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  • Rāhula

1. Rāhula Thera

Only son of Gotama Buddha. He was born on the day on which his father left the household life (J.i.60; AA.i.82, etc.; cf. J. i.62). When the Buddha visited Kapilavatthu for the first time after his Enlightenment and accepted Suddhodana's invitation, Rāhula's mother (Rāhulamātā) sent the boy to the Buddha to ask for his inheritance (dāyajja). The Buddha gave him no answer, and, at the conclusion of the meal, left the palace. Rāhula followed him, reiterating his request until at last the Buddha asked Sāriputta to ordain him. (According to SnA.i.340, Moggallāna taught him the kammavācā; see also J. ii.393). When Suddhodana heard of this he protested to the Buddha, and asked as a boon that, in future, no child should be ordained without the consent of his parents, and to this the Buddha agreed (Vin.i.82f.; the story of Rāhula's conversion is also given at DhA.i.98f).

It is said (AA.i.145) that immediately after Rāhula's ordination the Buddha preached to him constantly (abhinhovādavasena) many suttas for his guidance. Rāhula himself was eager to receive instruction from the Buddha and his teachers and would rise early in the morning and take a handful of sand, saying: "May I have today as many words of counsel from my teachers as there are here grains of sand!" The monks constantly spoke of Rāhula's amenability, and one day the Buddha, aware of the subject of their talk, went amongst them and related the Tipallatthamiga Jātaka (J.i.160ff ) and the Tittira Jātaka (J.iii.64ff ) to show them that in past births, too, Rāhula had been known for his obedience. When Rāhula was seven years old, the Buddha preached to him the Ambalatthika Rāhulovāda Sutta (q.v.) as a warning that he should never lie, even in fun. Rāhula used to accompany the Buddha on his begging rounds. Sometimes he would accompany Sāriputta on his begging rounds. DhA.iv.164f).

Rāhula noticed that he harboured carnal thoughts fascinated by his own physical beauty and that of his father, the Buddha preached to him, at the age of eighteen, the Mahā Rāhulovāda Sutta (q.v.). Two other suttas, also called Rāhulovāda, one included in the Samyutta and the other in the Anguttara (see below), formed the topics for Rāhula's meditation (Vipassanā). To these Suttas Buddhaghosa (MA.i.635) adds the Sāmanera, or Kumārapañhā, and proceeds to enumerate the different purposes which the Buddha had in view in preaching these suttas; see also AA.ii.547. SnA.i.340 says, about the Rāhula Sutta (q.v.), that the Buddha constantly preached it to Rāhula. See also the Rāhula Samyutta.

Later, the Buddha, knowing that Rāhula's mind was ripe for final attainment, went with him alone to Andhavana, and preached to him the Cūla Rāhulovāda Sutta. At the end of the discourse, Rāhula became an arahant, together with one hundred thousand crores of listening devas. SA.iii.26 says these devas were among those who, in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, had heard Rāhula's wish to be born as the son of a future Buddha. They were subsequently born in various deva worlds, but on this day they all assembled at Andhavana in order to be present at the fulfilment of Rāhula’s wish. This scene was one of the incidents sculptured in the Relic Chamber of the Mahā Thūpa, as was also the ordination of Rāhula. Mhv.Xxxi.81, 83.

Afterwards, in the assembly of monks, the Buddha declared Rāhula foremost among those of his disciples who were anxious for training (sikkhākāmānam). A.i.24; the Vinaya (iii.16) gives a story illustrating Rāhula's extreme conscientiousness in the observance of rules. He arrived one evening at Kosambī, when the Buddha was staying there in the Badarikārāma. Rāhula was told there of a new rule which had been laid down to the effect that no novice should sleep under the same roof as a fully ordained monk. Unable to find any resting place which did not violate this rule, Rāhula spent the night in the Buddha's jakes. When the Buddha discovered him there the next morning, he modified the rule. This incident and Rāhula's keenness in observing rules are described again in greater detail at J. i.161f. There the Buddha is said to have found fault with Sāriputta for his neglect of Rāhula (see also Sp.iv.744). On another occasion, finding no place in which to sleep because monks who had arrived late had taken his sleeping place, Rāhula spent the night in the open, in front of the Buddha's cell. Māra, seeing him there, assumed the form of a huge elephant and trumpeted loudly, hoping to frighten him. But the plot failed. This was eight years after Rāhula had attained arahantship (DhA.iv.69f.).

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, both Rāhula and Ratthapāla were rich householders of Hamsavatī, who, realizing the vanity of riches, gave all away to the poor. One day they entertained two ascetics of great power. The ascetic to whom Rāhula ministered was in the habit of visiting the abode of the Nāga king, Pathavindhara, and had been impressed by its magnificence. Therefore, in returning thanks to Rāhula for his hospitality, he wished that his host might resemble Pathavindhara. Rāhula remembered this, and after death he was born in the Nāga world as Pathavindhara, his friend being born as Sakka. He was, however, dissatisfied with his lot, and one day when, with Virūpakkha, he was on a visit to Sakka, Sakka recognized him, and finding out that he was dissatisfied, suggested to him a remedy. Pathavindhara invited the Buddha to his abode. The Buddha, attended by Sumana and one hundred thousand arahants, came and was entertained by him. In the company of monks was Uparevata, the Buddha's son, seated next to him, and Pathavindhara was so fascinated by him that he could not take his eyes off him. Discovering who he was, Pathavindhara expressed a wish that he, too, might be born as the son of a future Buddha. Later, in the time of Kassapa Buddha, Rāhula was born as Pathavindhara, the eldest son of King Kiki, later becoming his viceroy. His seven sisters built seven residences for the Buddha, and, at their suggestion, Pathavindhara built five hundred residences for the monks. The story of the past as given here is taken from AA.i.141ff.; part of it is given in MA.ii.722 under Ratthapāla. There the Nāga world is called Bhumindhara, and the Nāga king, Pālita. SnA.i.341 See also ThagA.ii.30. The Apadāna (i. 60f.) says Rāhula gave Padumuttara Buddha a carpet (santhara), as a result of which, twenty one kappas ago, he was born as a khattiya named Vimala, in Renuvatī. There he lived in a palace, Sudassana, specially built for him by Vissakamma.

