September 17, 2006




Gotami was her family name, but because she tired easily, she was called Kisa Gotami, or Frail Gotami. She was reborn at Savatthi in a poverty-stricken house. When she grew up, she married, going to the house of her husband’s family to live. There, because she was the daughter of a poverty-stricken house, they treated her with contempt. After a time she gave birth to a son. Then they accorded her respect.

But when that boy of hers was old enough to play and run hither and about, he died. Sorrow sprang up within her. Thought she: Since the birth of my son, I, who was once denied honor and respect in this very house, have received respect. These folk may even seek to cast my son away. Taking her son on her hip, she went about from one house door to another saying: “Give me medicine for my son!

Whenever people encountered her, they said, Where did you ever meet with medicine for the dead? So saying, they clapped their hands and laughed in derision. She had not the slightest idea what they meant.

Now a certain wise man saw here and thought: This woman must have been driven out of her mind by sorrow for her son. But medicine for her, no one else is likely to know—the Sage of the Ten Forces alone is likely to know. Said he: “Woman, as for medicine for your son-there is no one else who knows-the Sage of the Ten Forces, the foremost individual in the world of men and the worlds of the gods, resides in the neighboring monastery. Go to him and ask.:

The man speaks the truth, thought she. Taking her son on her hip, she took her stand in the outer circle of the congregation around the seated Buddha and said: :exalted one give me medicine for my son!”

The Teachers, seeing that she was ripe for conversion said: “You did well. Gotami, in coming hither for medicine. Go enter the city, make the rounds of the entire city, beginning at the beginning, and in whatever house no one has every died, from that house fetch tiny grains of mustard seed.”

“Very well, reverend sir,” said she. Delighted in heart, she entered within the city, and at the very first house said: “The Safe of the Ten Forces bids me fetch tiny grains of mustard seed for medicine for my son. Give me tiny grains of mustard see.”

“Alas! Gotam,” said they, and brought and gave to her.

“This particular seed I cannot take. In this house someone
has died!”

“What say you Gotami! Here it is impossible to count the

“Well the, enough! I’ll not take it.The Sage of the Ten Forces did not tell me to take mustard seed from a house where anyone has ever died.”

In this same way she went to the second house, and to the third. Thought she: In the entire city this must be the way! The Buddha, full of compassion for the welfare of mankind, must have seen! Overcome with emotion, she went outside of the city, carried her son to the burning-ground, and holding him in her arms, said: “Dear little son, I thought that you alone
had been overtaken by this thing which men call death.But you are not the only one death has overtaken.” So saying, she cast her son away in the burning-ground. The she uttered the following stanza:

No village law, no
law of market town,

No law of a single
house is this—

Of all the world and
all the worlds of gods

This only is the law,
that all things are impermanent.


From: Buddha Paralbes

Translation: E. W. Burlingame


It is so easy for me to implode into my own pain and forget my humanity; that I share this with everyone, not just this place called the self. But, then I remember. And, I am good with anything as long as it makes a good story later. May this find you in your humanity, or catalyze your memory. And at the same time, there is room for all of us and our living, how could there not be? We are all here living.




Photograph: Detail of a the Thousand Hands of Buddha Statue Ha Tien Vietnam

Artist: Q. T. Luong


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