I am only a parent of cats and take my hat off to parents of small humans, who seem to have to work 24/7 for others. But I think even pet parents have some of the same experiences, and also some of the same concerns when it comes to balancing love and attachment and avoiding undue worry and stress when things go wrong…♥) So, when Kadampa working dad recently had the good idea of starting a Facebook page for Buddhist parents, I joined the group too. And to let more parents know about this forum, I thought it was a good excuse to post this guest article by him. Scroll to the bottom of this article to read the Facebook About.
Just before I was to get married I was at the New Kadampa Tradition Summer Festival in England. I went up to what was then the Protector Gompa (a special meditation room dedicated to the Dharma Protector). I felt like getting married was the right thing to do for my spiritual practice, but I still had doubts. So I made as sincere of a request as I could that my path be revealed to me. What happened next was the only time something like this has ever happened to me. I was meditating, my eyes were closed, but in my mind a Buddha who I understood to be Tara approached me. She was made of a silvery metalic liquid, but very much alive. In her hands was a baby – in normal flesh and bones that I could see as clearly as I could see any person out of meditation. She then handed me the baby and said, “This is where you will find your heart.” And then everything vanished. I can still vividly remember and see this within my mind. All doubt was then dispelled and I knew what my path was to be. Thirteen years later, I now have five kids!
Prior to my being a parent, I was very much a Vulcan – heart-felt emotion wasn’t really part of my personality, and I was very intellectual in my approach to the Dharma (I still am, unfortunately, but it is slowly changing…). I really struggled with feeling any Dharma realizations like love and compassion in my heart, and as a result I tended to shy away from such meditations and instead to focus on emptiness and other philosophical or technical topics. “Finding my heart” was (and still is), in many respects, my greatest spiritual challenge.
To my surprise, the love I have for my children is not some sappy, mushy sort of thing, but is rather very active. It can best be described as “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them.” It is a feeling of a fortunate assuming of personal responsibility for their welfare – I am glad it is me who is responsible for them, because I wouldn’t trust that anybody else would look after them the way I would and I very much want them to be taken care of. It is a love that ‘knows them’, in many ways better than they know themselves. I know and understand how they work and think, so I am always sensitive to what is best for them. It is a love that happily works for their benefit. It is a love that would rather me have the hardest tasks or the worst things so that they can have the best. It is a love that somehow can see past all of their faults and understand where those faults are coming from and develop compassion wishing to protect them. It is a love that literally laughs out loud when I see their summer portraits and the unique goofiness in each of their expressions!
And here’s the thing: all of this comes naturally. I haven’t worked to develop this love, I just naturally feel it. Venerable Geshe-la explains the reason for this is because we have special karmic connections with these particular beings from our previous lives where we now spontaneously feel a pure love towards them. Of course there are times when our minds are full of delusions towards our kids, but compared to everyone else we feel the most natural love for our kids. It is thanks to my kids that I ‘found’ my heart, I realized what it means to feel an active love for somebody.
How wonderful if we can extend the love we feel towards our children to all living beings, where we can view all living beings as our children.
Here is the Facebook forum: https://www.facebook.com/groups/288032664659782/members/
About: The purpose of this group is to provide a platform for Kadampa parents to share their experiences of how they use the Kadam Dhama to be better parents and to ask questions about how to apply the Dharma to common parenting challenges. Through this, we can all learn from each other’s trials and tribulations as we seek to unite the Kadam Dharma with modern parenting. Over time, this page will become like a repository of the accumulated wisdom of Kadampa parents, which will then hopefully prove helpful to future Kadampa parents for generations to come. The group is open to parents and non-parents alike, because in the end our job as Kadampa Bodhisattvas is to help others grow. Please add all of the Kadampa parents you know to this group. The group is also open to Kadampa teachers who wish to better understand and help their students who are parents. And yes, parents are free to post pictures of their little ones doing all of the silly things they do! Please note, the views expressed in this group are those of individual practitioners and do not represent those of the New Kadampa Tradition itself. This is an “unofficial” group of practitioners. For the official New Kadampa Tradition Facebook page, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/kadampa
Beautiful. I’ve struggled a lot as a lay person, with ideas that relationships are ordinary and children are obstacles to the spiritual path. So lovely to see more balanced views emerging on these topics, and examples of modern day practitioners integrating Buddhism into normal life situations. Thank you.
My youngest is 30 years old but, we are ‘parents’ to; two dogs and a cat as well who all get along famously! Kadampa Ryan’s ideas are always very helpful, and thank you for sharing your story with us Kadampa Ryan. Thank you Luna Kadampa too! I think this is a very good idea for Kadampa parents.
Thank you for sharing that beautiful meditation about Tara’s teaching to you.