The Mother, The Mind, and Food

August 31st, 2004

Recently my mother related to me how she was advising her daughter-in-law who had become overwhelmed with the responsibilities of her family and job. She quoted to her a Yiddish saying that her own mother told her when she was similarly overwhelmed with the care of her three young sons. She said something to the effect that ?it will all soon pass?. Now that my disciples have children, and I am often living among them, I have become more aware how much sacrifice a mother has to make. Somehow, until my mother recently told me about her own struggles as a mother raising young children, I never realized that she also underwent a similar sacrifice taking care of me and my two brothers. When she told me, my immediate reaction was to feel bad for the pain that I caused her by the insensitive way I joined the Hare Krishna movement (although I, of course, have no regrets with the fact that I joined). I have to say my admiration for motherhood has soared over the last few years!

A realization I recently gained from astrology about the importance of motherhood increased this appreciation more. In astrology different planets and different houses are the karaka, or main indicators, for the different prominent aspects of ones life. For example, we can look to the position of the sun and the strength of the ninth house for the nature of ones relationship with the father. The tenth house deals with one?s occupation, and Jupiter ones wisdom, guru or religiosity. In the same way, the moon and fourth house indicate ones mother. What struck me is the fact that the moon and the fourth house are also the indicators of the mind. As the mother and the mind have the same exact karaka, astrology shows that the strength of one?s relationship with one?s mother, the nurturing aspect of ones life, is also the main determining factor for ones strength of mind.

When we say ?mind? in this context, we are also referring simultaneously to what we call the heart. A strong mind thus means that one can both freely express, and when needed control, ones feelings. In other words, a person with a good mind is thus open-hearted and secure, but at the same time not overwhelmed by mood swings. They can thus control their mind, make decisions, and think clearly. A good mind (heart) is thus the foundation of properly relating, communicating, and learning, the emblems of culture.

An interesting incident last year reinforced this realization about the correlation between the mother and the mind. His Holiness Radhanatha Swami asked me to accompany him to place his mother?s ashes in the Yamuna. From the soberness and attentiveness he gave to this task, I could sense his gratitude and strong relationship with his mother, although he had left his family to become a monk, and is certainly a detached person. I was also told this later, about the positive influence his mother had on his life. As I reflected on the nature of his good heart, his ability to be open hearted and loving, and also the strength of his mind, his ability to remain fixed and undisturbed, it further dawned on me the strong connection between the nature of ones mind and the quality of the nurturing influences in one?s early life.

This understanding is also confirmed by my observation of those lacking formative nurturing influences. Years ago I was dealing with a person in Vrindaban who had all the signs of serious clinical depression. He was gradually losing touch with reality and needed serious mental health care. It took me months of pushing to finally get the temple authorities to seek professional consultation. Afterwards, I spoke to one of the leaders, a very cultured Indian, and told him frankly that he could never understand the need for psychiatric care because he had a loving mother at home who fed him. I also knew his mother and how close they were. He was startled by my statement, and told me I was absolutely right. He related to me that when he would sometimes read in the newspaper how the rich and famous had clinical depression, he would say to himself ?what is this depression?? having no personal frame of reference to understand it. We then discussed how much the sense of being loved in a family is transferred through the serving and taking of meals affectionately prepared by a loving mother, and especially how the children were inoculated against insecurity and depression by the love and security impressed within them by this loving exchange.

As a person?s real success is based on one?s strength of mind, there is, in a sense, a mother behind every successful man. As the strength of a society is the character of its people, the nature of their hearts and minds, we can also gauge how essential motherhood is to the proper development of society. Thank you mothers!

*Although the nurturing influences in one?s life is the most significant factor in the development of ones mind (heart), even if this is lacking it can be compensated for, or rectified, by other factors, like training and other forms of personal development, especially by cultivating a loving relationship with God and His devotees. Similarly, even if those nurturing influences are there, the mind can be disturbed by other factors such as sinful reactions from bad karma or traumatic experiences. However, the effect of the appropriate nurturing in childhood on the development of one?s mind cannot be underestimated. Also there is a difference between proper nurturing and co-dependence and other forms of over-indulgence.

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