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My Mother The Wisdom Display
by Paul Levy
Paul Levy

After struggling for awhile trying to decide what to write for my new article, I've decided to write about something very real and current in my life. My eighty-year-old mother died on July 1st. Being a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner, I have a little familiarity with the practice of "phowa," or transference of consciousness (at the time of death). In essence, this practice involves visualizing the recently deceased person's consciousness becoming completely liberated, free, and totally enlightened.

My mother was a wonderful woman, filled with enormous love. But while alive she certainly did not recognize the nature of her mind. She created for herself enormous suffering because she didn't understand her mind. Just like most of us.

After she died, I would notice that every now and then, when I would imagine my mother, I would be subtly and unconsciously imagining her to be this confused person wandering through "the bardo," or the gap between this life and the next. I then realized that by conjuring her up in this way, I was solidifying who I thought my mother's infinite hologram might be at that moment. But I would immediately justify concretizing her in this way by thinking "but she in all certainty IS probably wandering confused in the bardo, not recognizing the dreamlike nature of her situation, and thinking that what she was experiencing was objectively real." And a part of me was convinced that this was "objective reality."

What was objectively real; who IS my mother, right now? Now that she has passed away, is she enlightened or is she wandering confused through the bardo, terrified at her mind's own projections, as if lost in a nightmare? And even further, if I'm imagining her to have become fully enlightened, who am I imagining has become fully enlightened? Is it an entity, a being, a self? If I'm imagining her to be wandering in the bardo, is it a person, or a personality, or for that matter, any reference point whatsoever, that I am imagining to be wandering in the bardo?

Upon contemplating who my mother now was in all this, I began to realize that how I was "dreaming her up" was nothing other than a mirrored reflection of my own state of consciousness. If I was imagining my mother wandering through the bardo in terror, who was at that moment the one who was lost in the bardo but myself! And if I was truly seeing my mother as attaining complete realization, who was that a reflection of but my own state of mind? It's like for the last 42 years I've had a dream that included my mother, and when I now reflect upon this 42-year dream, it is very much like I am contemplating a dream I had last night. My experience right at this moment, though, is that I have woken up out of that dream and am in a new dream, or a new scene in the play, where my mother has exited stage left.

When I contemplate my mother as a dream character in this dream that I have now awakened from, it is clear that she was an emanation of what I call the deeper, dreaming Self, or Godessence. I realize that we both played roles in each other's dream dramas, and were ultimately nothing other than perfect wisdom displays in each other's dreams.

What does it mean to imagine that my mother has become fully liberated, enlightened and free? Is there a particular person, or entity, that I am imagining has "become" enlightened? As I snap out of the habitual, asleep imagination that there's a separate self called my mother who needs to or has become enlightened, I recognize, of course, that she's always been enlightened, due to no help from me whatsoever. I realize that enlightenment has always been her true essential nature, and that she could never possibly be anything other than enlightened, for all this time she has always been nothing other than a wisdom display, an emanation of the One. For who was my mother? And who is that a reflection of?

An artist and healer, Paul Levy is in private practice, helping people who are spiritually awakening. He is the coordinator of the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. He will be teaching on "lucid dreaming and beyond" at the New Renaissance Bookshop on September 17th and 18th. He can be reached at (503) 234-6480.