Reader comment on Tenzin Palmo's passage ...

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    On Aug 6, 2009 Somik Raha wrote:

     The piece evokes some words. "Open" - an open palm. Open to possibilities. Open to discovering I have something to give. Open to discovering I have something to receive. Open to discovering who I am.

    "Expectations" - a closed fist. They are the chains that prevent our progress. If there is one thing we have no right to have, it is expectations.

    The two paradigms apply not just to relationships with others, but also to a relationship with myself. Who am I? Am I open to discovering this? Or do I have a self-image that prevents honest inquiry and shackles me?

    Finally, this piece paints a picture of the author's mother, and I think there's more to that picture, from the lens of the interaction with my own mother, who is very similar. All my life, whenever I've wanted to do something, she has unquestioningly supported. I remember as a child growing up in a Catholic missionary school with a strong musical culture, I had a desire to participate and sing. Without any preparation or training, I enrolled straightaway for the annual music competition. I announced this to my mother, and told her that I had picked Julie Andrews' lovely song, "Raindrops on Roses" from Sound of Music. I needed the film so I could practice. My mother did not once question my decision, or point out that in living memory, no male in the Raha family was known to sing or have any participation in music, or that here I was singing a girly song in a Boy's school, or any other objections that I can now think of. Instead, she promptly rented the film from a store and never passed judgment on my practice. My music teacher kept checking on me, and telling me to improve my pitch (I had no idea what she was talking about, and understood that to mean that I just had to sing louder). Finally, on the day of the event, she called all the participants aside and had us all sing. Then, she disqualified me (I remain in gratitude) to prevent embarassment. What I cannot forget in this story is the unconditional love and support my mother gave me to support my fancy.

    Onward several years, I had gotten admission into an engineering college in a field of my choice (Computer Science) and everyone at home was thrilled. My mother spent all her time getting me setup to leave home for the first time. Not once was there any talk of missing me. On the day of departure, for the first time, I saw tears in her eyes as she hugged me. In those tears were also this struggle - her tremendous attachment to me, and her firm resolve not to weaken me - she blessed me and asked me to take care of myself. I would call home every weekend, have normal conversations, and during vacations, only on the day of departure, get to see her tears. Many years later, my mother's sister told me, "Do you know how much your mother used to miss you? She would sit on the steps outside your house and cry her heart out. She didn't want you to know."

    My mother dealt with her attachment in her own way, releasing them through her tears. But she never once confused herself on what was more important to her - it was always my welfare, my education, my progress. She knew to retreat into her space to deal with her attachment without putting chains on me. And that to me, is a very human picture that I can relate to. In the piece, Tenzin does not tell us what happened on the day of departure, or what her mother's close friends know about how she dealt with her attachment, but I suspect we will find a human being.

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    After hearing others' thoughts on this piece, a deeper opening followed, one that now finds its way into this blog.
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    Detachment is a terrible idea. It is negative, and sounds cruel. Moreover, I think it is not a skillful way of getting beyond attachment. On the other hand, we can attach to a higher ideal. Instead of being content with loving myself, I can love one more person, then another, and another. By stepping it up, I am putting all my energy attaching to more and more, and soon, the smaller, lower attachments automatically fall by the wayside without even a complaint. My mother was attached to me, but she attached herself to a higher ideal - my welfare (as did Tenzin's mother). The lower attachment could not compete with the strength of the higher attachment. It did not go away, but it could not win.

    This way of looking at things was shared by a certain hero who lives these days at Olema. That hero remarked, "You cannot really solve a problem. You can only dis-solve it by going to a level where the problem does not exist." If attachment+fear is looked upon as a problem, then we have to go to a level where it does not exist - strive to attach to every being that exists.

    Finally, I remember another hero who said that the ideal attachment was that of a nurse. She gives all her love and nurtures the child in her care as though it were her own. The day her employer terminates her services, she packs her bags without a word and goes to the next place, ready to love the next child with all she has.


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