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thank you for reading this.

my mother was born in a very large family. there were 10 girls, and 7 boys. There have always been feuds among the girls. Every holiday season was a mine field of whom was speaking to whom. Now they are older, but the feuds continue. My mother is now 85, her sister (who is my god-mother and whom I love very much) is near to 90. Currently my mother and god-mother are no longer speaking. I am "forced" not to have contact with my god-mother out of deference to my mother. There are others whom I cannot see for the same reason.

I love all of them and suffer their absence. I know they will someday die (as will I), I would like to enjoy the remaining years.

is there a way to see light in this darkness ? Is there something I can do ?

thank you for your help, I am humbled by your collective generosity towards the struggles of strangers.


in answer to the answer from Yeshe Tenley, the question of force.

thank you for pointing to it. When I say I was "forced" I mean that I was pressured when I tried to not do this.

I tried initially to ignore my mother's desire to have me on her side/team in the feud and I ignored it. When she became more aggressive and threatened me, I ignored it and continued to see my god-mother. My mother's response was to slander my god-mother and to cost her relationships with her other siblings and other members of the family. Several people whom my god-mother supported in the darkest days of their lives (through cancer treatments, the loss of children, and many other troubles) were told lies by my mother and believed them.

This was done to punish me. My mother knew she could not take anything from me she had not already taken, but she knew it would hurt me if she hurt others. The "force" came from this, it was extortion/blackmail. The only thing I could do is see neither of them for many years.

I have a sense that the time to resolve this is now, otherwise mortality will close the doors. I am unsure there is a solution.

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I wonder at the word forced. What is forcing you not to see your god-mother whom you love? You say you are forced out of deference to your mother, but since you put the word in quotes I think you realize that nothing is forcing you. This is your choice. I wonder about the motivation for such deference to your mother... Is it motivated out of a sense of obligation or duty? Is it motivated out of compassion for your mother? What of the compassion for your god-mother?

One practice that I've found beneficial is the practice of equanimity. That is looking at ones friends vs enemies or close acquaintances vs strangers and looking at where the distinctions we make are coming? What motivates these distinctions?

When we choose to act based off of distinctions of "friend vs enemy" or "close acquaintance vs stranger" often times our actions are non-virtuously motivated by personal considerations. All beings at root desire to be happy and to avoid suffering. We are all the same in this way. In this way, all are worthy of our compassion.

In the end, we can't control how other people will react to our actions. The only thing we can hope to control is our own actions and to try and ensure that our actions are virtuously motivated. The desire to make people happy with us is very different from the desire to make people happy, right?

I guess my best advice is to really look and see whether your acquiescence to your mother's desire for you to stop talking to your god-mother is actually making her happy? Is it actually making you happy? Is it actually making your god-mother happy? Or is it only serving to make your mother temporarily happy with you? Is that well-motivated?

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Have you considered asking what your god-mothers preference is? Would she rather be comforted and befriended by relatives whom can be so easily swayed by falsehoods, or by one god-daughter whom stands firmly by her side?

I personally would rather be in the shade of a great oak than surrounded by many thorny bushes, even at the end - maybe even especially at the end.

Beyond her time here, you may be only witness to her truth. Watching you stand strong against the wind may give your god-mother great comfort that her honor still stands with you, and that she helped raise one beautiful, strong, compassionate woman.

I would give your god-mother the chance to chose her own relations, you may be surprised how much she prefers your company to those whom stood so daintily beside her.

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I'm sorry for your loss.

I experience this situation only indirectly -- my own mother has been a forgiving sort, avoiding feuding -- but I've seen how much it can distress another child, to fall out with their mother like that.

My first reaction, to "walk through the fire without burning oneself" is that, that isn't possible.

Also, "I would like to enjoy the remaining years" -- may be a bird that's already flown.

There is a related verse though, in the Dhammapada:

  1. If on the hand there is no wound, one may carry even poison in it. Poison does not affect one who is free from wounds. For him who does no evil, there is no ill.

In theory maybe your mum feels some aversion or pain, associated with her sister; rejects the sister to reject the pain; and, further, rejects anyone (even you) who she associates with her sister; but I suppose that's all beside the point.

Two things I learned:

  • Once when someone's sister divorced, that someone kept on seeing the ex-husband sometimes, being a friend ... the sister was annoyed and threatened to divorce her too, to which she replied, "You can't divorce me: I'm your sister!"

  • My mum, as a preschool teacher, tries not to criticise young children. Instead she waits until they do something right, and then praises them for that.

So, maybe your actions or interactions, communications, should be in the form of positive feedback: "Thank you for X", "You're so good at Y", and "Well done for Z"; and maybe "I hope you'll tell me when or how I can help", or something like that.

My experience with death is that there may be many occasions afterwards, when you think of something to tell them, except they have died. It may be good to have said some of those things before they die -- if only so that you can feel a "lack of remorse" associated with your having done or said a good thing at the time.

For what it's worth, page 82 of this commentary on the Vinaya (the emphases are mine)

Thus, the Commentary notes, a bhikkhu talking to a dying patient should be 82 very circumspect in how he chooses his words, focusing not on how to speed up the dying process but on how to inspire the patient with the following thoughts: “The attainment of the paths and fruitions is not out of the ordinary for a virtuous person. So, having formed no attachment for such things as your dwelling, and establishing mindfulness in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, or the body, you should be heedful in your attention.” The Vinita-vatthu to Pr 4 contains a number of stories in which bhikkhus comfort a dying bhikkhu by asking him to reflect on what he has attained through the practice, which was apparently a common way of encouraging a dying bhikkhu to focus his thoughts on the best object possible. The suttas also contain advice on how to encourage patients facing death. See, for example, MN 143, SN 36.7, and AN 6.16. In all of these cases, the advice is aimed not at precipitating death but at inspiring calm and insight.

It's said that what people find satisfying is remembrance of their own virtue -- "forming no attachment" might be a bhikkhu's attainment, your mother and aunt might have slightly different values so you'd have to adjust your message to them or "the object" accordingly, to stay relevant.

But anyway, if or when you're in contact, "you're wrong to hate your sister", "you hurt me", any negative or fault-finding message like that, might be counter-productive.

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It might be a cultural thing; But we should all stop trying to please the whole world and start to action what is practically good and with good intentions.

Follow the dharma and action without fears. Think about it, is it justified to do bad deeds just because somebody threatens you to?

  • when i was the only one who suffered as a result (when she would hurt me), I continued to see those whom I love. I did not try to please her, is did not bow to her threats . Her actions only became effective when she started hurting other people and telling me it was in retaliation for my not doing what she wanted. Watching someone you love suffer is much more painful than suffering yourself. I could not justify my happiness as more valuable than theirs, so I walked away from seeing the people that made me whole. – Mishtook Apr 26 '18 at 11:16
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Don't join anyone's side. Stand with Dhamma/principles. If someone makes an immoral request, reject it without any regrets. Only entertain moral/skillful requests/ideas. It doesn't matter if it comes from a loved one or a stranger. Just keep it simple and your life won't be so complicated.

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