March 02, 2024

#08-842: The Story of Kisa Gotami

Kisa Gotami presents her dead son to the Buddha (Facebook)

Note: How hard it is to let go of a loved one at his or her death! This heart-breaking story gives us a clue as to how to survive such a tragedy.

Get Ready: Do you know anyone who has never lost a loved one?

This is a story told about the original Buddha and his application of "skillful means" in teaching the right lesson at the right time.

There once was a woman named Kisa Gotami. Although born poor, she had the good fortune to marry a wealthy man, and the marriage was soon blessed with the birth of a son.

A year passed, and one day her beloved boy, just able to walk, suddenly fell motionless in the street. She tried her best to rouse him, but the little one was dead.

In her despair, she picked him up and rushed home, asking her husband's family for help. They tried to convince her that it was no use, but she would not give up. She was sure that if she could just find the right medicine, the right treatment...

She carried him from house to house in the village, knocking on each door and asking for help. The people were sympathetic, but at last decided that her mind had snapped. Some began hiding when she knocked on their door; others chased her away angrily.

At last she knocked on the door of one of the village elders. He kindly advised her to take the child to the Buddha, the great teacher; he would know what to do.

And so she did. She found where he was teaching, presented her son's limp body, and told her sad story.

The Buddha said, "I will help you. But first, you must bring me a pinch of mustard seed from a home that has never known death. Find a house where no one has died, and bring the mustard seed from there."

"I will, Lord," she said, thinking it would be easy. After all, everyone kept mustard seed for cooking!

And so once again she went house to house, door to door, asking, "Has anyone ever died in this house? Have you ever lost a loved one?"

And, of course, they all had. One had lost a beloved grandmother, another an uncle, a third a child like her own. It seemed every house in the city had known the sting of losing a loved one.

And through this experience, Kisa Gotami came to understand that death touches all, and that no one is spared.

At last she returned to the Buddha and told him what she had learned. He gently suggested that the time had come to let go of her beloved son and take his lifeless body to the cemetery.

After the burial she returned to the Buddha and became a nun, and one of his foremost disciples.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. despair
  2. disciples
  3. foremost
  4. limp
  5. pinch
  6. rouse
  7. snapped
  8. spared
  9. sting
  10. sympathetic
  1. able to escape; saved
  2. small amount
  3. pain; hurt
  4. feeling kindly
  5. wake; raise up
  6. serious students
  7. hopelessness
  8. drooping; without rigor
  9. broken; gone mad
  10. best

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 5, 2024

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. f; 3. j; 4. h; 5. b; 6. e; 7. i; 8. a; 9. c; 10. d