Kisa Gotami

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Kisa Gotami was the wife of a wealthy man of Savatthi. Her story is one of the more famous ones in Buddhism. After losing her only child, Kisa Gotami became desperate and asked if anyone can help her. Her sorrow was so great that many thought she had already lost her mind. Someone told her to meet Buddha. Buddha told her that he would bring the child back to life if she could get white mustard seeds from a family where no-one has died. She desperately went from house to house, but to her disappointment, every house had someone who had died. Finally the realization struck her that there is no house free from death. She returned to the Buddha, who comforted her and preached to her the truth. She was awakened and entered the first stage of Arahantship. Eventually, she became an Arahant.

The following Dhammapada verse (in Pali and English) is associated with her story:

Yo ca vassasatam jeeve apassam amatam padam Ekaaham jeevitam seyyo passato amatam padam

Though one should live a hundred years without seeing the Deathless State, yet better indeed, is a single day's life of one who sees the Deathless State.

In the "Gotami Sutta" (SN 5.3), Bhikkhuni Kisa Gotami declares:

I've gotten past the killing of [my] sons, have made that the end to [my search for] men. I don't grieve, I don't weep.... It's everywhere destroyed — delight. The mass of darkness is shattered. Having defeated the army of death, free of fermentations I dwell.

The story is the source of the popular aphorism: "The living are few, but the dead are many."