Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #25 – The Mother, the Mind, and Food

June 21st, 2021

Happy 100th Birthday!

My mother was born June 25, 1921. This Friday she will celebrate her 100th birthday. In her honor, I will reprint one of my favorite articles from five years ago.

 

The Mother, the Mind, and Food

 

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 had told her when my mother was raising my two brothers and myself:

 

“It will all soon pass.”

 

Now that my students have children and I am often living among them and see the sacrifice they are making, I have become more aware of the great sacrifice my mother made in raising us. Somehow, until my mother recently told me her advice to her daughter-in-law that alluded to her own struggles as a mother raising young children, I never realized that she underwent a similar sacrifice taking care of us. When she told me, my immediate reaction was to feel bad for the pain I had 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 that seeing the sacrifice my students have made raising their own children over the last few years, my admiration for motherhood has soared!

 

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

 

When we say “mind” in this context, we are also referring to what we call the heart. A strong mind means that one can both freely express and when needed, control, one’s feelings. In other words, a person with a good mind is openhearted and secure but at the same time disciplined. They can thus also 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 Radhanath 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 is a monk and is certainly a detached person. I was also told 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 openhearted and loving, and also the strength of his mind, his ability to remain fixed and undisturbed, it further dawned on me that there is a strong connection between the nature of one’s mind and the quality of the nurturing influences in one’s early life.

 

This understanding is confirmed by my observation of those lacking formative nurturing influences. Years ago, I was dealing with a person in Vrindavan 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. 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 were depressed, he would ask himself, “What is this depression?” He had no personal frame of reference to understand it. His mother also cooked for him, and we discussed how much the sense of being loved in a family can be 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 his or her strength of mind, there is, in a sense, a mother behind every successful person. Although the nurturing influences in one’s life are the most significant factor in the development of one’s heart and mind, 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. The effect of the appropriate nurturing in childhood on the development of one’s mind, however, cannot be underestimated. Also, there is a difference between proper nurturing and co-dependence and other forms of over-indulgence.

 

As the strength of a society is the character of its people, which is this strength of mind, it goes without saying how essential motherhood is to the proper development of society. Thank you, mothers!

 

 

 

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