There are a lot of parables in Buddhism. One of such anecdotes I always recall is the story of Kisa Gotami.
She was the wife of one wealthy family during Buddha’s days, surrounded by various material possessions and luxury goods. She was happy and fortunate.
She loved her only son so much. Above everything else, he was her treasure. She even thought she was willing to die for him. It was the natural feeling for mother’s love towards her child. So pure and precious.
One day, however, her son got sick and died. It was so sudden and abrupt. From this moment, her world transformed from heaven to hell. It was so sad and painful. She cried, cried, and cried, feeling almost insane.
She could never accept the death of her beloved son, spending many days with her son who was already dead, becoming a corpse. It was so painful, even cruel torture for her. She felt she was the most unfortunate person in this world.
She talked to herself:
Why does fate hate me? Why did the universe take away my beloved son from me? Did I do anything wrong? It’s so unfair. Life is unfair.
All those inter voices kept echoing in her mind.
People around her deeply felt sorry about her. They tried their best to console her with sympathy and encouragement. And eventually, one old man advised her to visit Buddha.
Buddha was known as the enlightened sage during those days. People believed Gautama Buddha could give her his best advice, or even he could bring her son’s life back.
Hearing this advice, Gotami visited Buddha and shared everything that happened to her.
How much she loved her son. How important he was for her. She also shared her sentiments, saying life was so unfair; she was the most unfortunate person in this world; she lost her hope at all; and without her son, how she could live her life, and so on.
Buddha was listening to her silently. He never interrupted her continuous talks of self-pity and self-indulgence.
And after listening to all her talks, Buddha advised her:
Please get a mustard seed. With it, we can bring your son’s life back. But this mustard seed must be from the household where nobody has ever died.
Kisa Gotami was so happy. Suddenly, her world was filled with delightful hope. “This enlightened sage shared his secret with me!” She was overjoyed.
She talked to herself:
Now I know the secret of life. Now I know how to turn things around. Now I know how to bring my beloved son back to life. It’s a miracle! Life was not unfair, for those who know the secret!
She was so desperate, embracing her dead son, who was already a corpse for many days. With full enthusiasm, she immediately started looking for this special mustard seed, walking from one house to another.
Kisa Gotami visited one household. People there, however, told her that they had just finished the funeral of their grandmother recently. She visited another. They said to her that, just like her, a wife there also had lost her beloved daughter only a few weeks ago. She still visited another and another.
After visiting many households, eventually, she realized that there was no such a mustard seed. Moreover, there was no such household where people had never experienced anyone’s death at all.
Death is inevitable. Everything is temporary.
Suddenly, she realized Buddha’s real intention. She was no longer extremely sad nor overjoyed. She found the Middle Way.
Kisa Gotami went back to Buddha. We all know the rest of the story.
Image by bluemoonjools