The Ecology of Humans (57-22) Mustard


The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. ~ Matthew 13:31, The Bible

Mustard has been cultivated for at least 5,500 years. It remains one of the most popular spices. This small seed has repeatedly represented spiritual significance. Buddha related a parable of mustard seed:

The only child of a young mother, Kisa Gotami, died. Kisa was so grieved that she unable to accept her son’s death. Kisa carried his body from neighbor to neighbor, begging for someone to give her medicine to bring him back to life. One of her neighbors told her to go to Buddha and ask him if he had a way to bring her son back to life.

Kisa found Buddha and pleaded with him to help bring her son back to life. Buddha told her to go back to her village and gather mustard seeds from households that have never been touched by death. From those mustard seeds, Buddha promised to create a medicine to bring her son back to life.

Relieved, Kisa went back to her village, and began asking her neighbors for mustard seeds. All her neighbors were willing to give her mustard seeds, but they all told her that their households had been touched by death.

She came to understand that impermanence is the nature of existence. This realization calmed her grief.

Kisa buried her son and then returned to visit Buddha. She confessed herself unable to obtain any mustard seeds, because she could not find even one house untouched by death.

Buddha observed:

“The life of mortals in this world is troubled, brief, and mixed with pain. There is not any means by which those that have been born can avoid dying. All fall before the power of death.

“So, the world is afflicted with death and decay. Therefore, the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world.

“Not from weeping nor from grieving will anyone obtain peace of mind; on the contrary, pain will be the greater and the body will suffer.

“One who seeks peace should draw out the arrow of lamentation, useless longings, and grief. One who has drawn out this unwholesome arrow and calms oneself will obtain peace of mind. One who has overcome all grief will become free from sorrow and realize nirvana.”

The mustard plant is in Brassica genus, along with other cruciferous vegetables which include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and similar green leafy vegetables.

The 3 main varieties of mustard grown for their seeds as a spice are: white, brown, and black.

White mustard (B. alba) probably originated in the Mediterranean region. The condiment called mustard is concocted using white mustard.

Brown mustard (B. juncea) is native to the sub-Himalayan plains of northern India. Brown mustard is commonly used in north Indian cuisine.

Black mustard (B. nigra) is more commonly seen in south Asia. It is likely indigenous from the Mediterranean through south Asia. Black mustard is commonly used in south Indian cuisine.

Mustard seeds are rich in vitamins B and E, healthy oils, and numerous minerals, particularly selenium.