakinis

8. Mahaprajapati Gautami

9. Yashodhara

10. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva

11. Jataka Tales

The Selfless Sacrifice of Queen Maya: In one Jataka story, the Bodhisattva is born as a prince, and his mother, Queen Maya, exhibits exceptional selflessness. In this tale, a wicked king demands that the prince be sacrificed to a sea monster. Queen Maya, driven by her motherly love and compassion, volunteers to take her son’s place and offers herself as the sacrifice. Her act of selfless sacrifice showcases the depth of a mother’s love and protection.

The Sacrifice of the Tigress: In another Jataka tale, the Bodhisattva is born as a young prince who encounters a starving tigress and her cubs. Witnessing their suffering, the prince feels immense compassion. He offers his own body to the tigress so that she can nourish herself and her cubs. This selfless act reflects the unconditional love and willingness to sacrifice that mothers demonstrate for the well-being of their children.

The Mother Monkey’s Love: In yet another Jataka story, the Bodhisattva is born as a monkey king. The story revolves around a mother monkey who willingly sacrifices her life to protect her infant from a hunter. The mother monkey places her baby in a safe spot and distracts the hunter, ultimately sacrificing her own life to ensure her child’s safety. This tale emphasizes the fierce and unwavering love of a mother for her offspring.

The Parable of the Goose King: The Jataka Tales also include the story of the Goose King, where the Bodhisattva is born as a wise and compassionate leader of a flock of geese. In this tale, the Goose King demonstrates his care for his flock by guiding them to safety, protecting them from harm, and providing nourishment. The tale highlights the nurturing and protective qualities of a motherly figure, ensuring the well-being of those under her care.

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