in the story of kisagotami loses her son to a disease. she is driven mad by the greef and goes to visit the buddha. He tells her he can restore the life of her son if she gathers musterd seeds from a house that had no seen death. this was to teach kisagotami she is not the only one that has suffered loss.
this little white lie was obviously with right intention, but a lie nontheless. is it not agains the 4th precept. (False Speech)
The Buddha said many times that he could beat death. In fact, he told Ananda that he could be immortal if he was asked and some other monks blamed Ananda for not asking the Buddha to remain (Mahaparinibbana Sutta). Importantly, the Buddha had developed a high level of abhinna. The Buddha never lied. He didn’t have to.
The Buddha didn’t say he could restore the life of her son. He didn’t even say he could help her (although that was what he did). He just told her what to do:[…] She went to the vihara
at the time of the teaching of dhamma and said,
“Blessed One, give medicine to me for my son!”
The master, seeing her situation, said,
“Go, having entered the city,
into whatever house has never before experienced any death,
and take from them a mustard seed.”
“Very well, Sir.” [she replied],
and glad of mind she entered the city[…]
Buddha said ” I can save one person”. But kisagotami understood this as I’ll restore the life of your son. That’s how it is written in original buddhist texts. But when people tell the story they use their own words. That is the problem here. Buddha did save one person. He saved kisagotami from going mad. Latter she even achieved nirvana. So Buddha didn’t lie. He saved one person.
I think that at first he told her that she couldn’t help, but she was deluding herself into thinking that he could. He asked her to get mustard seeds from a house where no deaths had occurred, so she could see that she was not the only one who had experienced the death of a loved one. I don’t think at any point he actually said that he would heal her son.