During Buddha’s time, there lived a woman named Kisa Gotami. She married young and gave birth to a son. One day, the baby fell sick and died soon after. Kisa Gotami loved her son greatly and refused to believe that her son was dead. She carried the body of her son around her village, asking if there was anyone who can bring her son back to life.
The villagers all saw that the son was already dead and there was nothing that could be done. They advised her to accept his death and make arrangements for the funeral.
In great grief, she fell upon her knees and clutched her son’s body close to her body. She kept uttering for her son to wake up.
A village elder took pity on her and suggested to her to consult the Buddha.
“Kisa Gotami. We cannot help you. But you should go to the Buddha. Maybe he can bring your son back to life!”
Kisa Gotami was extremely excited upon hearing the elder’s words. She immediately went to the Buddha’s residence and pleaded for him to bring her son back to life.
“Kisa Gotami, I have a way to bring your son back to life.”
“My Lord, I will do anything to bring my son back”
“If that is the case, then I need you to find me something. Bring me a mustard seed but it must be taken from a house where no one residing in the house has ever lost a family member. Bring this seed back to me and your son will come back to life.”
Having great faith in the Buddha’s promise, Kisa Gotami went from house to house, trying to find the mustard seed.
At the first house, a young woman offered to give her some mustard seeds. But when Kisa Gotami asked if she had ever lost a family member to death, the young women said her grandmother died a few months ago.
Kisa Gotami thanked the young woman and explained why the mustard seeds did not fulfill the Buddha’s requirements.
She moved on to the 2nd house. A husband died a few years. The 3rd house lost an uncle and the 4th house lost an aunt. She kept moving from house to house but the answer was all the same – every house had lost a family member to death.
Kisa Gotami finally came to realise that there is no one in the world who had never lost a family member to death. She now understood that death is inevitable and a natural part of life.
Putting aside her grief, she buried her son in the forest. Shen then returned to the Buddha and became his follower.
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Kisa Gotami lived in the time of the Buddha Shakyamuni at Savatthi in a poor household where she was called Gotami. She was so lean that they called her Gotami the Lean (Kisa). When she married, her new family scorned her, but when a son was born she was honored.
When her son was of an age to run to all kinds of places, he one day fell and died. She was very sad. She thought about the scorn she had received and knew that without her son, she would be thrown out of the household. So in her sorrow she took the dead body on her hip and roamed the town, going from door to door asking for medicine. But people mocked her and asked her: of what use is medicine? She was so deeply lost in her sorrow that she did not understand what they meant.
Then a certain wise man told her ‘Good woman, go to the Buddha, the Enlightened One, and ask Him for medicine for your child.'
So when the Master was teaching nearby, she went where he was staying and said: 'Oh Lord, give me medicine for my child.'
And the Master, beholding her destiny, replied: 'Go to town, and beg a mustard seed in a house where no man has died.'
She did so and at the very first house asked: 'I would like a mustard seed as medicine for my child. If in this house no one has died, please give me a mustard seed.' The answer was: 'Who knows how many people have died here'. 'Then what use is such a mustard seed?' she said and went on to the next house, and the next, never getting what she asked.
Her sorrow had subsided a bit, and she came back to her right mind. She thought: 'All over this town it must be like this. The Buddha must have known this and in his wisdom made me see.'
She rejoiced and buried the body out in a field and sang this verse:
This is no law for village or town,
No law for any single family.
Through all the world of devas and men
this law holds good: All is Impermanent.
Content with her insight, she went back to the Buddha and he said: 'Have you found your mustard seed, Gotami?'
She said: 'Done is the business of the mustard seed. Please teach me!.
Gotami was later on ordained as a nun.
This is a good story that shows us how ignorance brings suffering in our lives and after getting wisdom, we can gain happiness.
But why is important to understand death? Because we all want to be happy, but in order to be happy, we need to understand that death is also part of life. If not, we are going to live a life of suffering, always fearful of the moment of death and if is not ours, from our loved ones. If you know death is coming, don’t run away, since you will never be able to escape, on the contrary, don’t waste time and prepare for it. Have your affairs in order and live a moral life.
This knowledge, when understood and applied, can help us make sense of this present lifetime. We learn to live the here and now because tomorrow, what is tomorrow?