… it became clear how very much I owed my birth parents. I was grateful to them in a way I never had been before…. They had given me the greatest opportunity of all, a human life.
Yasutani Roshi said this about his mother’s life story:
My mother’s family fell more and more into poverty until they could hardly survive. It got to the point my grandmother was forced to give up her child, my mother, leaving her in the garden of a rich farmer with no children. The farmer and his wife found the baby, and so my mother was raised…. So, my mother having been born in poverty, had to be given up, but she survived. Because she survived, I have my life….
We observe these days young people complaining that their parents gave them birth and then made them suffer, but from the Buddhist point of view this is not at all so. Each of us wanted to be born… Moreover, loving you wholeheartedly enough to raise you, you owe them a great deal.
Personally I used to be one of those complaining young people—quite resentful, often mildly depressed, and after some half-baked therapy which may only have made things worse, liable to blame my parents for my woes. There were everyday contributing factors like being an under-employed graduate student in rainy London, being dumped by a girlfriend, etc., but I often felt justified in laying my ordinary misery at my parents’ feet.
Then I got some better therapy, and found my way to Zen.
Finally one day I realized what it meant to have been born, and what it was to be a human being. I have my Zen parents to thank for that.
It happened overnight during a sesshin while I was working on a particular koan with Kyozan, so I’m grateful to Kyozan too, to his teachers, and his descendants.
A few weeks later, I realized that this fulfillment of all I had ever desired happened to have occurred right on my mother’s birthday. How strange was that, I thought…
Finally it became clear how very much I owed my birth parents. I was grateful to them in a way I never had been before. I had misunderstood everything. They had given me the greatest opportunity of all, a human life.
All that was left was to embark on the next phase of the long hard road of ongoing Zen practice. And all of it I owed to my parents. Without them there would have been no life, no Zen, and no Zen parents.
Thank you. Just a little thought about parents…
By Henry Shukman, from our newsletter archives.
Image: Boy-Parents Walking, By Greyerbaby, CC0 Public Domain, from pixabay.com.