The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Preaching the Ambalatthika Rahulovada Sutta contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Six Princes achieved different Attainments. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 2 - Preaching the Ambalatthika Rahulovada Sutta

The Buddha taught the novice Rāhula quite a number of discourses, namely, (1) Sāmaṇera panhā (2) Rāhula Saṃyutta (3) Abhinha Rāhulovada Sutta (4) Mahā Rāhulovada Sutta (5) Cūḷa Rāhulovada Sutta and (6) this Ambalatthika Rāhulovada Sutta under discussion.

To amplify: After having inaugurated Rāhula as a novice, the Buddha considered: “Young children are apt to talk regardless of the credibility and propriety of their words; this being so, Rāhula, who is still of very tender years, had better be given advice and instructions.” He therefore sent for him and said: “Son Rāhula, novices should avoid speaking of things that are contrary to the Ariyan Path and Fruition, you should speak only about things of such nature as are relevant to the Path and Fruition.”

The Buddha then went on to teach the discourse of “Sāmaṇera panhā”, in keeping with the tradition of all the past Buddhas. The discourse is in the form of questions and answers, consisting of simple Dhammas suitable for novices and arranged in progressive order with items of Dhamma ranging from number one to ten.) (Khu, 1,3).

Again, the Buddha reflected: “Young children are fond of telling lies, saying: ‘I have seen those things’ (which they have not seen), and ‘I have not seen those things’ (which they have seen). Rāhula must therefore be advised not to speak any falsehood.” Giving illustrations that could be understood merely by looking with sensory eyes, to wit, four examples of water cups, two examples of military elephants, and one example of the surface of a mirror, He preached the Ambalatthika Rāhulovada Sutta (Ma, 2, 77).

Then He taught Rāhula the ‘Abhinha Rāhulovada Sutta’ which showed him how to expel attachment to the four requisites, how to abandon the desire for five-fold sensual pleasures, and the great advantages of association with good and sincere friends (Khu, 1,328).

Furthermore, He taught Rāhula the group of Dhammas entitled ‘Rāhula Saṃyutta’ in order to enjoin him to banish the desire for attachment to any of the three existences. (Sam, 1,439)

Then ‘Mahā Rāhulovada Sutta’ was taught to instruct Rāhula not to harbour carnal thoughts fascinated by his own physical beauty (gehassita chandaraga), thinking: “I am of very graceful form; my complexion is clear and bright.” (Ma,3,83)

And ‘Cūḷa Rāhulovada Sutta’ was preached just after his ordination as a bhikkhu, before the end of his first vassa, in order to help him achieve the arahatship. (Ma, 3,424/Sam,2,324).

It should be noted that among these suttas, the exact place and time of exhortation of the Abhinha Rāhulovada Sutta cannot be ascertained because the Buddha taught it to Rāhula time and again as opportunity presented, regardless of place and time.

The Buddha started giving discourses on the Rāhula-Saṃyutta from the time novice Rāhula was seven years up to the time he received ordination and was beginning his first vassa.

Mahā Rāhula Sutta was taught when he was eighteen years while he was still a novice (sāmaṇera).

Cūḷa Rāhula Sutta was taught when he received ordination and began his first vassa.

Sāmaṇera Panhā and this Ambalatthika Rāhulovada Sutta were taught when Rāhula was a novice at the age of seven.

Of all these discourses, Abhinha Rāhulovada Sutta was taught as a standing instruction to be followed by Rāhula throughout his life. Rāhula Saṃyutta discourses were given in order to make Rāhula’s mind become impregnated with Insight Knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa). Mahā Rāhulovada Sutta was taught in order to dispel gehassita chandarāga. Cūḷa Rāhula Sutta was preached just after the ordination of Rāhula, before the end of the first vassa, in order to help him achieve the arahatship after gaining maturity in the fifteen factors for deliverance (vimuttiparipācaniya). Sāmaṇera Panha was taught to refrain from speaking improper words (matters non-beneficial to attaining the Path and Fruition). The following Ambalathika Sutta was preached to refrain from knowingly or deliberately telling lies. (excerpts from Mattha, 3/8889).

