Celebrating Mother's Day 2024: A Tribute to Buddhist Mothers, Featuring Five Deities and Five Living Personalities

Celebrating Mother's Day 2024: An Introduction

Mother's Day is when we show our appreciation for mothers everywhere. But in Buddhism, this idea goes beyond celebrating the mothers we know. It includes honoring divine figures and women who lead and inspire the Buddhist community today.

In this post, we'll share stories of five spiritual figures and five women making a difference. These women, some in stories passed down through generations and others living today, teach us about kindness, understanding, and maternal care. They guide us, comfort us, and help us understand life's challenges.

As we celebrate Mother's Day, let's learn from these ten incredible women. They show us how motherly qualities, whether in heavenly teachings or everyday actions, help shape a kinder, wiser world.

Deity Mother Figures in Buddhism

In Buddhism, deity mother figures are symbols and profound presences that guide, protect, and enlighten practitioners. These figures represent the ideal qualities of wisdom, compassion, and nurturing care. They are considered spiritual mothers who help us grow and find peace.

These deities are revered for their deep understanding and protective nature. They show us how to navigate life's difficulties with grace and compassion. In this section, we'll explore the lives and teachings of five such figures, each embodying the motherly virtues that can inspire and transform us. Through their stories, we appreciate the maternal aspects of divine wisdom celebrated in Buddhist traditions.

Each figure's tale is a testament to the power of nurturing wisdom and the unique role of maternal figures in spiritual guidance and growth.

Maya, Mother of the Buddha

Maya Devi is revered not just as the birth mother of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, but as a symbol of selfless love and purity in Buddhism. Her dream of a white elephant entering her side foretold the birth of a world-changing figure. This event is celebrated during Vesak, the Buddha's birthday, illustrating her integral role in his destined path. Her brief life, culminating shortly after childbirth, symbolizes the transient nature of life, underscoring the Buddhist teaching on impermanence.

Machig Labdrön 

She stands out not only for her spiritual teachings but also as a mother figure who integrated her maternal instincts into the fabric of her practices. It is said that Machig Ladbron once encountered a demon causing suffering to sentient beings. Instead of destroying the demon, she offered her own body as nourishment, transforming the demon's nature and turning it into a protector. This story highlights her as a mother to her biological children and all beings, embodying ultimate compassion and protection.

Please check our Machig Labdron Statue

Achi Chokyi Drolma

She is a revered as a grandmother and protector within the Drikung Kagyu lineage, is mainly celebrated for her maternal care over the spiritual lineage. Achi Chokyi Drolma was born miraculously and was marked by numerous signs of her future sanctity. In her later years, she manifested her greatest miracle; foreseeing a threat to her lineage, she transformed into a protectress, riding across the sky on her mystical blue horse, ensuring the teachings would survive through generations.


She embodies the principle that enlightenment can be achieved regardless of one's stage in life, serving as a spiritual mother to many. Left destitute and rejected by her family, Sukhasiddhi was given a handful of grains by a Buddhist monk, which she offered to a starving family. Her act of kindness led to her initiation into Buddhism, where she rapidly attained enlightenment. Her transformation is a testament to the maternal quality of giving selflessly and nurturing physical and spiritual rebirth.

Please check our Sukhasiddhi Dakini Statue

Palden Lhamo

The fierce protector goddess is often depicted as a wrathful deity. However, her ferocity is that of a mother fiercely guarding her children—the teachings of the Dharma and its practitioners. One legend tells of her struggle with her son, who was foretold to cause harm to the teachings of Buddha. In a profound demonstration of her commitment, she killed her son, using his skin as her saddle, symbolizing her intense resolve to protect Buddhism at all costs, much like a mother's ultimate sacrifice for the well-being of her greater family.

Please check our Palden Lhamo Statue.

Living Mother Figures in Buddhism

Today, the Buddhist community is enriched by many women who extend their maternal care beyond traditional boundaries. These leaders might not have biological children but are spiritual mothers to countless monks, nuns, and lay practitioners. Through their guidance, they nurture the growth of their spiritual families, offering wisdom and compassion that resonate deeply in today's world.

In this section, we celebrate five such remarkable women. Each has profoundly influenced Buddhism, fostering communities with their insights and embodying the principles of mindfulness and kindness in everything they do. This Mother's Day, we honor their contributions and the maternal warmth they share with the wider Buddhist community.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

She grew up in London and embraced Buddhism in her teenage years. By the time she was twenty, she had traveled to India and became one of the first Western women to receive ordination as a Buddhist nun. Recognizing the needs of Buddhist nuns, in 2000, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo founded the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery to provide education and training to women from Tibet and the Himalayan border regions. At this nunnery, she also aims to revive the once-extinct lineage of togdenmas, yoginis within the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. In recognition of her contributions, she was honored with the prestigious title of Jetsunma in 2008 by His Holiness the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa, leader of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage. 

Ani Tenzin Palmo has dedicated her life to bringing the depth of Tibetan Buddhist teachings to the West. Her efforts have inspired countless women to pursue spiritual growth within a monastic setting, nurturing a new generation of Buddhist practitioners.

"When we are angry, when we are excited, when we are depressed, and when we are elated, we are completely submerged in and identified with those thoughts and feelings. This is why we suffer. We suffer because we are completely identified with our thoughts and feelings and think this is me. This is who I am."

 ― Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

Pema Chödrön 

She was born Deirdre Blomfield-Brown in 1936 in New York City. She completed her education at Miss Porter's School in Connecticut and the University of California at Berkeley and worked as an elementary school teacher in New Mexico and California.

Pema Chodron is a mother of two and a grandmother of three. She is an American Tibetan Buddhist. She is a prolific author and teacher known for making Buddhist teachings accessible to a Western audience. Through her writings and retreats, Pema has offered tools for dealing with life's difficulties, encouraging a mindful and compassionate approach to personal challenges and touching the lives of thousands across the globe.

 "We work on ourselves to help others, and we help others to work on ourselves." 

 ― Pema Chodron

Khandro Rinpoche

She is a revered female lama in Tibetan Buddhism, known for her profound knowledge and eloquent teachings. Rinpoche travels the world teaching, stressing the importance of integrating spiritual practice with everyday life, thus serving as a spiritual mother to her students, guiding them with wisdom and empathy. She founded and led the Samten Tse Retreat Center in Mussoorie, India, which accommodates 30 nuns and serves as a hub for monastics and Western practitioners to study and retreat. Additionally, Rinpoche is the resident teacher at the Lotus Garden Retreat Center in Virginia, USA, which she established as a site for retreats, studying significant Buddhist texts, and hosting teachers from various traditions. She plays an active role at the Mindroling Monastery in Dehra Dun, India.

Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche also oversees several charitable initiatives, including a project focused on leprosy, providing healthcare and Buddhist education to monastics and lay practitioners who collaborate in various demanding environments.

 "If you meditate in perfect peace and then flash someone an irritable look because they make noise or their child cries, you are entirely missing the point."

 ― Khandro Rinpoche

Robina Courtin

She is an Australian Buddhist nun renowned for her dynamic and impactful teaching approach. Her work includes supporting prisoners through the Liberation Prison Project, which Venerable Robina Courtin founded, helping them transform their lives through Buddhist principles. Her strict love approach has brought meaningful change to many lives.

Robina's life significantly turned when she encountered Tibetan Buddhism in her thirties. She trained intensely in karate before a severe injury redirected her back to her spiritual quest. This led her to attend a course by Lama Yeshe in Queensland, Australia, which profoundly shaped her path. She took her first set of vows in 1978 and has since been a prominent figure in the Buddhist community, known for her dynamic teaching approach and impactful work with the Liberation Prison Project.

 "Being your own therapist is about developing a positive relationship with yourself."

― Robina Courtin

Thubten Chodron 

She has established herself as a prominent author, teacher, and the founder of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in the United States. Her teachings emphasize practical applications of Buddhism to foster peace and understanding in personal lives and the community, and she has guided countless students with maternal grace and wisdom.

Chodron Thubten's path took a significant turn in 1975 when she attended a meditation course led by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Inspired, she moved to their monastery in Nepal, Kopan, to deepen her understanding of Buddhism. She received her novice ordination in 1977 and full ordination as a bhikshuni in Taiwan in 1986, studying under prominent Tibetan masters, including the Dalai Lama.

“The disturbing attitudes and negative emotions, such as clinging attachment, anger, and ignorance are the real source of our unhappiness.”

― Thubten Chodron, Buddhism for Beginners


Conclusion: Celebrating Buddhist Motherhood

Throughout this exploration of both deities and living mother figures in Buddhism, we've seen how these remarkable women embody the virtues of compassion, wisdom, and nurturing care. From the divine guidance of Maya Devi and Machig Labdrön to the contemporary teachings of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo and Pema Chödrön, each figure brings a unique strength and maternal warmth to their roles, nurturing not just the minds but the spirits of their followers.

Reflect on the stories and teachings of these ten extraordinary women. Consider how their steadfastness, compassion, and wisdom can inspire and influence your life. Whether through the legendary deeds of deity figures or the real-world examples set by living leaders, these mothers of Buddhism offer us invaluable lessons on how to live more mindfully and compassionately.

As we celebrate Mother's Day, we honor these figures as spiritual leaders and mothers to generations of practitioners. They teach us that the essence of motherhood transcends biological boundaries, encompassing a universal commitment to fostering growth, understanding, and kindness in all forms. Let their stories remind us of the profound impact that nurturing leadership can have, encouraging us to spread their legacy of love and wisdom in our communities.


For more details on Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo's life and work, visit Buddha.net.

Source of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo picture, tricycle.org

For more information on Pema Chodron's life and work, visit Pemachodronfoundation.org

Source of Pema Chodron's picture: Click Here

For more details on Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche's life and work, visit rigpawiki.org

For more details on Liberation Prison Project, visit  liberationprisonproject.org

For more details on Venerable Robina Courtin, founder of Liberation Prison Project, Visit robinacourtin.com 

Source of  Venerable Robina Courtin Picture: theguardian.com

 Photograph: Dean Dampney/The Guardian

For more details on  Thubten Chodron, visit thubtenchodron.org

Source of Thubten Chodron's picture, wisdomexperience.org

 Source of  Quotes: goodreads.com Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo  Khandro Rinpoche Buddhism for Beginners


1 comment

Avon Ra Felidae

Avon Ra Felidae

Thank you for this important learning.
I have no way of saving this, so I have written down, the five concepts.
Blessings and peace.

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