The Mustard Seed

Long ago a young mother lost her only son to a fatal illness. She was so distraught that she began asking her friends to somehow restore her child to life, and refused to accept their insistence that nothing could be done.

Finally they sent her to a wise man for guidance. The master saw her tears and listened to her story. Finally, he said he would help her, but she had to bring him some special ingredients for a medicine. The most important item: a mustard seed from a house where no family member had ever died.

The grieving mother went from house to house searching for the mustard seed needed for the medicine. Every person she spoke to very gladly offered a seed in the hope that it would help end her sorrow. But every time the mother asked whether anyone had died in the house, she found that every single family had suffered just such a loss. At the first house she stopped at, it was the husband who had died. At the second house she stopped at, it was a daughter who had died. And at the third, it was an old grandmother.

She could not find one household that had escaped suffering. Feeling very sad, the mother returned to the wise man and said, “I understand now what you and the others were trying to tell me.”

He nodded. “You thought you were alone in your pain, but it is the nature of life that no one can escape the suffering of impermanence.”


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