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 daughter-in-law a Yiddish saying that her own mother told her when my mother 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 students have children and I am often living among them, I have become more aware of 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. I have to say that over the last few years my admiration for motherhood has soared.
A realization I recently gained from astrology about the importance of motherhood increased this appreciation more. In jyotisha (vedic astrology) different planets and different houses are the karakas, or main indicators, for the different 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 one’s wisdom, guru or religiosity. In the same way, the moon and fourth house indicate one’s mother.
What struck me is that the moon and the fourth house are also the indicators of the mind. As the mother and the mind have the same karaka, 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 simultaneously to what we call the heart. A strong mind thus means that one can both freely express one’s feelings and, when needed, control them. In other words, people that have good minds are open-hearted and secure, but not overwhelmed by mood swings. They can thus control their mind, make decisions, and think clearly. So a good mind (heart) is the foundation of properly relating, communicating, and learning, and these are 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 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, the strength of his mind, and his ability to remain fixed and undisturbed, I further saw the strong connection between the nature of one’s mind and the quality of the nurturing influences in one’s early life.
Observing those lacking in formative nurturing influences has further confirmed this understanding. 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 ashram 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?” because he had no personal frame of reference through which 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 children are inoculated against insecurity and depression by the love and security impressed within them by this loving exchange. Since a person’s real success draws from strength of mind, there is, in a sense, a mother behind every successful man. As the strength of a society lies in 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!
Note: 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.
The column Greetings From Vrindavan is Dhanurdhara Swami’s journal regarding the joys and challenges of the devotional path. A book of his journal entries, spanning the years 2000-2003, has been published with the same title and is available here.