Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Mustard Seed

If only . . . If only . . . If only . . . Three separate wishes keep on dancing in the back of my mind, often times without me even realizing it. Three wishes that keep me trapped in the iron jaws of conditioned happiness. Like Gotami, I need an admonition from the Buddha, to shake myself out of non acceptance and useless self-pity:
[Her] son, running back and forth and running all around, while playing met his end. Because of this, sorrow-to-the-point-of-madness arose in her. She thought: "Before I was one who received only scorn, but starting from the time of the birth of my son I gained honor. These [relatives] will now try to take my son, in order to expose him outside [in the charnel ground]." Under the influence of her sorrow-to-the-point-of-madness, she took the dead corpse on her hip and wandered in the city from the door of one house to another [pleading]: "Give medicine to me for my son!" People reviled her, [saying] "What good is medicine?" She did not grasp what they were saying. And then a certain wise man, thinking "This woman has had her mind deranged by sorrow for her son; the ten-powered [Buddha] will know the medicine for her," said: "Mother, having approached the fully awakened one, ask about medicine for your son." She went to the vihara at the time of the teaching of dhamma and said, "Blessed One, give medicine to me for my son!" The master, seeing her situation, said, "Go, having entered the city, into whatever house has never before experienced any death, and take from them a mustard seed." "Very well, Sir." [she replied], and glad of mind she entered the city and came to the first house: "The master has called for a mustard seed in order to make medicine for my son. If this house has never before experienced any death, give me a mustard seed." "Who is able to count how many have died here?" "Then keep it. What use is that mustard seed to me?" And going to a second and a third house, her madness left her and her right mind was established — thanks to the power of the Buddha. She thought, "This is the way it will be in the entire city. By means of the Blessed One's compassion for my welfare, this will be what is seen." And having gained a sense of spiritual urgency from that, she went out and covered her son in the charnel ground. She uttered this verse: It's not just a truth for one village or town, Nor is it a truth for a single family. But for every world settled by gods [and men] This indeed is what is true — impermanence. And so saying, she went into the presence of the master. Then the master said to her, "Have you obtained, Gotami, the mustard seed?" "Finished, sir, is the matter of the mustard seed" she said. "You have indeed restored me." And the master then uttered this verse: A person with a mind that clings, Deranged, to sons or possessions, Is swept away by death that comes — Like mighty flood to sleeping town.  
We've all got our load to carry. How we choose to carry it however, can make all the difference. Not wishing away, not feeling sorry for ourselves, not lamenting . . . but accepting instead, what is, warts and all.


  1. This story is beautiful and sad and inspiring. We do all carry our loads differently, and I believe that those of us who learn to balance these loads best will be happiest and at peace. There are so many people out in the world who have so much less than Americans, yet they're happy ... I mean, really, really happy. This should teach us something about the way we've learned to look at the world.

  2. Expectations, expectations . . . having little expectations goes a very long way. Agree with you that our greedy culture is setting us up for much unhappiness. At the same time, it allows us enough material comfort to devote ourselves to a spiritual path.

  3. Marguerite Manteau-Rao,

    "Three wishes that keep me trapped in the iron jaws of conditioned happiness." Just three? I've known many more than three. My ego... self-obsession... self-centeredness has a way of driving a narrative that senses, sees and feels what I sometimes call "Unfavorable," circumstances.

    I used to think that it was easier to let go of the unfavorable circumstances, rather than hold on. But through practice it's quite the reverse. Letting go... releasing... allowing ourselves to go free is in fact the most difficult act of care and love, not just towards ourselves but our life as well.

    Today my feeling is that in the practice of the Way, we can... if we practice well, learn to live and die, without regret.

    With Nine Bows - Your Little Brother,


  4. Wonderful, Seiho! As usual, thank you for your most inspiring words.

    Holding you in my thoughts,

    Deep bow to you,