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The Mustard Seed

August 24, 1894 — Inaugural meeting, Local Council of Women of Halifax, Academy of Music, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada


Her Excellency’s speech carries me back 2,000 years ago to the first little girl named Keesa, who lived in the city of Totami. She was a farmer’s daughter, married to a farmer. She knew nothing of what it was to be a mother — she nothing of her married responsibility, and before she was 15 years old she was a mother. Her little boy, said to have been a beautiful boy, grew up to be the joy of the city, which is called after her to his day. One day he fell into a fit and died. The poor little mother did not know what to do. What was this terrible thing that had come over her boy? She poured water on his face, caressed him, called for her husband who was away; she ran about the street asking someone for medicine to cure her baby. No one gave her any counsel. Finally Keesa went to Buddha and said: “I hear you are a wise man; give me some medicine to cure my baby.”


and said,” Go and bring me a handful of mustard seed; but when you go into a house and ask for mustard seed, you must be careful that no such catastrophe has happened there as has touched you.” So as she went looking for the seed she asked:

In this the house of my friend has ever any been such as this my baby?” and always the answer was “yes.” Then she took up her baby and sat upon a stone and said, “Alas! this is a heavy task that I have undertaken.” And presently a light shone upon her and she said: “No! I shall not seek for the mustard seek; I cannot find it. This has not happened to me alone; it happens to all. I will bury my baby and go back to my good man and tell him I cannot find the seed.” She laid her baby in the earth and returned to Buddha, who asked her if she had found the seed, and she replied: “No.” Buddha asked her what she had done with her aby, and she answered that she had buried him, and that her heart was sick for all those who had suffered as she had.”

Then Buddha said; “Sister, you have found the mustard seed.” That is


She went and taught other women how to tend their babies. She told her husband, “Our child is dead, but I am going to teach myself, so that if I should have another child I can train him.”

[Mrs. Leonowens concluded by urging the ladies to co-operate for the purpose of overcoming those evils which are existing in Halifax, and thanks Her Excellency for her address.]



Source: Inaugural Meeting of the Local Council of Women of Halifax, Address by her Excellency The Countess of Aberdeen, August 24, 1894 (Halifax: The Morning Herald Printing & Publishing Company, 1894) pp. 16-17.