Kisa Gotami and the loneliness of pain
By Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, 25th Air Force Command Chief
/ Published October 29, 2014
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas --
There is an old Buddhist story about a young woman named Kisa Gotami, the wife of a wealthy man in ancient India. The story tells us when Kisa's only child fell ill and died, Kisa fell into such despair that many around her felt she had completely lost her mind.
She wandered the streets looking for answers, but despite her efforts, she could find no help, no cure for her pain. Eventually, someone told her to go meet the Buddha as his powers might make her pain disappear.
Kisa brought her baby to the Buddha and asked him to bring the child back to life. He told her he could not bring the child back to life until she had collected some white mustard seeds from a house in the city where no one had died.
She searched the entire city, but to her dismay, she could not find a home that had not suffered the loss of a family member. There was not a single family free from mortality. She was enlightened and laid her child in the ground to rest in peace.
There are many lessons in the story of Kisa Gotami, but I would like you to focus on just one.
At our times of deepest despair, we all feel alone. It is normal to feel like no one could ever have suffered like we are suffering, and normal is pretty okay in my book.
At times when you are in pain, know you are not alone.
No matter the cause of your desperation, it is unlikely you are the only one who has experienced it. No matter how far you have fallen, others have fallen further and made their way back. Learn from their experiences and know you are not alone.
When you have survived the pain and moved past your dark places, please share your stories. Tell your Airmen, your Wingmen, your friends, how you have suffered and how you found your way back.
Sharing personal stories of resilience is one of the most meaningful and binding things you can do for your Airmen. So please take some time and talk with others about how you got through the dark places.
If you have never suffered and feel you have got nothing to share, would you mind sharing some of your mustard seeds?
Thanks for your leadership!