Four verses uttered by Rāhula are included in the Theragāthā (vs.295 98; Mil.413 contains several other stanzas attributed to Rāhula).

It is said that the news of Rāhula’s birth was brought to the Bodhisatta when he was enjoying himself in his pleasances on the banks of the royal pond after being decked by Vissakamma. As soon as the news was announced, he made up his mind to renounce the world without delay, for he saw, in the birth of a son, a new bond attaching him to household life ("Rāhulajāto, bandhanam jātam"   the word rāhula meaning bond). J. i.60; DhA.i.70. The Ap. Commentary, however, derives Rāhula from Rāhu; just as Rāhu obstructs the moon, so would the child be as obstruction to the Bodhisatta's Renunciation.

According to the Dīgha and Samyutta Commentaries (DA.ii.549; SA.iii.172), Rāhula predeceased the Buddha and even Sāriputta, and the place of his death is given as Tāvatimsa. For twelve years he never lay on a bed. (DA.iii.736).

In numerous Jātakas, Rāhula is mentioned as having been the Bodhisatta's son -  e.g., in the Uraga, Kapi (No. 250), Kumbhakāra, Khandahāla, Culla Sutasoma, Daddara, Bandhanāgāra, Makkata, Makhadeva, Mahājanaka, Mahāsudassana, Vidhurapandita, Vessantara, Sīhakotthuka and Sonaka. He was also Yaññadatta, son of Mandavya (Sāriputta) and the young tortoise in the Mahāukkusa. The Apadāna (ii.551) says that in many births Uppalavannā and Rāhula were born of the same parents (ekasmim sambhave) and had similar tendencies (samānacchandamānasā).

Rāhula was known to his friends as Rāhulabhadda (Rāhula, the Lucky). He himself says (Thag. vs. 295f ) that he deserved the title because he was twice blest in being the son of the Buddha and an Arahant himself. Mention is often made in the books (DhA.i.124; MA.i.537; Mil.410 attributes this statement to Sāriputta; SnA.i.202 expands it to include others) that, though Rāhula was his own son, the Buddha showed as much love for Devadatta, Angulimāla and Dhanapāla as he did for Rāhula.

Asoka built a thūpa in honour of Rāhula, to be specially worshipped by novices. Beal., Records i. 180, 181.

2. Rāhula

One of the four monks who accompanied Chapata to Ceylon. These monks later became the founders of the Sīhalasangha in Burma. Later, at one of the festivals of King Narapati, Rāhula fell in love with an actress and went with her to Malayadīpa, where he taught the king the Khuddasikkhā and its Commentary. With the money given to him by the king he became a layman. Sās. 65; Bode, op. cit., 23f.

Rāhula Samyutta

The eighteenth section of the Samyutta Nikāya. It consists of a series of lessons given by the Buddha to Rāhula, showing him the fleeting nature of all things (S.ii.244 56). Buddhaghosa says (MA.ii.635f ) that these suttas were preached on various occasions, from the time Rāhula entered the Order, to the time of his attainment of arahantship. They contain mention of qualities which mature emancipation, vimuttiparipācanīyadhammā (SA.ii.159).

1. Rāhula Sutta

The Buddha tells Rāhula that a monk should cultivate the thought that, in the four elements, either in one's own body or in external objects, there is neither self nor what pertains to the self. A.ii.164; this same topic is discussed in greater detail in the Ambalatthika Rāhulovāda Sutta.

Buddhaghosa says (AA.ii.547) that the Buddha here declares catukotikasuññatā (emptiness in the four things   i.e., elements).

2. Rāhula Sutta

Rāhula visits the Buddha and asks him how to get rid of the insidious idea of "I" and "mine," both with regard to one's own body and with all external objects. The Buddha replies that one should see things as they really are, that in none of the five khandhas is there any "I" or "mine." This is right insight. S.iii.135; this sutta is given at S. ii.252 as Anusaya Sutta. Buddhaghosa describes both this sutta and the next as Rāhulovāda vipassanā (AA.ii.547).

3. Rāhula Sutta

Similar to No. 2. Rāhula asks how one's mind can be removed from such vain conceits. S. iii.136. This sutta is given at S. ii.253 as the Apagata Sutta.

4. Rāhula Sutta

The discourse which brings about the attainment of arahantship by Rāhula (S.iv.105f). It is the same as the Cūla Rāhulovāda Sutta (q.v.).

5. Rāhula Sutta

A series of stanzas which, according to Buddhaghosa (SnA..i.340), were frequently recited by the Buddha for the guidance of Rāhula. The Buddha reminds him that he (Rāhula) is a follower of "the torch bearer among men." He has left the world to put an end to sorrow. He should, therefore, associate with good friends, in good surroundings. He should be free from attachment to food or clothes. He should free his mind from all evil tendencies and fill it with thoughts of renunciation. Sn. vv. 335 42. Buddhaghosa says (MA.ii.532, 635) that the purpose of this sutta was to emphasize the value of good association (kalyānamittūpanissaya).

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