Mother's Day is a celebration honoring the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society. In this sense, it is a singular holiday where each family celebrates the mothers in their own family, rather than all the mothers in the world.
Anyway, when you think or talk about your mother, you probably recall many fond memories, especially experiences you shared with your mother in childhood. Your mother was always there protecting you and watching over you with love. Your mother’s nurturing and compassion are no doubt strongly imprinted on your memory system and easily come up whenever you think of her. Throughout your life, your mother’s shared wisdom and lessons assist you as you encounter difficulties or adversity.
I’ve been told that during World War II many young Japanese men lost their lives as Kamikaze pilots. On the night before leaving on their missions, and facing certain adversity, they stood on the airfield and shouted as loudly as possible, “Okaasaaaan” (“Mother”).
My own mother was raised as an only daughter in a well-to-do family. When she married into the Tsuji family, she continued to enjoy a life of privilege, assisted by a large household staff. She had maids to do everything for her. Normal cooking and domestic chores were not familiar activities. Hers was a soft and leisurely life.
Then, once the war started, all domestic staff and maids were mobilized to work in the factories. My mother then had to take on all of the domestic work herself. I was surprised by how strong my mother really was. In addition to taking on the unfamiliar work of running of a large house single-handedly, she was able to lead the entire family during the difficulties. Whenever I think of my mother, I cannot help but praise, honor and extend my gratitude.
I think all of you have similar memories with your mothers. In this sense, I can say that all mothers are full of love, compassion and enormous strength.
Someone once asked a Buddhist leader for an explanation of Amida’s Vow, which he was having trouble understanding. The Buddhist leader replied that Amida’s Vow is something like a mother’s compassion for her child. Mother always watches over the child. The child, while unaware of the mother’s watchful eye, moves as he pleases, until he makes a wrong move — then Mother corrects him. We cannot see Amida’s Vow, but we are always under Amida’s guidance and protection.
In Kyoto, there are many, many temples. Each temple has a beautiful garden with a quiet atmosphere. Among them, I like Eikan-do very much. Eikan-do is well known for its beautiful scenery in the fall, and for its beautiful Amida-statue; Go Honzon, a principal image of the temple. As seen there and in other places, all Amida-statues are standing facing toward you from the center of the alter. Only the Amida-statue at Eikan-do is shown looking back over its shoulder. Because of that unusual posture, Eikan-do’s Amida-statue is called Mikaeri Amida. In looking at Amida’s gesture, you may learn many teachings of Amida Buddha. Amid is constantly watching over us to ensure we are on the right track.
The other day I was taking a walk at Magic Island Park. A young mother was with her 3 or 4 year old daughter. The child was following a few steps behind the mother. The mother was frequently looking back over her shoulder, making sure of her daughter’s safety. Through her frequent turning I could visualize the mother’s love. When I compared her posture with Eikan-do’s Mikaeri Amida Buddha, I realize that Mikaeri Amida is showing us Amida’s profound love, like a mother’s love for her child. Just as a child has trust in his mother’s love without doubt, we should trust in Amida’s love.
On this happy Mother’s Day, let’s take a moment to reflect on the significant connection between a Mother’s love and Amida’s Vow.