In this meditation, we consider how all living beings are all equally our mothers. The purpose of this meditation is to break our normal imputations of friend, enemy and stranger and to instead replace it with “mother” for all beings. By doing so, we eliminate our bias and generate a feeling of closeness towards all beings. The actual mental action here is familiarizing ourselves with the wisdom recognition that realizes that indeed all living beings are our mothers.
Conventionally, the contemplation is very simple. In the last meditation we considered how all living beings have equally been everything towards us countless times in all of our infinite previous lives. Building on that, we say “so they have all been my mother.” Why do we single out them having been our mother as opposed to say our assassin? Because when they were our mother they were at their least deluded towards us. When we engage in loving kindness towards somebody, it is actually us. When we get angry or upset at others, it is our delusions. We know this because delusions function to render our mind uncontrolled, whereas loving kindness never arises uncontrolledly. We often generate regret after having gotten upset, but we never generate regret from having purely cared for somebody. At the very least, we single out motherhood because this is when others have been very kind towards us and it evokes in us the least deluded response to consider them our mothers.
Some people object at this point, “but my relationship with my mother is terrible! If I consider all beings my mother I generate all sorts of delusions towards them. Can I instead consider all living beings my children? That works better for me.” The short answer is yes, of course you can consider others to be your children if that works for you. But in my view it is nonetheless very valuable to also take the time to consider them to be your mother and generate the good feelings intended by this meditation. Unfortunately, modern psychology can be summarized as “it’s all your mom’s fault.” Psychologists get paid thousands of dollars to dig into people’s past to try identify how our mothers/parents screwed us up so people can say “it is not your fault you are messed up, it is your parents’ fault.” Such thinking is completely counter-productive. Yes, of course, we can recognize that our parents made mistakes, but don’t we all? Anybody who has subsequently become a parent realizes how hard of a job it is and how nothing in life prepares us for it, so is it any wonder we make a mess of things? Second, this is inappropriate attention at the extreme. No matter how much harm our parents did to us, they provided us with so much more positive. They gave birth to us (they could have aborted us), so we can say everything we have in our life is due to this one act of kindness which overwhelms everything else. In the next meditation we will go into much more detail about the kindness of our mothers. Third, if our being screwed up is somebody else’s fault, then our ability to get better is also dependent upon others. So the end result is to make us helpless victims. Sure, as children, we could not be expected to respond with wisdom to our parents’ mistakes, but there is nothing that stops us from applying our wisdom now.
When we engage in this meditation conjoined with an understanding of all beings as being equally empty, there is a danger we might start to think nothing of anybody and fall into the extreme of indifference. Indifference is just as much of an extreme as attachment towards our friends and aversion towards our enemies. From the point of view of satisfying the wishes of our self-cherishing mind, it is true some beings are more helpful than others, and it is usually upon this basis that we generate attachment, aversion or indifference.
According to Tantra, we can engage in the mother’s meditation in a special way. When we engage in self-generation practice, we assume the role of the Guru-Deity. Guru in this context is Lama Tsongkhapa and Deity is our Highest Yoga Tantra Yidam. When Lama Tsongkhapa looks at any living being, he sees not only his kind mother, but he sees his kind mother who is his disciple/student he has the responsibility to lead to enlightenment. So just as we can view all beings as our mother, we can also view them all as our future students/disciples who it is our responsibility to lead to enlightenment. Of course, we don’t go around and explain to everyone, “I am your savior, who has come from Tushita Pure Land, to lead you to enlightenment. Follow me, my child.” Such behavior would quickly land us in the psychiatric hospital! But internally, we can take the long-view of our relationships with living beings and say yes, it is my responsibility to lead this being to enlightenment. Conventionally, right now, they are appearing as my boss or my colleague or my bus driver, but I must cultivate my relationships with each and every being in such a way that I may eventually conventionally appear to them as their Spiritual Guide. It may be hundreds of lifetimes from now before that happens, but in the meantime I will do whatever I can to develop a warm and friendly relationship with the person as the foundation for later (most likely in a future life) leading them along the path. Just as it is difficult to learn how to view all being as our mothers in a non-deluded way, there are also unique delusions that come up preventing us from looking at all beings as our future students in a non-deluded way. But just as it is worthwhile to work through our delusions towards our mothers, so too it is worthwhile working through our delusions associated with viewing others as our future students. We need to strive to learn how to do this in a healthy and balanced way that is entirely normal.
In a similar way, our Highest Yoga Tantra Yidam is a Chakravatin King or Queen (Heruka or Vajrayogini). Chakravatin Kings and Queens are universal monarchs of the three thousand worlds (basically, every dimension of every universe). But they are unlike monarchs as we normally think of them. They use all of their power solely for the benefit of their people. Their every action is aimed at serving the interests of their people. Ghandi said the person who is the highest of all is the one who has managed to make themselves the lowest of all. A Chakravatin King is, in reality, a servant of all who happens to have the power and resources of a universal monarch. So just as we can view all beings as our mothers, children or future disciples, so too we can view all living beings as our “Chakravatin subjects”, in other words our people that we serve. Again, it is easy to generate delusions if we consider ourselves as a universal monarch and all beings as our subjects. But these are all wrong understandings of what is meant here. There is a way to view things as a Chakravatin King would, namely genuinely using all our power and resources for the sake of serving all others, so we should try view things in that way. A Billionaire philantrhopist is quite similar – they use all of their wealth to help and serve people. This is the meaning.