In times of the Buddha, a woman named Kisagotami suffered the death of her only child. Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha was said to have such a medicine.
Kisagotami went to the Buddha, paid homage and asked, ”Can you make a medicine that will restore my child?”
“I know of such a medicine,” the Buddha replied. “But in order to make it I must have some ingredients.”
Relieved, the woman asked, “What ingredients do you require?”
‘Bring me a handful of mustard seeds’ , said the Buddha.
The woman promised to procure them for him. But as she was leaving he added, ‘I require that the seeds be taken from a household where no child, spouse, parent, sibling or servant has died.’
The woman agreed and began going from house to house in search of the mustard seeds. At each door, people agreed to give her the seeds but when she asked them if anyone had died in that house hold, she found no home where death had not visited – in one house a daughter, in another a husband or parent had died. Kisagotami was unable to find a home free from the suffering of death. Seeing she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child’s lifeless body and returned to the Buddha who said with great compassion, ’You thought that you alone had lost your son; the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.’
Kisagotami’s search taught her that she had not been singled out for this terrible misfortune. This insight didn’t eliminate the inevitable suffering that comes from loss but it did reduce the suffering that came from struggling against this sad fact of life.