In the time of the Buddha, a woman named Kisagotami suffered the death of her only child. Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha was said to have such a medicine.
Kisagotami went to the Buddha, paid homage, and asked, "Can you make a medicine that will restore my child?"
"I know of such a medicine," the Buddha replied. "But in order to make it, I must have certain ingredients."
Relieved, the woman asked. "What ingredients do you require?"
"Bring me a handful of mustard seed," said the Buddha.
The woman promised to procure it for him, but as she was leaving, he added, "I require the mustard seed be taken from a household where no child, spouse, parent or servant has died."
The woman agreed and began going from house to house in search of the mustard seed. At each house the people agreed to give her the seed, but when she asked them if anyone had died in that household, she could find no home where death had not visited - in one house a daughter, in another a servant, in others a husband or parent had died. Kisagotami was not able to find a home free from the suffering of death. Seeing she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child's lifeless body and returned to the Buddha, who said with great compassion, "You thought that you alone had lost a son, the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence."