Mustard Seeds

A young woman was grief-stricken at the death of her firstborn child. The woman searched the countryside, begging for a medicine that could restore the life of her baby. She met a wise man who told her to ask the Buddha.

She went to the Buddha and told him what had happened. Listening with infinite compassion, the Buddha said gently, "There is only one way to heal your affliction. Bring me back a mustard seed from a house that has never known death."

The woman went off in search of the mustard seed. She stopped at the first house she came to and said, "I have been told by the Buddha to return with a mustard seed from a house that has never known death."

"Many people have died in this house," she was told. She went to the next house. "There have been countless deaths in our family," she heard again. She went to the houses of the rich and houses of the poor. She went to every house in the city, until she realized that the Buddha's condition could never be fulfilled.

She said good-bye for the last time to the body of her beloved child and returned to see the Buddha. "Did you bring the mustard seed?" he asked.

"No," she said. "I understand the lesson you are teaching me. Grief made me blind and I thought that I was the only one that had suffered at the hands of death."

"Why have you come back?" asked the Buddha.

"I want to know the truth of what death is and what lies beyond it. Is there anything in me that will not die?" the woman asked.

The Buddha began to teach her: "There is only one law in the universe that never changes, and that is that all things change and all things are impermanent. The death of your child has helped you to see that. Your pain has opened your heart to this truth."

-Sogyal Rinpoche