The Sermon at Benares

Question 33

What does Kisa Gotami understand the second time that she failed to understand the first time? Was this what the Buddha wanted her to understand?

Kisa Gotami goes to ask for mustard from her neighbours so that she can get her son back to life. She had to get mustard from a house where nobody ever died.  She could not find any house where some beloved had not died. Apparently, she understands that death is common to all and that she was being selfish in her grief. 
Yes, this was what the Buddha wanted her to understand.
Question 34

Why do you think Kisa Gotami understood this only the second time? In what way did the Buddha change her understanding?

When Kisa Gotami went to her neighbours, she was only thinking about her grief. She was asking for a medicine that would cure her son. Being refused by everybody, she came to Buddha. He asked her to get a handful of mustard seeds from a house where no one had died. He wanted her to realize that no such house exists where no beloved had died, and that death is inevitable. She could not gather the mustard seeds and felt dejected. Then, she sat down at the wayside watching the lights of the city. Seeing the lights flickering up and extinguishing, she realized that the fate of men is such that they live and die. She had now understood that death is common to all. 
Question 35

This text is written in an old-fashioned style, for it reports an incident more than two millennia old. Look for the following words and phrases in the text, and try to rephrase them in more current language, based on how you understand them.

• give thee medicine for thy child
• Pray tell me
• Kisa repaired to the Buddha
• there was no house but someone had died in it
• kinsmen
• Mark!

1. Give you medicine for your child
2. Please tell me
3. Kisa went to the Buddha
4. There was no house where no one had died
5. Relatives
6. Listen
Question 36

Here is a sentence from the text that uses semicolons to combine clauses. Break up the sentence into three simple sentences. Can you then say which has a better rhythm when you read it, the single sentence using semicolons, or the three simple sentences?

For there is not any means by which those who have been born can avoid dying; after reaching old age there is death; of such a nature are living beings.

The three simple sentences denoting three different ideas do not have a better rhythm, individually. All the ideas presented in a single sentence using semicolons has a better rhythm. This is because all the parts of the sentence are connected relevantly. They are meaningfully connected. The first clause advocates the truth of life. The second clause adds more to the information provided in the first clause. The third clause gives a conclusion to both of them. 

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