In his book, “Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart,” psychiatrist Mark Epstein, M.D. tells the famous Buddhist story of Kisagotami and the mustard seed:
A young woman named Kisagotami lost her only child to illness around the time of his first birthday. Bereft, she went from house to house in her village, clasping the dead child to her breast and pleading for medicine to revive him. Her neighbors, thinking her mad, were frightened and did their best to avoid her entreaties. However, one man sought to help her by directing her to the Buddha, telling her that he had the medicine she was seeking. Kisagotami went to the Buddha, as we go to our psychotherapists, and begged him for the medicine.
“I know of some,” he promised, “but I will need a handful of mustard seed from a house where no child, husband, parent, or servant has died.”
Making her rounds in the village, Kisogotami slowly came to realize that such a house was not to be found. Putting the body of her child down in the forest, she made her way back to where the Buddha was camped.
“Have you procured the handful of mustard seed?” he asked.
“I have not,” she replied. “The people of the village told me, ‘The living are few, but the dead are many.’”
“You thought that you alone had lost a son,” said the Buddha. “The law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”