Ladies Day is celebrated on the 19th November each year and from 1995 – 2003 Sathya Sai Baba gave a discourse on this day, highlighting the sacred role of women as mothers, teachers and leaders. Throughout His many discourses He stressed the sacred duty of mothers to foster right living and harmony at home, based on the principle of selfless love, thereby contributing to the future of the nation and the world.
On the occasion of Ladies Day this year I would like to share the power of motherhood for my own transformation.
I heard of Sathya Sai Baba in 1986 and shortly afterwards I joined the SSIO in my local area – a small rural community in Australia. I was immediately drawn to His teachings, especially the truth that Divinity is in all and also in myself. I believe that it was the yearning to experience the Divinity within me that drew Sathya Sai Baba to me and shortly after starting to practise His teachings, He gave me the blissful experience of His presence filling my being with Divine love. Upon reflection I believe that he allowed me this precious experience as an incentive to commit to the spiritual practices which would enable me to experience permanently the Divinity within.
At the time I became a Sai devotee my son Anthony was eight years old. From the time of becoming an adult I had felt very privileged to have been born a woman and I remember that the day of his birth was indescribably joyful for me. I had never experienced such love for another human being and it was quite unexpected. I felt a great responsibility towards this little being who was totally dependent upon me and my only wish was for him to lead a happy life fulfilled by the realisation of his own destiny.
Developing the Qualities of Motherhood
In those early years the personal transformation I experienced was immense. I developed enormous patience, understanding and tolerance. I did not have a great deal of family support as my husband was working long hours and my mother, being widowed, had resumed full time employment to support herself. I was thrown on my inner resources, and despite times of fatigue and loneliness I found that a resilience and inner strength developed in me. I chose to be a “stay at home” mum until Anthony had completed primary school, when I returned to the work force.
One of the most important lessons for me as a mother was that of letting go of attachment as my son developed. My goal was to support him as an independent and capable person and this required me to progressively stand aside from him so that he could develop in self confidence and self awareness. This required me to surrender my attachment to my role as caregiver to allow room for him to care for himself and also to trust in him – so that he could trust in himself.
I felt very appreciative of the strengths and qualities in my son. He developed into a child who had compassion for his peers and early in his school years supported children who were struggling or unpopular. He was the embodiment of happiness and had a confidence which I had not experienced myself as a child. When I studied Sai’s teachings, I was touched to discover the importance of encouraging children to be good, rather than great:
Never look down upon the mother. Even the mother should not compel her children to accede to her wishes. Through love and sincerity she should put the children on the proper path. She should aspire that her children be good, they need not be great.
Divine Discourse 19 November, 1999
Anthony attended SSE (Sai Spiritual Education) classes for several years, which reinforced his natural qualities and the values we encouraged in our home. During his secondary school years he played a great deal of sport (very popular in Australia!) had a great sense of humour (also an Aussie attribute) with a reputation as a raconteur, and developed a love for writing and reading poetry. At the age of seventeen he went to live away from home on the other side of the country so he could pursue his dream of becoming a professional athlete. I remember this as a time of challenge for me to trust in his ability to manage his own life and to continue to let go of my attachment to him.
Discovering Transformation through Loss
At the age of 22 years, Anthony returned home and was living independently in a cottage on our property, working in a near-by town. When he was 26 he experienced a fatal car accident when driving home from work. I found that the years in healing from this loss of his physical form and coming to terms with the ending of this important relationship were a profound acceleration of my spiritual transformation. The teachings of Swami were my lifeline and I can truly say that I do not know how parents negotiate this experience without spiritual beliefs.
Of immense importance to me was the understanding that our time in this body is set at the time of our birth:
It is not possible for anyone to hold on to the physical body forever. It remains so long as it is destined to be. It will perish at its predestined time. Nobody has any control over death. It is decided at the time of birth itself. The date of departure is imperceptibly written on the body when it comes into the world.
Sanathana Sarathi, August 2005
In the months after my loss I dived deep into Sai’s teachings, which were my main support, apart from friends and family. I collaborated with another Sai mother who had lost a son and we compiled a collection of Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings on life, death, grief and loss and this came together in a booklet entitled “Children of Immortality.” We embarked on this in the hope that it would also support others coming to terms with loss.
The great lesson and transformative experience for me was to give up my attachment to my son. I believe that the attachment of the mother is the greatest of all as it is a natural bond which ensures survival of the child. It is therefore the most difficult attachment to surrender. I discovered that it was possible to let go of my son and attach to God. Life took on a very different perspective as I reviewed priorities and the need to constantly keep in mind the reason for our existence – to realise our inherent Divinity. In fact I believe that letting go of attachment is crucial to the role of the mother and one of its wonderful opportunities for transformation.
In the months where I experienced great pain and went in and out of the very strong emotions which came with letting go, I was able to have times where I could experience the stillness and deep peace of the Atma- an island of joy amongst the pain. I realised that Anthony had fulfilled his destiny and that this was part of mine. I have come to experience the wisdom and strength in the following words of Sai Baba:
Look with an equal mind on good fortune and misfortune, on happiness and sorrow, loss and gain. These are products of nature like heat and cold, summer and winter. They have their purposes to serve. Similarly, the ups and downs of life have lessons to teach us. In fact, without reverses in life, we shall not be able to experience Divinity. Without darkness, we cannot value light. Without experiencing difficulties, we will not enjoy benefits. It is the lack of peace of mind which compels us to seek the means to realise enduring peace.
Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 16
Early after Anthony’s death, I sought opportunities to connect within him in spirit, which I saw as part of a natural desire to know that my son was safe and well. At about eighteen months afterwards I experienced a profound connection with Swami when he conveyed to me internally “Anthony is Me, You are Me. We are One.”
Since that time I ceased wanting to connect with him as I realised that we are One in Sai. I understood the importance of Sai cautioning us that all earthly relationships are transient. I know that all belong to God and that as parents we are trustees of our children – that they belong to Him.
I feel truly blessed for having experienced motherhood in this lifetime and being given the joy of a wonderful son. I believe that along with its sacred duties, motherhood is a great tool for transformation in its capacity to bring us to experience ourselves as the Divine beings we really are.
Jenny Monson, Australia