Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “story of exhortations to rahula” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Story of exhortations to Rāhula

When Lo heou lo (Rāhula) was a child, he was careless about his speech. [When the Buddha was present] and someone came to ask Rāhula: “Is the Buddha here?”, Rāhula answered mischievously: “He is not here.”

When the Buddha was absent and someone asked Rāhula: “Is the Bhagavat here?”, he answered mischievously: “The Buddha is here.” Some people reported this to the Buddha, who said to Rāhula: “Go and get some water in a basin (udākadhāna) and wash my feet.”

– When Rāhula had washed his feet, the Buddha said to him: “Put a cork in the basin (chanda tam udakādhānam).” Rāhula obeyed this order and put a cork in the basin. The Buddha said: “Pour out the water.” When Rāhula had emptied the water, he asked him: “Has the water come out?” Rāhula answered: “It has not come out.”

– Then the Buddha said to Rāhula:

“In those who have no shame (lajjā) falsehood (mṛṣāvāda) empties the mind and the elements of the Path (mārgadharma) cannot penetrate it.”

It is the same here.

Notes on this story:

In the Calcutta-Bairâṭ rock-edict (Hultsch, Inscr. of Aśoka, p. 172–174), Aśoka ventures to “show what, in the scriptures, will contribute to the long life of the Dharma.” He recommends seven holy texts, of which (no. 7): “the Sermon to Rāhula on falsehood pronounced by the Blessed Buddha”.

The present passage of the Mppś answers to this definition perfectly, better than the Ambalaṭṭhikā-Rāhulavādasutta (Majjhima, no. 61) with which the “sermon on falsehood” has been identified as early as 1879 by H. Oldenberg in his edition of the Vinaya Pitaka, p. XL, n. 1: The Buddha went to Ambalaṭṭhika to his son and washed his feet in front of the latter.

Then the Blessed One spilled a thin stream of water into his basin (pariṭṭaṃ udakāvasesaṃ udakhādhane ṭhapetva), saying to Rāhula;

“Do you see this thin stream of water? As thin as this is the faith of those who are not ashamed of a deliberate lie (evaṃ parittaṃ tesaṃ sāmaññaṃ yesaṃ na ‘tthi sampajānamusāvāda lajjā).

– Then he emptied out a thin stream of water (taṃ pariṭtaṃ udakāvasesaṃ chaḍḍetvā) and said

“Do you see this thin stream of water being emptied? As discarded as this is the faith of those who are not ashamed of a deliberate lie.”

– Then he turned the basin upside down (udakādhānaṃ nikujjitvā) and said:

“Do you see this upside-down basin? So inverted is the faith of those who are unashamed of a deliberate lie.”

Finally he placed the basin upright (udakādhānaṃ ukkujjitva) and said:

“Do you see this empty (rittaṃ tucchaṃ) basin? As empty like this is the faith of those who are unashamed of a deliberate lie.”

After this short introduction on falsehood, by means of the comparisons of the elephant in battle and the mirror, the Buddha taught his son to look at his thoughts, his words and his actions, to exert himself day and night in the good dharmas and to purify all his actions.

The Chinese correspondent of the Ambalaṭṭhikā-Rāhulovāda is in Tchong a han, T 26, no. 14, k. 3, p. 436a–437b, which S. Lévi has translated in Notes sur diverses inscriptions de Piyadasi, JA, May-June, 1896, p. 475–485. The two recensions are essentially identical. R. Senart, Les inscriptions de Piyadasi, II, 1886, p. 206, comments: The sūtra does not take falsehood solely as its subject but rather as a point of departure; one could say that the exhortations on lying which form the entrance into the subject, are submerged in the bulk of the sūtra.

But comparison between Majjhima, no. 61 and Tchong a han, no. 14, does not exhaust the problem: the “Exhortations to Rāhula” with which we are concerned also occurs in two Chinese texts that have not yet been examined. These are two versions of the Dharmapada, the Tch’ou yao king, T 212, k. 11, p. 668a and the Fa kiu p’i king, T 211, k. 3, p. 599c–600a. There also the Buddha uses his basin to instruct his son but, whereas T 212 has roughly the same scope as the Rāhulavāda of the Majjhima, the T 211 contains no formal condemnation of lying:

“When Rāhula had washed his feet, the Buddha said to him: Do you see the water in which you washed my feet in this basin? – Rāhula answered that he saw it. – The Buddha continued: Could this water be used again to drink or to wash? – Rāhula answered: This water cannot be used again. Why? Although this water was initially pure, it has been soiled by washing the feet; this is why it cannot be used again. – The Buddha said to Rāhula: It is the same for you. Although you are my son and grandson of the king [Śuddhodana], although you have renounced worldly pleasures to become a monk, you have not applied yourself zealously to guard your body and your speech; the defilements of the three poisons (triviṣa) fill you up and enmesh you; like this water, you cannot be used for anything.”

The fundamental subject of the Ambalaṭṭhikā-Rāhulavāda is the reflection which the monks should bring to all his actions, physical, vocal or mental (paccavekkhitvā kāyena vācāya manasā kammam kattabbaṃ).

Under these conditions, can it reasonably be assumed that by recommending to monastics and lay people of both sexes to study and meditate on the “Sermon to Rāhula on falsehood”, the emperor Aśoka had in mind the Ambalaṭṭhikā-Rāhulavāda? Winternitz in History of Indian Literature, 1933, p. 607, says that by specifying “on falsehood”, Aśoka meant to contrast Majjhima no. 61 and Majjhima no. 62 (which also has the title of Rāhulavāda) and that “consequently Aśoka must have known both texts.”

On the other hand, the exhortations to Rāhula told here revolve exclusively around falsehood and answer perfectly to the Bairāṭ summary.

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