Embracing the Divine Mother: A Journey of Spiritual Rebirth and Love

Okay, good morning and happy Mother’s Day.

So I’d like to just kick off this little Dharma discussion here with just a couple of words on mothers. And then the Zen context, there’s something really interesting here. So we have a wonderful parallel to our relationship to awakening in our relationship to our mom. And for each of us, that means something different. The relationship we have with our mom kind of sets the tone for the relationship that we have with ourselves. And I know that everyone here today goes, “uh-oh,” because that might not be the most simple and straightforward relationship in your life. But that’s true of our relationship to our divinity as well, to our relationship to our spirit. On the one hand, there’s this ideal that it is that which created us, that which always loves us and can never leave us. There’s a vision of what a mother is or should be, or what we want our mother to be. That is the very essence of the creation of life and love. So mothers evoke this archetype.

And mortal mothers are human flesh and blood mothers. They’ve got varying degrees of that in them. No doubt they love, but the way they love is human. And that means that it’s subject to all causes and conditions. The way we receive that love is human, which means that it’s subject to all causes and conditions. So the filters that go on between the pure, divine, unconditional love of a mother creating a child and a child receiving that mother’s love are thick and heavy. And sometimes they’re not. There are a few of us who are blessed with easy relationships with our mothers. In fact, this is so big that there’s a whole theory about it called attachment theory. Attachment theory basically is a scientific parallel for how your relationship to mother relates to the relationship that you have with yourself and how that means you’ll move through the world. And so this is a cross-paradigmatic event here, that the relationships we have with our mother and the relationships we have with ourselves are deeply interconnected.

So when we practice spirituality, we’re actually practicing the call of returning to the divine mother. What is the divine mother? Well, in our tradition, we chant the message of the divine mother, every service, prajnaparamita. Prajnaparamita, or Avalokiteshvara, if you want to think of her more personified, is the womb of the Buddhas. It is entering into prajnaparamita, being conceived by her and birthed by her, that creates a Buddha. And so our practice, in a way, is directly analogous to a rebirth. We take what we are, all that we are as a current individuated human being, and we throw it with total trust and surrender back into our great mother, the great mother. It’s divine mystery, as Thore calls it. None can be other than the marvelous flesh and blood of this ever-present, living, divine mystery. All is created out of this, out of this, out of prajnaparamita, out of this, this pure fundamental essence, which is only pure and fundamental through its various qualities of emptiness, of signlessness, of aimlessness, or impermanence, non-self, and nirvana.

These are analogous teachings. So what do they mean? It means that surrender into the mother is a surrender to the truth that everything changes, that nothing is what it seems to be, that everything is completely interconnected, and that if we just stop long enough to be here, she meets all of our needs. This divine mother provides all that we need, just like we would want for our mortal mothers, and our mortal mothers would want for us. But in this relationship, it can be idealized, it can be the romantic archetype, because it is that. And so can we surrender to rebirth? Are we willing to go through that process of being reborn and seeing that everything is a manifestation of this ever-present, divine mystery? Are we willing to do that? To be reborn, you have to disappear. You can’t be reborn and still be you. That’s not how reincarnation works. So this is giving up all that we are to surrender back into the loving arms of our divine mother. And as we do that, then we find the opportunity to bring that love into the world.

That’s what Buddha is, awakened-centric, awakening-centric. What does that mean? It means that we see this truth in all that we are, all that we do, and all who we interact with, human and non-human. And we become like the arms of the divine mother embracing the world. That’s what it means to be Buddha, to be Bodhisattva. And this is the path that we commit to in this practice. And just like in our mortal relationships with our mothers, sometimes surrendering into their loving embrace without reservation is one of the hardest things we can do. Because somehow, someway, there’s been enough filters in the way that we’ve lost faith that it’s really possible to experience that. But it’s not. In the right moment, in the right way, no matter how troubled our relationship is, I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. We can discover that that love is always there. That is always the basis of all of the difficulty for themselves, for our mothers, for us experiencing our mothers at the very core of it is the power of that fire and spark of divine love. And as humans, we can put a lot in the way. But we don’t have to. It’s not necessary. And so I invite all of us today, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, to be someone’s divine mother. Thank you.

Thank you.

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