Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Rahula learns lessons of life

Rahula, being a young lad was quite mischievous most of the time and the Buddha didn’t want to bend the rules of the Sangha for his son. Rahula used to tease people who came to visit Buddha by misguiding them and laughing at their backs as the tried to figure out their way. When Buddha heard about this he decided it was time to teach Rahula a lesson but in a manner that was quite different from his usual preaching. He wanted to make sure that Rahula understands the seriousness of his misbehavior and take Buddha’s words as a warning to get his act together.

He visited Rahula one day for a stern dialog. Rahula took out a basin of water for the Buddha to wash his feet. After Rahula had washed his feet, he pointed to the basin and asked Rahula, “Can you drink the water?”

Rahula replied, “No, I can’t, because it’s dirty.”

To this the Buddha replied, “You are just like the water! You are a novice but you don’t study hard enough. You like to cheat and make fun of other people, and the toxins in your mind are just like the dirt in the water.”

The Buddha asked Rahula to throw the water out. When he came back, the Buddha asked him, “Can you put food in the basin?”

Rahula replied, “No, I can’t, because it’s a basin for washing feet and it’s dirty.”

“You are just like the basin,” the Buddha said to him. “You are a novice, and you do not study hard enough to purify your mind, words and deeds. There is dirt in your mind, so you can’t put my teachings into your mind, just like you can’t put food in the dirty basin.”

The Buddha then kicked the basin, which startled Rahula. The Buddha then asked Rahula again, “Are you afraid that I might break it?”

Rahula replied, “No. It’s only a basin, so it’s OK if you break it.”

“You don’t care about the basin, just as no one cares about you. You are a novice now, but you are ill behaved. In the end, no one will like you. What’s worse, you will fall into the three Lower Realms of animal, hungry ghost and hell when you die.”

The Buddha delivered his words harshly to serve a reprimand, Rahula understood and apologized sincerely for his behavior and became quite diligent in following Buddha’s teachings. He changed his ways and became a new person ready to receive the Buddha’s teachings and follow them through.

One day, Rahula came back from one of the Buddha’s sermons and found that a visiting monk had occupied his room and his robe and bowl had been thrown outside the room. Soon after this, it started to rain hard and Rahula had no place but the washroom to seek shelter.

As it poured outside, the insects, snakes and other animals started to come out of their burrows to avoid being drowned. Some of them crawled into the washroom, which frightened the young boy. Suddenly, he heard the Buddha calling him from outside the washroom and ran and embraced the Buddha, crying with fear, loneliness and helplessness. The Buddha patted him lightly on his back and told him softly to go to the Buddha’s room. The rule of the Sangha was that novices and monks could stay in the same room together, but because of this incident, the Buddha changed the rule so that a novice could stay with a monk for a couple of nights to help novices get to adjusted to the new environment. A mentor should help his disciple, and since Rahula’s mentor was Sariputra, Sariputra told Rahula to stay with him.

One time Rahula went out with Sariputra to beg for food. A hooligan saw them and threw stones at Rahula. The ruffian even hit him on the head with a club, causing his head to bleed. Rahula became very angry and responded with a furious glare. His mind was boiling and his temper was rising, Sariputra sensing his distress called out to him to tell him that “the Buddha constantly reminds us that whenever we are praised, we should not become arrogant. Whenever we are humiliated, we have to control our temper. Therefore, Rahula, you must control your anger. No one in the world is braver than the one who can tolerate insults, and no strength is more powerful than tolerance.” These words were like a splash of cold water, cooling down his rage and Rahula quietly went to a riverbank, washed away the blood and cleaned the wound.

The Buddha preached Rahula Ambalatthika-Rāhulovāda Sutta (MN 61 PTS: M i 414) at Veluvana, Rajgriha. A stupa was later built to mark the event. Xuanzang in the 6th century visited the stupa, which according to him was on the left side of the road outside the south gate of the city.


The Ambalatthika-Rāhulovāda Sutta is among the portions of scripture mentioned in the Bhābrā Edict of Asoka as being essentially worthy of study by all monks.

No comments: