Another realization that has become clearer as I’ve been meeting people and teaching over the years is that those who’ve come from broken homes, or who have had very unstable family situations, assume that life is unsteady and unpredictable; they often have a deep sense of insecurity.
I remember being struck during my first few years of meeting and living with such people, and there are a great many in this world, that I never would have conceived of the experiences they’d had, let alone had them myself. Even though my parents had plenty of faults and our lives were not easy, an astonishing stability and reliability had been present, particularly on my mother’s part. (My father was often kept busy, first with the farm and then travelling with his work, and besides, I think it was Robert Bly who defined the Industrial Age father as “that which sits in the living room and rustles the newspaper.”)
I’ve begun to reflect on the sense of security that arises from this intuition that life has a reliable basis. In stable families, parents impart this. If one doesn’t have it, then one has to find it later on in other ways. For a child, the parents are a kind of substitute for the Dhamma, that basis upon which everything rests and around which everything revolves.
I didn’t always get on with my parents. But they never argued in front of us and they were always there, establishing a continuity of presence and support. And thinking about that, I’ve seen that they reflected the qualities of Dhamma that are so crucial: Dhammaniyamata—the orderliness or regularity or patterned-ness of the Dhamma; and Dhammatthitata—the stability of the Dhamma.
In a way, that’s the job or role that parents have, the archetype they embody: being stable, the rock that things rest upon— and exhibiting that quality of regularity, orderliness, or predictability as the principle that can be relied on and that we can be guided by.
This reflection by Ajahn Amaro is from the booklet, Who Will Feed the Mice, (pdf) pp. 11-14.