M for Mustard Seeds



There was once a woman from the city of Savatthi by the name of Kisa Gotami, known for her wisdom and kindness. Her virtues had earned her as a husband, a nobleman’s son. She was blessed with one son. In one of the dark stormy nights, she noticed her son was not crying. He was dead. Kisa Gotami was devastated. She carried her son in her arms and pleaded gods and folks around her alike to help her and save her son.

No matter what people said she paid no heed and continued searching medicine for death. One apothecary she met pretended to consider her request and then said “I don’t know of any medicine, but if anyone does it would be the sage Buddha”.

She immediately rushed to the place where the Buddha was lecturing a large assembly and fell on his feet and laid her dead son flat on his back. She begged for medicine for death. She said “I beg you, sir, bring my son back to life. Please! My husband is amongst the city’s wealthiest. I can pay you any fee”.

A silence of pity spread through the crowd, and the Buddha looked on the distraught mother in silence. Finally, Buddha said “yes”. The crowd was shocked and many of his disciples threw a suspicious look. Buddha said, he would be able to prepare the medicine but it requires her to get one of the ingredients – mustard seeds. These seeds needed to come from some house which has not known death. Kisa was ecstatic and ran to get the seeds. Buddha saw the rotten body of the kid and asked his disciple Ananda to help cremate him.

In the meanwhile, Kisa ran from door to door asking for mustard seeds. People obliged readily but when she told about the clause the answer was always in negation. Finally, Kisa realised her folly and returned to Buddha.

Buddha greeted her and said “Neither those wise nor those foolish are immune to death. However great a father roars, he can never waken a dead daughter. However much a mother begs the gods, a dead son will never cry again. One by one, Gotami, we each die. This is but a greater disappointment among a thousand lesser ones, and just as a Sage does not mourn a broken pot, a Sage does not mourn death.Be prepared, Gotami, for you will suffer many other deaths in your time, and some day, your own. Destroy the attachment that causes your grief, and you will lead a better life.”

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