Buddhism in Bite Size Lessons: Lesson #12
Revisiting Impermanence: The Tale of Kisa Gotami
Kisa Gotami was the wife of a wealthy man of Savatthi. She had only one child. When her son was old enough to start running about, he caught a disease and died. Kisa Gotami was greatly saddened. Unable to accept that her son was dead and could not be brought back to life again, she took him in her arms and went about asking for medicine to cure him. Everyone she encountered thought that she had lost her mind. Finally, an old man told her that if there was anyone who could help her, it would be the Buddha.
In her distress, Kisa Gotami brought the body of her son to the Buddha and asked him for a medicine that would bring back his life. The Buddha answered: “I shall cure him if you can bring me some white mustard seeds from a house where no one has died”. Carrying her dead son, she went from door to door, asking at each house. At each house the reply was always that someone had died there. At last the truth struck her, “No house is free from death”. She laid the body of her child in the wood and returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth. She was awakened and entered the first stage of Arhatship. Eventually, she became an Arhat.
The story of Kisa Gotami is one of the famous stories from Buddha’s life…it tells us that however sad we might feel at the loss of a loved one, impermanence will remain a fact of life. The best way then is to understand n embrace impermanence as ‘such is the nature of life…such is the nature of things’
“… If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don’t suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away. If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving, and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing is possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Instead of complaining, we should say, ‘Long live impermanence!’. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.”