A woman lost her young son; just a few days before her husband had died. Kissa Goutami was her name and now her only son had died. She was in great despair, naturally the child was her only hope. Buddha was staying in the town. People said, “Don’t weep. Why don’t you take the child to the Buddha? He is so compassionate; he may revive him back to life.”
The woman rushed with the dead body of the child. Buddha looked at the woman, told the woman to put the child in front of him and said to her, “Yes, I will revive him, but you will have to fulfill one condition.”
The woman said, “I am ready to give even my life. Say any condition and I will fulfill it.”
Buddha said, “It is a simple condition, I never make big requirements of people, only small requirements. You just go into the town and bring a few mustard seeds. Just remember one thing: the mustard seeds should come from a house where nobody has ever died.”
The woman was in an insane state, she could not see the point. How can you find a house where nobody has ever died? She rushed with great hope. She knew that every house has mustard seeds, because that was the only crop the people grew. The whole village was doing the same work, growing mustard seeds.
She knocked on many doors, the people said, “A few mustard seeds? We can bring cartloads of mustard seeds, but we cannot fulfill the condition; many people have died in our house. So, our mustard seeds won’t do.”
By the evening the woman came to her senses. She had knocked on many doors; slowly, she saw the point — death is inevitable — it happens to everybody, that nobody can escape from it. She came back, she was a totally different woman when she came back in the evening. The child was there, Buddha was waiting. He said, “Where are the mustard seeds?”
The woman laughed, fell down at his feet and said, “Initiate me into your path, because I have understood your message, that everybody has to die. Today my son has died, a few days ago my husband died, at some time in the future I will also die. Before I die, I want to realize the deathless. Now I am not interested in my child being raised from the dead. Now I am interested in myself realizing the eternal life.”
Buddha said, “That was the purpose of sending you, so that you can be awakened.”
Buddha initiated Kissa Goutami.
(The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha)
Death is a subject which is of the deepest interest to everyone. Death is the most common phenomenon in nature and yet the least understood fact. One day or the other all must die. All are terribly afraid of death. No one wants to die. The terror of death overshadows the lives of all human beings. Most people are so afraid to die that, from their efforts to avoid death, they never live. We can overcome pain and sorrow, if we know the meaning of sorrow, pain, suffering and death.
Death is the price we pay for the gift of the body. Once we have the body, death is inevitable. But death is not for us as Pure Self / pure consciousness. It is for the body and it starts from the birth itself.
At birth itself the body is pre-programmed to self-destruct. Even during our lifetime, the body cells are constantly being replaced by new ones. The human body produces 25 million new cells each second and a similar number of cells die every moment. We gain a totally new body every seven years. This game of birth and death is going on in the body since its birth.
The body is inert and ever perishing. In fact, existence of body itself is a disease and a disease can never be healthy. It can only have two conditions — normally unhealthy or abnormally unhealthy. When the body goes through the normal process of modification to meet its ultimate goal of death, it is called normally unhealthy. During this normal process of modification, if a disease manifests, then the body becomes abnormally unhealthy. The so called “good health” is merely the slowest possible rate at which the body can die! In fact, everybody is in the departure lounge!
Death of the body is not the destruction of the Pure Self / Consciousness that pervaded that body, similar to when a bulb gets fused it doesn’t affect electricity. Electricity powers the electrical gadgets, but is other than those gadgets. Similarly, Self / Consciousness enlivens the body, but is other than the body. So, true health is to be aware that the body is not the Self.
Hence bodily disease does not detract from the perfectly healthy state of the Self-realized sage. The one who is established in his own Pure Self, in perfect identity with the Supreme Reality, is free from identification with afflictions of the body and is beyond the limitations of time and space.
If death takes away the disease called the normally or abnormally unhealthy body, a storehouse of pain and suffering, it should be welcomed! Death of the body should be treated as good riddance to bad rubbish! Therefore, celebrating birth is ignorance; celebrating death is understanding.
Knowledge of this science will rob death of all its terror and sorrow and enable us to see it in the proper light and to understand its place in the scheme of our evolution. It will certainly inspire us to find out suitable methods to conquer death and attain immortality. It will urge us to take to the study of the knowledge of the Absolute Truth / Self in right earnest. We have suffered very much simply out of ignorance and superstition concerning this most important event. With the right knowledge the veil of ignorance will be removed. We will be freed from the horrors of death.