Mother Of Us All
Our neighbor’s car door was badly scratched. The householder, a dentist, had sandpapered the damaged area on the driver-side door, but that had only served to highlight the need for the whole door to be repainted. The little boy I was at that time, normally inattentive to concerns about cars, couldn’t help but notice the big blemish on what was otherwise a spic-and-span, upper-middle-class 1960s vehicle.
One morning my friend and I were merrily playing in the street. All of a sudden the dentist’s family erupted from their house: father, mother, and the two older daughters, who reminded me of Cinderella’s stepsisters in Disney’s animated feature.
They called us and asked us if we had, perchance, damaged their car. My friend was quick to disappear. “I have nothing to do with it,” he said, and in a moment he was gone.
I, too, wanted to go, but the family took advantage of my slow decision-making by cornering me and unleashing a series of accusations.
“I saw you do it, on the bicycle of… (followed by the name of a girl I didn’t know)!”
“We know that you did it, and you should stop lying about it!”
“Just confess, and everything will be OK!”
In the end I confessed to the offense. Their animosity melted, and they became the soul of kindness. My fear was gone. I went home and forgot all about it.
That evening, however, the dentist rang our doorbell. He came to claim the money for his car repair! My father was a bit cross with me, not because of the alleged mischief I had been making, but because I had failed to tell him about it.
That omission, of course, had not been intentional. Since I had not committed the crime, I had simply forgotten about it. In any case, my father paid for the damage, and that seemed to be the end of the matter.
Some years later, however, it came up again during a moment of calm conversation with my mother. Such close, informal occasions arose sometimes. I was lying on the couch and she was sitting beside me.
“Were you really the one who damaged the dentist’s car back then?” she asked out of the blue.
“No, I wasn’t,” I responded.
“I never thought you were,” she answered. “He simply didn’t want to pay for that expensive car repair himself.”
And that was really the end of the matter!
This conversation stands out among the many memories I have of my mother. There were no lessons attached to it. She didn’t talk about the fundamental unreliability of human nature or things like that. Nor did she try to tune in to how I felt about the way those neighbors had harassed me. She calmly showed some intuitive knowledge of who I was, thus giving me a feeling of safety and happiness.
This trifling childhood tragedy came to mind when I re-read a chapter from Swami Kriyananda’s book, The Hindu Way of Awakening. I will probably read that chapter, “The Divine Mother,” many times over. In it, Swami relates an experience that he had with his own mother:
When I was only nine years old, the doctor recommended that I be sent away to school in Switzerland for my health. Our family lived in Romania—a universe away, it seemed to me. I had grown up speaking English, German, and Romanian, but no French, which was the language of my new environment. I was homesick, and desperately unhappy.
And then, after several months, Mother came to visit me. I first saw her walking up the street from the train station, her very stride demonstrating her eagerness to be again with me. Oh, what joy I felt! Even today, that flash of memory brings tears to my eyes.
From memories like these, we can actually develop a revolutionary, new approach to God: extract everything related to motherhood from our own life experiences and make it the main focus of our devotion. In this process, we must transcend the ups and downs that tend to afflict every human relationship and meditate on the golden nucleus: unconditional love. Visualize this love in ways that that appeal to you, let it become your Divine, your real Mother. Gradually she will emerge from the dream realm of your subconscious mind; she will enlarge your perceptions of reality, as the limited resources of your little self will be augmented by the infinite resources of your own greater Self. She will transform your consciousness and change your life as no person on earth could ever do.
It may take some effort. Paramhansa Yogananda, in his Autobiography of a Yogi, relates how he processed the traumatic loss of his earthly mother at the age of eleven. For years he stormed the gates of Heaven, before She appeared to give him words of final, definitive healing:
Many times have I fed thee with milk
From the breasts of many mothers.
This time, the loving black eyes of your mother,
Though lost for a little while,
Were no one else but I, My very Self.
Always have I loved you, ever shall I love you.
For centuries, our relationship with God has been troubled by threats of eternal damnation, of original sin, of imprisonment and religious constrictions. Now Yogananda is offering us a new, far more luminous option: a relationship that is no longer one between a convict and his judges, but rather between a child and his Cosmic Mother.
This new approach may well have been the most important guideline that Swami Kriyananda learned from his Guru, and he is passing it on to all those who feel in tune with his discipleship. It is the core principle on which he built Ananda Sangha.
After Swamiji had finished writing his chapter on Divine Mother, he printed it and brought it to the Temple of Light, here at Ananda Assisi, to give one of his most memorable satsangs ever. He spoke in Italian about the specialness of motherhood in nature: how a mother suffers to give birth and then enters a flow of giving that is her true nature. He wasn’t idealizing human mothers. He was contemplating the essence of motherhood itself. At a certain point, in the flow of enthusiasm, Swami seemed to forget us, his audience; he spoke directly to Her, his Divine Mother, on terms more intimate than we all were accustomed to. But his words and the tone of his voice epitomized an approach to God that is open for all of us to explore:
I have given my life to you, he said, everything I am, everything I’ve done. You cannot reject me. You MUST come!