Talking an thinking like a Buddhist.

Nov 7, 2019

QUESTION

Hi Ven. Robina.

My father died Saturday. I’ve not seen him since I was young – he was in and out of prison his whole life, massive drug user, lots of theft and drug crimes. He died from lymphoma last month and a friend of his told me. I’m doing a Medicine Buddha puja for him today. Odd to lose a parent one never knew. Trying to do things properly for his good rebirth, and so that I have better parent karma next life.

I’ve also been hesitant to tell you something else, as I suspect it will displease you. My mom admitted she voted Trump last year and is now a Fox News-watching Republican. I’ve been unable to speak to her for a year, as it shocked me into realizing she has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). The person who raised me would never have voted Trump but BPD removes any consistency to a persons ideology or personality, and any concern for others is mere lip service.

People with BPD are similar to narcissists in that they’re always on the edge of psychosis – living in their own made up reality – and that describes her accurately. My sister and grandmother (her mom) also concur she has BPD. Grandma realize decades ago and told us nothing. Apparently it’s been present mom’s entire life – I’ve struggled for decades, knowing something was very off with her. While sympathetic, as she is my mother, I’m really struggling with the Trump vote, her sudden Republicanism, and the BPD realization. I’ve needed time to process and educate myself. 

I’m finding it very hard to forgive both my parents for a lifetime of neglect, marked disinterest, and physical and emotional abuse. I know you’ve also had a less than easy go in the parent department. How were you able to forgive and move on?

Ven. Robina, please please live long. You are the closest thing to a proper parent I have in this life. Thank you for all your guidance. May we never be parted in this and future lives. 

Love,

J

 

ANSWER

J, you are a Buddhist, so how about talking like one, thinking like one?

They are your parents. They kindly gave you a body. That alone is enough to never forget their kindness. They could have aborted you! They didn’t.

You’re praying for your father so that you can have “better parent karma next life”!

The way to ensure that is to love the current ones, know that you created the cause to have them, to take care of them, thank them for their kindness, and have incredible compassion for their suffering.

“Borderline personality disorder,” “narcissist”. . . How about using Buddha’s psychology to describe your mother’s suffering? It’s called attachment, it’s called self-cherishing, it’s called anger, it’s called ignorance, it’s called negative karmic imprints. . . .

“Living in their own made up reality” — join the universe! This is exactly what Buddha says all of us suffer from, it’s just a question of degree, that’s all.

If you understand your own mind in these terms, and I mean really understand, you’ll understand her perfectly.

Yes, you need to educate yourself by studying Buddha’s amazing psychology – that’s logical, if you say you’re a Buddhist. When we understand our own mind we can understand the minds of others.

So she voted for Trump. Who cares! 

If you’re finding it hard to forgive your parents, that means you haven’t even begun to understand karma. J! Unbelievable! What do you think being a Buddhist means? Karma is the first step.

Who do you think created the cause to have these parents? Whose karmic appearance are they? Who did exactly the actions they’re doing to you now?

You should be so so glad that you have purified even a little of your own rubbish past karma by experiencing “a lifetime of neglect, marked disinterest, and physical and emotional abuse.” I’m so happy for you!

 

QUESTION

Thank you for the purification and teaching, Ven. Robina. I’ve tried to reframe the situation in Buddhist language below.

Since becoming a Buddhist years ago I really have worked hard and put in many years of effort to tirelessly bear any parental difficulties. I’ve not always been successful.

I offered a Medicine Buddha puja put together over three days for my father, meditating on his kindness and having compassion for his suffering, FINALLY able to forgive and love him. We hadn’t seen each other since I was 8 but we spoke once when I was 19 and I was able to tell him I’d found some peace through Buddhism, encouraging him to find peace as well. Much of my Dharma aspirations are from a desire to help them both. He suffered a lot and I wish I could wave a wand to help him move past his pain.

Same with my mother. I love her very deeply. I do love them both – they’ve suffered so much. I keep them in my visualizations when making offerings. Many many extensive offerings on their behalf over the years, knowing I can never repay their kindness. I’m learning to love but not be so attached to my mother. Attachment is why I get so hurt and upset. To love a parent without attachment is a hard practice.

I also realize I’m the cause of my karma. I have tried to help and not harm. I don’t always succeed but I do try really really hard. My attitude toward my parents was the first thing to improve when I became a Buddhist. My mother has said so many times.

I attribute this to you and the Buddha. It’s a work in progress and an offering of my practice of patience to them and to you, not always successful. Patience and forgiveness are my two least developed qualities.

It seems I need to focus my lamrim on mother practices and understanding karma. I shall also endeavor to re-establish communication with my mom. I understand what she’s done for me and that I can never repay that kindness – and I really do understand their actions toward me are my own karmic appearances. 

I called my mother. It didn’t go exceptionally well but we’re at least speaking again.

I thanked her for raising me, and for her love and time and hard work. I told her I loved her, and she reiterated of course. She clearly wasn’t ready to forgive but I did apologize for the pain I’d caused her and told her I’d try to expect and judge less and accept and bite my tongue more.

I offer this and all else to you, Most Precious Teacher.

Love,

J

 

ANSWER

Well done, J! I am delighted. You just purified a few eons of rubbish!

 

QUESTION

LOL – it certainly felt like it!

I will try to cultivate the attitude that family difficulties are reason to rejoice rather than cause for self-pity.

 

ANSWER

Exactly, J.

We have to catch all of our usual thoughts, all basically assumptions based on being samsarists, and then argue with them.

Doing Tara practice is not being a Buddhist.

Keeping your vows is not being a Buddhist.

Saying mantras is not being a Buddhist.

They are all tools to help us do the actual job of being a Buddhist: changing our concepts to being in sync with the concepts, the views of a Buddha.

How to learn those concepts? Study Dharma: karma, the mind, bodhichitta, emptiness. That’s it.

 

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