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THE WISE PHYSICIAN
KISAGOTAMI is the name of a young girl, whose marriage with the only
son of a wealthy man was brought about in true fairy-tale
fashion. She had one child, but when the beautiful boy could
run alone, it died. The young girl in her love for it carried
the dead child clasped to her bosom, and went from house to
house of her pitying friends asking them to give her medicine
for it. But a Buddhist mendicant, thinking, "She does not
understand," said to her: "My good girl, I myself have no
such medicine as you ask for, but I think I know of one who
has." "Oh, tell me who that is!" said Kisagotami. "The Buddha
can give you medicine: go to him," was the answer.
She went to Gautama, and doing homage to him, said: "Lord and
Master, do you know any medicine that will be good for my
"Yes, I know of some," said the Teacher.
Now it was the custom for patients or their friends to provide
the herbs which the doctors required, so she asked what herbs
he would want. "I want some mustard-seed," he said; and when
the poor girl eagerly promised to bring some of so common a
drug, he added: "You must get it from some house where no son,
or husband, or parent, or slave has died." "Very good," she
said, and went to ask for it, still carrying her dead child
with her. The people said: "Here is mustard-seed, take it."
But when she asked, "In my friendís house has any son died,
or a husband, or a parent, or slave?" they answered: "Lady!
what is this that thou sayest; the living are few, but the
dead are many." Then she went to other houses, but one
said: "I have lost a son"; another, "We have lost our parents";
another, "I have lost my slave."
At last, not being able to find a single house where no
one had died, her mind began to clear, and, summoning up
resolution, she left the dead body of her child in a forest,
and returning to the Buddha paid him homage. He said to her:
"Have you the mustard-seed?" "My Lord," she replied, "I have
not; the people tell me that the living are few, but the dead
are many." Then he talked to her on that essential part of
his system—the impermanency of all things, till her
doubts were cleared away, and, accepting her lot, she became
a disciple and entered the first Path.
The following lines, ascribed to some of her Sisters in
the Order and given in the
Psalms (translated by Mrs. Rhys Davids), would apply
"Lo! from my heart the hidden shaft is gone,
The shaft that nestled there hath he removed;
And that consuming grief for my dear child,
Which poisoned all the life of me, is dead.
To-day my heart is healed, my yearning stayed,
Perfected the deliverance wrought in me."