Buddha and Self-Compassion

Following is a wonderful short story, about Buddha and the mustard seeds, taken from the Unity booklet, Compassion:  Living Life with an Open Heart


by Rev. Kelly Isola

About 600 years before the writers of Mark, Matthew, and Luke penned Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed, Buddha told a parable of a mustard seed.Buddha and Self-Compassion -- Unity Compassion booklet

It revolves around a woman, Kisa Gotami, who lived during the time of Buddha. Kisa’s only child had died and, unwilling to accept his death, she carried him from neighbor to neighbor, begging anyone to give her medicine to bring him back to life. Eventually, she was told to go to Buddha and ask for help.

She pleaded with Buddha, so he told her to go to her village and gather mustard seeds from all the households that had never been touched by death. He promised he would create a medicine to bring her son back to life. Relieved, she went back to her village and began asking her neighbors for mustard seeds.

All of her neighbors were willing to give her seeds, but they told her their families had, in fact, been touched by death. After an entire day, she had no seeds. Slowly, she realized the universality of death, and with this awareness, her grief began to lessen. She gently buried her son in the forest and returned to Buddha, confessing that she had not been able to obtain mustard seeds from a single soul.

Three Steps of Self-Compassion

  1. The first step with self-compassion—mindfulness.
    Be present to the present, whatever you may be feeling.
    Mindfulness is about focus.
  2. The second component of self-compassion is remembering
    our common humanity. Suffering is a part of everyone’s life—it
    only looks different for each of us.
  3. Finally, practice kindness. Ask yourself, What are the words
    I need to hear?

Request your own Unity booklet:  Compassion:  Living Life with an Open Heart

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