Monday, October 27, 2008

Lessons from My Mother

"Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die."
………….. A sonnet by John Donne

On 16th October 2008, my mother completed her earthly life after 88 years of yeoman service to thousands of individuals, which extended form the immediate family to many individuals who came into her life as a husband, mother, care giver and, in the last five years of her life, to the many nurses who attended her. She was a person beyond narrow dictates of caste, creed or colour.
She was not of a high education but always open to ideas and knowledge. Though she was a person of deep and unshakable Christian faith, she was open to deeper interpretation of many dogmatic dictates of the Catholic faith and the events in the Bible. Whenever I had given a talk or a seminar, she was keen to know the contents and listen to the stories I had used in my deliberations and ask for its moral in the context of the subject being addressed.

In the past few years I had a wonderful spiritual relationship with my mother. Everyday we used to sit for evening prayers which always ended in reading the Bible and she expected me to explain the deeper meanings of the words of the Old Testament prophets, wisdom of Jesus and letters of Paul. I used to refer to parallel meanings in Bhagawat Gita, Upanishads, teachings of Buddha and other spiritual leaders.
You could see her eyes light up and mind focused and there was a great feeling of someone present who is being filled with renewed energy. Even on days when she had excruciating pain, she would never miss the evening spiritual dialogue and singing.

She was in constant preparation for the end of her earthly journey. She was a personification of the words of Heinrich Suso, the great German mystic:

“Thou shalt understand that it is a science most profitable, and passing all other sciences, for to learn to die. For a man to know that he shall die that is common to all men; as much as there is no man that may ever live or he hath hope or trust thereof; but thou shalt find full few that hath this cunning to learn to die. I shall give thee the mystery of this doctrine; that which shall profit thee greatly to the beginning of spiritual health and to a stable fundamental of all virtues”.

If I am, today, open to seeking the truth in the entire spectrum of human thought and divine inspiration, which are inseparable part of cosmic consciousness, it is thanks to my mother.

Love to you all


  1. I believe the word ‘mother’ is one which cannot be defined completely, what ever be the language we use, what ever are the words or graphics we use, we still feel that it is incomplete. It is rather personification of all good qualities we can imagine. Being a natural process, death is unavoidable but it is only temporary, will come back more energetic, like how do we get refreshed after a brief sleep.

    “I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life”. Abraham Lincoln

  2. Pramod, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I came across the following while she was in hospital:

    "One of the very few reasons I had any respect for my mother when I was thirteen was because she would reach into the sink with her bare hands - bare hands - and pick up that lethal gunk and drop it into the garbage. To top that, I saw her reach into the wet garbage bag and fish around in there looking for a lost teaspoon. Bare hands - a kind of mad courage."
    - Robert Fulghum

    I thinks, as her clan, we would recognise her many projections of that spirit. Be it in the pursuit of love, life or wisdom.


  4. God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.
    -- Jewish proverb

    Your mother sucessfully completed her Mission.

    I wonder, how many are taking time and opportunity to sit with their mother and reciprocate their love and affection?

    You are great!

  5. The article is very touching and we sincerely respect your mother's openness to accept the examples from other epics like Bhagawad gita, Upanishad etc. In the name of religion and qualification, the so called people are stinking whereas when we are open, the flowering takes place.

    More so, we are impressed the words of intutive power of seeking the truth from your mother gives a pleasure in reading.


  6. Chandrayan, Thanks for your proverb and sharing.

  7. KVK, Thanks for your observations.
    We are all blessed through so many conduits that if someone could count them then he would have a glimpse of God!

  8. Some thoughts on Death Be Not Proud.

    The greatest thing about the teachings of the Vedas and the Upanishads is that they always talk of strength, and never about guilt, your sin, because a sinner will hardly accept that his sin has been absolved. This guilt can be killing. And, without a strong self-esteem, these teachings will appear meaningless. Since no one is a sinner, there is no death.

    The Upanishads say, don't fight death, it is fighting absence, rather, search for the presence which is in you. Who is present in you? - find out. What is present in you which you call life - the centre, the source of it? The Upanishads say, this source is hidden in the heart. The enlightened soul is one with Existence, the Cosmic Will.

    Go into your heart and find the original source. Once you have known that source then there will be no death for you. Once you have known life itself, the presence, you will become immortal. Life is presence, death is absence. This presence of the absence is only in the mind due to ignorance, hence the fear. Once you are one with life, then the fear of its not being cannot be there.

    Deep down, everyone goes on believing in something in himself as immortal. It is very unconscious. The Upanishads say, make it conscious. Go deep down and know it very consciously: something that is life in you, that flame will continue, that flame is not going to die.

    How to go into the heart? How to penetrate it? - The Upanishads say, by renunciation. Renounce every outgoing effort, all that leads you outward. All that becomes a vehicle for your consciousness to move outward - renounce it. In the deep inactivity of renunciation, you will come to the centre.

    For example, how does the mind moves outward? It moves for wealth, it moves for power, it moves for prestige. Any movement means a deep desire for something outside, a deep desire for something that does not belong to you inside, but belongs to the objective world. Any desire for any object in the world is a movement outward. Renounce this movement.

    Even for a single moment, if you can renounce all outward going movements, you will be in. This means that this in-coming doesn't need to be done anything directly. It needs to be done indirectly.

    Don't move outward and you will find yourself in the heart, in the cave of your heart.

    Mind moves with desires, outwards. Then it can continue, continue, and go on and on - to the very end of the world it can go. Don't move with desires. Desirelessness is the method to come in, and desirelessness is meditation. Even for a fraction of a second, if you are in a desireless moment, you will have found yourself in. And then you can encounter the flame of life which is immortality, which is non-dying, which has never been born and will never die.

    Once known, there will be no fear of death, only then can you live authentically. Then your life will have a different quality altogether. It will be aware, it will be alive, it will be fresh, it will be blissful.

    It will be a deep ecstasy, a continuous ecstasy. With no fear, with no longing, with no desire, there will be no pain. There will be no suffering, there will be no anguish. With no desire, you fall in a deep abyss of ecstasy. This is brahmaloka, the world of the divine.

    Bhaskar Banerjee