(A slightly ficionilised account of this ancient tale. Meant to be used as a short play for young people to act in. Ten minutes long. I wrote this for a Buddhist event in Glasgow. If you are using-just a credit to the author please)
Set. Three large painted cardboard boxes act as houses. The Buddha sits facing away from the audience. A point source of light shines his shadow on a wall. In the background the sound of traders dies away as Kisa Gotami, carrying her son, walks onto centre stage. Her son can be a doll. The Buddha cannot be shown on stage as a person (due to tradition)
Kisa Gotami. (To the audience). Have you seen the Buddha? Have you seen him? I have travelled in this heat for five miles and still I search in vain. I am looking for someone to heal my lovely boy. My poor son. My only son. A snake bit him and now he lies so still. So still and pale. My eyes were once so pretty. Or so men told me. Now they are stained with tears. My body is burning under this cruel sun and my feet are cut and bleeding. Yet, I would give away all my jewels and my fine dresses if only I could have my child back alive and strong. He needs medicine. Does no one have any? My name is Kisa Gotami. [To the Buddha]You sir! Please Sir! Are you the one they call the Buddha? I need you. If you have any magic powers then heal my child. His tiny body is filled with kindness for others. He does not deserve to die. He has never hurt another. No one will listen to me. I have passed through crowds of people yet none will answer my cries for help. All turn their faces away. My grief is but an embarrassment to them. I have sought other teachers but their words were frail and their magic was weak. I seek one who has power over life and death.
Buddha. I am the one you call the Buddha. If you seek for an answer to your pain then you must find me mustard seed. And it must be of a special kind. It must come from a household that has never been tainted with the touch of death.
Kisa Gotami. Kind sir, I will find the thing you need for your potion. I will look everywhere. Such an easy task you set me. Wait here. I will not be long. [Searches about the stage then goes up to an old man sitting outside his house]. My son is ill and needs a special kind of mustard. He needs mustard from a household that has never known death. This is the only thing that can save him. If you still have any warmth left in your old heart then you must help me. Quick. Be quick!
Old man. I can see that your son lies still. I can see that your lovely face is stained with tears and I can feel that your heart is filled with sorrow. But there is nothing I can do to help, I have mustard seed and yet l must tell you that it is of the wrong kind. My wife died last year and still I mourn her. I still lie awake at night dreaming of her next to me. You must try elsewhere. I wish you well in your search.
Kisa Gotami. [To a young woman outside her house]. Kind lady. I need mustard seed to heal my child. Yet it must be mustard from a household that has never known death. I have been to Oh so many houses today. I am so tired. Please say that you can help me.
Young Woman. I have bags of mustard seed yet it will help you nought. My husband lies dead inside, his body barely cold. We only got married a year ago. I cannot feel sorrow for your child, for my own heart is filled with sorrow for my dear husband that has died so young [Crying.] Ohhhh! What I am to do? You must try somewhere else. But, if you find any, then come back and share it with me.
Kisa Gotami. (To a boy outside his house) Young man. Fetch your Mother and ask her for mustard seed. Tell her that the seed must come from a household that has never known death. I need it to make a potion. Then my little boy will be saved from the snake poison.
Boy. My mother died three days ago. We buried her today. My stepfather has left me alone. I have nothing. No food. No family. Even if I did have seed, it would not be of the kind that you search for. I have much to do. All that I can do to help you is to join you in your grief. I wish you well in your search.
Kisa Gotami. (To the Buddha). Kind Sir. I cannot find the seed anywhere. It seems that the entire world is filled with death and suffering. Nothing stays the same. And now I see that my child is dead. He has been dead for a long time. All that I can do is bury him. You have taught me much. With all its pains and all its wrongs, this life is all I have. I must live it to the full. I cannot change the past.
The Buddha. I teach of many things. I teach of the old laws. Laws that have always been. Laws that you and I must live by. I would drain my lifeblood if it would save your child. But I have not that power. Kisa Gotami, the moment before you, you cannot know. The moment that has gone, is not worth the remembering. Live this moment to the full, for we are born anew each breath each moment. If you seek release, then you must love each creature as you loved your son. Love is special, for the more you give it away, the more you have. May all beings be happy. “Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta”.
Kisa Gotami bows before the Buddha and leaves the stage first.