Q. When her son dies, Kisa Gotami goes from house to house. What does she ask for? Does she get it? Why not?
Ans. When her son dies, Kisa Gotami goes from house to house asking for medicine which could make her son alive. She does not get such a medicine because there is no medicine which can bring a dead man back to life.
Q. Kisa Gotami again goes from house to house after she speaks with the Buddha. What does she ask for, the second time around? Does she get it? Why not?
Ans. Buddha had asked Kisa Gotami to bring a handful of mustard seed from a house where no one had died. She does not get it because there was no house where somebody had not died.
Q. What does Kisa Gotami understand the second time that she failed to understand the first time? Was this what the Buddha wanted her to understand?
Ans. Kisa Gotami now understands that death is inevitable. Just as the lights in city flicker up and get extinguished again, so is human life. Similarly, earthen vessels made by a potter end in being broken. Ripe fruits are always in danger of falling. Such is the life of mortals. No one can escape death. This is what Buddha wanted Kisa Gotami to understand.
Q. Why do you think Kisa Gotami understood this only the second time? In what way did the Buddha change her understanding?
Ans. Kisa Gotami understood this a second time because she found no house where someone had not died. She sat by the wayside and saw the city lights flickering and getting extinguished again. Buddha changed her understanding by comparing the life of earthen vessels and ripe fruits. Earthen vessels made by the poor get broken. Similarly ripe fruits are always in danger of falling. So man is always in danger of death. This is how Buddha changed her understanding.
Q. How do you usually understand the idea of ‘Selfishness’? Do you agree with Kisa Gotami that she was being ‘selfish in her grief’?
Ans. ‘Selfishness’ usually means thinking of one’s own interests, need, etc. without concern for others. Kisa Gotami lost her only son and wanted to make him live again. She was ignorant enough to understand that death is inevitable and a dead man could not be brought to life. But if she wanted to make her alive, it was not at the cost of others. Every mother would like her dead son to be alive. So Kisa Gotami was not at all selfish. She only failed to understand that death was common to all.
Q. This text is written in an old-fashioned style, for it reports an incident more than two millennia old. Look for the following words and phrases in the text, and try to rephrase them in more current language, based on how you understand them.
- give thee medicine for thy child.
- Pray tell me.
- Kisa repaired to the Buddha.
- there was no house but someone had died in it.
- I give you medicine for your child.
- Please tell me.
- Kisa went to the Buddha.
- There was no house in which someone had not died.
- Listen! / look!
Q. Here is a sentence from the text that uses semicolons to combine clauses. Break up the sentence into three simple sentences. Can you then say which has a better rhythm when you read it, the single sentence using semicolons, or the three simple sentences?
For there is not any means by which those who have been born can avoid dying, after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings.
- For there is not any means by which those who have been born can avoid dying.
- After reaching old age there is death.
- Such is the nature of living beings. The first sentence with semicolons has a better rhythm.
Q. Write a page (about three paragraphs) on one of the following topics. You can think about the ideas in the text that are relevant to these topics, and add your own ideas and experiences to them.
- Teaching someone to understand a new or difficult idea
- Helping each other to get over difficult times
- Thinking about oneself as unique, or as one among billions of others.