The woman sobbed inconsolably as she pressed the body of her dead child to her bosom. A sympathetic neighbor, on seeing her so overwhelmed with grief, said, “A saint has come to visit our village. Perhaps he can perform a miracle and bring your child back to life.”

Gathering the body of her child in her arms, the woman rushed to the feet of Buddha, for it was indeed he to whom the neighbor had been referring. “Sir,” she sobbed, holding up the lifeless little form, “Can you bring my child back to life?”

With a heart filled with compassion and wisdom, Buddha replied, “My daughter, first bring me a mustard seed from a home that has not known death and suffering.”

Desperately she went from house to house, but alas at each one she heard a similar story: “We have lost our beloved father.” “Our dear son passed away last month.” “Since our mother who cared for us died there is no one to look after us.” On and on she went throughout the village, even to the huts in the outlying areas, but nowhere could she find anyone who had not known death and loss.

Finally, exhausted, she returned to Buddha with no mustard seed. Touching his feet, she said, “Lord, now I have understood. Death and suffering visit us all.” Buddha then blessed her, her grief lifted, and her heart was comforted.

The saints of all religions teach that everything in life is transitory. All human suffering is caused by seeking permanence in an impermanent world. Only through inner detachment can we find lasting peace.

Globally, we now find ourselves in a world filled with suffering, as environmental, social, financial, and political tensions move us toward an uncertain future. How can we find comfort in such times?

Jyotish and I are now in Pune, India, where last weekend the Ananda Center here hosted an inspiring and powerful daylong spiritual fair attended by many hundreds of people. The keynote talk we’d been asked to give was entitled, “Stand Unshaken: How to Face Change with Courage.” Here are four points that we shared to help people deal with uncertainty, change, and loss.

First, when difficulties come, don’t ask self-pityingly, “Why me?” Ask rather, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” All of life’s experiences, whether individually or societally, are given to us to expand our awareness. If we can depersonalize our suffering, and try to see the bigger picture, everything becomes a source of greater understanding and growth.

Next, when going through challenges, try to find ways to be of service to others. We have a devotee friend in India who lost his teenaged son to leukemia; two weeks later his father passed away from Covid. What was his response to such grief? He called his nearby Ananda Center and asked, “What can I do to help others?” He became a part of our twenty-four-hour hotline to bring comfort to those experiencing grief and fear during the pandemic. Through his service, he found acceptance of his own loss.

bring me a mustard seed

Then, of great importance: practice meditation. Through this discipline we can develop inner detachment that will enable us to weather any outer storm. Peace of mind, awareness of a reality greater than our own ego, inner strength: all these and more are the fruits of meditation.

Finally, deepen your devotion and your faith in God. The plan for this world is rooted in God’s love for us all. Whatever challenges come your way, try to remember that God, with infinite love and patience, is bringing every one of us the experiences we need to find soul freedom.

In a letter that Paramhansa Yogananda wrote to one of his disciples, Kamala Silva, he says, “No matter what dark territories you have to pass through, look steadily at the Polestar of his Presence. He knows you are trying to reach Him, only keep trying. Once you convince Him, you will be there. The way is long, let’s hurry to His place. With unceasing blessings, Swami Yogananda.”

Like the grieving mother, we can find no place in this world that is without sorrow and suffering. And so, “Let us hurry to His place.” It is only there that we will find true peace and joy.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Devi