Gotami was her family name, but because she tired easily, she was called Kisa Gotami, or Frail Gotami. She was reborn at Savatthi in a poverty-stricken house. When she grew up, she married, going to the house of her husband's family to live. There, because she was the daughter of a poverty-stricken house, they treated her with contempt. After a time she gave birth to a son. Then they accorded her respect.
But when that boy of hers was old enough to play and run hither and about, he died. Sorrow sprang up within her. Thought she: "Since the birth of my son, I, who was once denied honor and respect in this very house, have received respect. These folk may even seek to cast my son away." Taking her son on her hip, she went about from one house-door to another, saying: "Give me medicine for my son!"
Wherever people encountered her, they said: "Where did you ever meet with medicine for the dead?" So saying, they clapped their hands and laughed in derision. She had not the slightest idea what they meant.
Now a certain wise man saw her and thought: "This woman must have been driven out of her mind by sorrow for her son. But medicine for her,--no one else is likely to know,--the Possessor of the Ten Forces alone is likely to know." Said he: "Woman, as for medicine for your son,--there is no one else who knows,--the Possessor of the Ten Forces, the foremost individual in the world of men and the Worlds of the Gods, resides at a neighboring monastery. Go to him and ask."
"The man speaks the truth," thought she. Taking her son on her hip, when the Tathagata sat down in the Seat of the Buddhas, she took her stand in the outer circle of the congregation and said: "O Exalted One, give me medicine for my son!"
The Teacher, seeing that she was ripe for conversion, said: "You did well, Gotami, in coming hither for medicine. Go enter the city, make the rounds of the entire city, beginning at the beginning, and in whatever house no one has ever died, from that house fetch tiny grains of mustard-seed."
"Very well, Reverend Sir," said she. Delighted in heart, she entered within the city, and at the very first house said: "The Possessor of the Ten Forces bids me fetch tiny grains of mustard-seed for medicine for my son. Give me tiny grains of mustard-seed." "Alas! Gotami," said they, and brought and gave to her.
"This particular seed I cannot take. In this house some one has died!" "What say you, Gotami! Here it is impossible to count the dead!"
"Well then, enough! I'll not take it. The Possessor of the Ten Forces did not tell me to take mustard-seed from a house where any one has ever died."
In this same way she went to the second house, and to the third. Thought she: "In the entire city this alone must be the way! This the Buddha, full of compassion for the welfare of mankind, must have seen!" Overcome with emotion, she went outside of the city, carried her son to the burning-ground, and holding him in her arms, said: "Dear little son, I thought that you alone had been overtaken by this thing which men call death. But you are not the only one death has overtaken. This is a law common to all mankind." So saying, she cast her son away in the burning-ground. Then she uttered the following stanza:
"No village-law, no law of market-town,
Now when she had so said, she went to the Teacher. Said the Teacher to her: "Gotami, did you get the tiny grains of mustard-seed?" "Done, Reverend Sir, is the business of the mustard-seed! Only give me a refuge!" Then the Teacher recited to her the following stanza in the Dhammapada:
"That man who delights in children and cattle,
At the conclusion of the stanza, even as she stood there, she became established in the Fruit of Conversion, and requested admission to the Order. The Teacher granted her admission to the Order. She thrice made rightwise circuit of the Teacher, bowed to him, and going to the nuns' convent, entered the Order. Later on she made her full profession, and in no very long time, by the Practice of Meditation, developed Insight. And the Teacher recited to her this Apparition-stanza:
"Though one should live a hundred years,
At the conclusion of the stanza she attained Sainthood.