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The Greatest of Teachers – Part 3

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Story of Kisa Gotami

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One some occasions the Buddha refrained from teaching certain persons from advising certain persons. He enabled those people to understand things for themselves.

The only son of young Kisa Gotami was dead. Born in an excessively affluent family she was not aware that a dead person could not be brought back to life. She got many physicians to treat her child but to no avail. No one was able to bring back her dead son to life. After everything failed she went toe Buddha with her son’s dead body. She placed her son’s dead body at the Buddha’s feet and asked him to bring her son back to life.

The supremely compassionate Buddha who was also a supreme psychologist did not reject her request outright/ the Buddha realized that there was no use giving her a religious Discourse when she was so deranged in mind due to her son’s death. Therefore he said,

“All right I will bring him back to life”

The mind of the young mother who had been sorely distraught as all the physicians had refused to treat him was relieved at least to some extent when the Buddha accepted to treat him. “If you can get the medicine I prescribe I will bring back your son to life” the Buddha said next. “What medicine Sir? “ “A pinch of mustard” “Oh that is simple I will bring it quickly”

So, saying she got ready to go.

“ But wait bit, that pinch of mustard must be from a house where death had never occurred:” “All right Sir I will bring the mustard”

Kisa Gothami took her son’s death body and left Jetavana Monastery. She entered the main street of the city of Savatthi. She went into the first house she saw.

“The Buddha said that he will bring back my dead son to life if I can fetch a pinch of mustard. Could you please give me some mustard?”

The housewife runs into the house and brings a pinch of mustard. Kisa Gotami takes the mustard and asks,

“Has anyone died in this house?”

“Yes,  our grandfather died our father died a brother died’

“If so, I don’t need this mustard. I need mustard from a house where no one had died. I will ask next door”

Kisa Gotami went to the next house. There too she received mustard but since there too death had occurred she went to another house. This way she visited about a hundred houses in the city. Everywhere she received a similar answer. Truth began to dawn in her mind little by little. She realized that death had happened not only to her son but to a multitude. One the one hand reality dawned upon her. On the other hand the stench from the dead body was unbearable. Realizing the rue nature of death she discarded the dead body in the cemetery and went back to the Buddha. worshipping the Buddha she asked him to ordain her. The Buddha asked her,

“Did you bring a handful of mustard?”

“O sir, I have now realized the true nature of death. Please ordain me and make me achieve the deathless”

The Buddha sent her to the nuns so she could be ordained a nun. Shortly after she was ordained a nun she attained Sainthood.

This story shows how the Buddha taught a lesson without delivering a discourse. Kisa Gotami was a mother who was distracted to the point of madness due to the death of her son. It was not proper to preach the doctrine to her at that time. Therefore the Buddha did not deliver a sermon to her. He devised a method that would enable her to realize the nature of death by herself.

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