Once a long time ago, there was a woman named Kisagotami, whose first-born son died. She was so stricken with grief that she wandered around the streets carrying her son’s dead body, asking for help to bring her son back to life. A kind and compassionate man took her to the Buddha.
When he saw her plight, the Buddha told her, “Fetch me a handful of mustard seeds and I will bring your child back to life.” Filled with joy, Kisagotami took off to get them immediately. Then the Buddha added, “But make sure that the seeds come from a family that has not known death.”
Kisagotami went from door to door in the entire village telling people about her situation and asking for the mustard seeds, but everyone said, “Oh, there have been many deaths here”, “I lost my mother,” “I lost my brother”, “I lost my husband”. She spent an entire day but could not find a single household that had not experienced death. Finally, Kisagotami went back to the Buddha and said, “There is death in every family. Everyone dies. Now, I understand your teaching.” The Buddha told her, “No one can escape death and unhappiness. If people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed.”
This story is such a great example of Memento Mori. Death, whether it is ours or our loved ones, is inevitable. And without unhappiness, there is no life. We need to accept these truths instead of ignoring them. Only then, we’ll be truly awake and enlightened, like the Buddha.