THERE was a Brahman, a religious man and fond in his affections but without deep wisdom. He had a son of great promise, who, when seven years old, was struck with a fatal disease and died. The unfortunate father was unable to control himself; he threw himself upon the corpse and lay there as one dead. The relatives came and buried the dead child and when the father came to himself, he was so immoderate in his grief that he behaved like an insane person. He no longer gave way to tears but wandered about asking for the residence of Yamaraja, the king of death, humbly to beg of him that his child might be allowed to return to life.
Having arrived at a great Brahman temple the sad father went through certain religious rites and fell asleep. While wandering on in his dream he came to a deep mountain pass where he met a number of samanas who had acquired supreme wisdom. "Kind sirs," he said, "Can you not tell me where the residence of Yamaraja is?" And they asked him, "Good friend, why wouldst thou know?" Whereupon he told them his sad story and explained his intentions. Pitying his self-delusion, the samanas said: "No mortal man can reach the place where Yama reigns, but some four hundred miles westward lies a great city in which many good spirits live; every eighth day of the month Yama visits the place, and there mayst thou see him who is the King of Death and ask him for a boon."
The Brahman rejoicing at the news went to the city and found it as the samanas had told him. He was admitted to the dread presence of Yama, the King of Death, who, on hearing his request, said: "Thy son now lives in the eastern garden where he is disporting himself; go there and ask him to follow thee." Said the happy father: "How does it happen that my son, without having performed one good work, is now living in paradise?" Yamaraja replied: "He has obtained celestial happiness not for performing good deeds, but because he died in faith and in love to the Lord and Master, the most glorious Buddha. The Buddha says: 'The heart of love and faith spreads as it were a beneficent shade from the world of men to the world of gods.' This glorious utterance is like the stamp of a king's seal upon a royal edict."
The happy father hastened to the place and saw his be beloved child playing with other children, all transfigured by the peace of the blissful existence of a heavenly life. He ran up to his boy and cried with tears running down his cheeks: "My son, my son, dost thou not remember me, thy father who watched over thee with loving care and tended thee in thy sickness? Return home with me to the land of the living." But the boy, while struggling to go back to his playmates, upbraided him for using such strange expressions as father and son. "In my present state, he said, "I know no such words, for I am free from delusion."
On this, the Brahman departed, and when he woke from his dream he bethought himself of the Blessed Master of mankind, the great Buddha, and resolved to go to him, lay bare his grief, and seek consolation. Having arrived at the Jetavana, the Brahman told his story and how his boy had refused to recognize him and to go home with him.
And the World-honored One said: "Truly thou art deluded. When man dies the body is dissolved into its elements, but the spirit is not entombed. It leads a higher mode of life in which all the relative terms of father, son, wife, mother, are at an end, just as a guest who leaves his lodging has done with it, as though it were a thing of the past. Men concern themselves most about that which passes away; but the end of life quickly comes as a burning torrent sweeping away the transient in a moment. They are like a blind man set to look after a burning lamp. A wise man, understanding the transiency of worldly relations, destroys the cause of grief, and escapes from the seething whirlpool of sorrow. Religious wisdom lifts a man above the pleasures and pains of the world and gives him peace everlasting." The Brahman asked the permission of the Blessed One to enter the community of his bhikkhus, so as to acquire that heavenly wisdom which alone can give comfort to an afflicted heart.