Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Buddha's Bible Stories

Words of the Buddha
Acrylic on Paper mounted on matte board
8"x8" black matte, image size 3.75"x4.5"
$25 including shipping in North America

I was completely thrown off my game (whatever game it was I was playing) by my mother today.  So instead of speaking to the little Buddha picture I have here I will share the Dharma and Karma in my evening conversation with my mother.  And of course the Buddha is never far away.  My mother who is 94 is nearing the end of her life.  And not quite quick enough for her.  We have made our peace my mother and I.  And this really has all come about as a result of a lot of difficult spiritual work I have done around our relationship and her willingness to talk openly about her impending death.

Now tonight my mother drops a little bit of burning coal on the evening phone chat.  A number of years ago she gave her mother's bible to a family member who was supposedly marrying into a Jewish family.  That marriage didn't happen and my mother said to me tonight that there is only one thing she needs to do before she dies.... And that is get her mother's bible back and give it to me or my daughter.

Now perhaps this sounds simple.  And perhaps it is.  But there are layers of implication in it.  And my mother is asking for my opinion,  probably even my approval...  And yet I realize the need to tread carefully here.  I need to be honest.  I need to say that I see the potential for hard feelings.  I see the potential for this small action to explode in a spray of shrapnel that will leave me picking sharp bits out of my flesh for a long time to come.  I need to acknowledge how much I don't know and can never know about how people will react.  I acknowledge that it could all be projection and imagining on my part. 

 And I need to say that everyone must decide what they have to do from a place deep inside them.  Who am I to tell someone what to do?  And yet I feel it is appropriate to remind my mother to look deep inside for the answer, to make sure no retaliation is involved.  We chat about all these things several times and how sometimes we humans can trick ourselves and have a hard time looking at our own unflattering motivation sometime.  An action taken from a place of spite is always a mistake.  I feel the need to say this loud and clear.  I am not good with "well mom if that's what you need to do, go for it."  I also know it is not up to me to discourage her from doing the thing that she says will allow her to die in peace.

I also can share the wise counsel I have received from my friend the Buddhist monk on other occasions; that we need to decide what to do from our heart of hearts and don't base it on results.  We can't know what will be the outcome, nor should we base our decisions on imagined outcomes.  Our heart leads the way.  And after that it is out of our hands.  We do the best we can, as carefully as we can.  I remind her that choices that come from the heart may not always seem logical and that reason might not explain what our heart decides.

All that being said I worry that her choice will put me in an awkward position and create hard feelings toward me by the person loosing the bible.  I am not particularly sentimental about things and am surprised (but understand in a strange way) my mother's seemingly sudden pang of sentimentality over this bible, one of the few things she had that belonged to her mother who died when she was just 3 years old.

There is a strangely, weirdly awkward karmic flavour to it all.  I have resented my mother for a lot of my life for putting me in awkward positions, for creating drama and conflict  and here she is doing something with this potential  as her dying wish.  And there is a feeling through recent conversations we have had that there is a deep karmic connection between my mother and I and that somehow my mother wants to honour this by giving me the bible.  At some level I sense this.  I know there is a karmic lesson here for me to negotiate all this with kindness and without anger and resentment, and perhaps with a little grace.  Wish me luck.