The time was when the Buddha was residing at Veḷuvana monastery in Rājagaha during the second vassa, and Rāhula, (then a young novice) was residing in Ambatatthika meditation monastery, so called because it was built near a mango tree at the far edge of Veḷuvana monastery and living a life of solitude (viveka).

(Just as a thorn naturally has a sharp point from the beginning of its growth, so young Rāhula practices physical solitude (kaya viveka) and mental solitude (citta viveka), ever since he was a youthful novice at the age of seven without having been exhorted by anyone.)

At that time, one cool evening, the Buddha, after rising from the phala-samāpatti state, went to Ambalatthika meditation monastery of novice Rāhula. When Rāhula saw Him coming from a distance, he arranged the seating place for Him and placed in readiness the water for washing His feet. The Buddha sat on the reserved seat after washing His feet (merely as a gracious acceptance of service rendered by a dutiful disciple because His feet were free from dust.) Novice Rāhula seated himself at a spot free from the six kinds of fault, after making respectful homage to Him.

(1) The Buddha left a small amount of water in the basin after washing His feet and asked Rāhula: “My son Rāhula, do you see the small amount of water I have left in the basin?” “Yes, my Lord,” replied Rāhula. Then He exhorted: “Just as the water left in the basin is small, so the good and noble bhikkhu-Dhamma, which should be practised to eradicate the defilements, is hopelessly small in the physical and mental continuum of persons who knowingly speak lies without any sense of shame.” Thus was the first exhortation given by the Buddha.

(2) The Buddha then poured away the little water He had left in the basin, and asked: “Son Rāhula, do you see I have thrown away the small amount of water?” “Yes, my Lord,” replied Rāhula. Then He exhorted: “Just as I have thrown away the little water in the basin, so persons, who knowingly speak lies without any sense of shame, throw away the good and noble bhikkhu-Dhamma which eradicates defilements.” Thus the Buddha gave the second exhortation.

(3) The Buddha then overturned the basin placing it with its mouth downwards, and asked Rāhula: “Do you see that I have overturned the basin?” “Yes, my Lord,” replied Rāhula. Then He exhorted: “Son Rāhula, just as the basin has been overturned, so persons who knowingly speak lies without any sense of shame have already repudiated the good and noble bhikkhu-Dhamma which eradicates defilements.” Thus the third exhortation was given by the Buddha.

(4) Then again the Buddha turned up the overturned basin (note that by that time there was not a drop of water in the basin) and said to Rāhula: “Son Rāhula, do you see this basin without a single drop of water in it and altogether purposeless?” “Yes, my Lord,” replied Rāhula. He then exhorted: “Like this water basin without a drop of water in it and altogether purposeless, so too within the shameless persons who knowingly tell lies, all is vain, and there is not a drop of the good and noble bhikkhu-Dhamma which eradicates defilements.”

(5-6) The Buddha, thereafter, proceeded to expound the discourse that follows:

“My son Rāhula, take the worldly example of the performances of a warring elephant of a king. It worked with its fore-legs as well as with its hind-legs in a battlefield. (It killed and destroyed all enemies coming within its reach by striking with its fore-legs or by kicking with its hind-legs). It worked with the fore as well as with the hind part of its body. (As the opportunity arose, it smashed the enemy’s roofed wooden defence barricades with its fore or hind part of its body.) It also worked with its forehead. (i.e. preparing to charge or stampede in any direction it gauged and took position moving backwards to muster strength and then stared intently. The very sight of the immense warrior elephant thus glaring fixedly struck terror into thousands of enemy troops and they fell into disarray). It also made use of its ears (i.e. it struck off the enemy arrows with its ears and made them fall to the ground). It also worked with the pair of its tusks. (It gored the enemy elephants, horses, elephanteers, cavalry, infantry with its pair of tusks). It used its tail too. (It cut and hacked the enemy with knives and maces tied to its tail with creeping vines). However it still protected its trunk by coiling it into its mouth.

“Reflecting on these performances of the king’s warring elephant, the thought occurred in the mind of its rider: ‘This warrior elephant of the king, on the battlefield, works with both its pair of fore-legs and hind-legs, and with the fore part of its body as well as with its hind part. It also work with its forehead, its pair of ears and pair of tusks and also with its tails. However it protects its trunk by thrusting it into its mouth. This warrior elephant has no mind yet to sacrifice its life.’

“Son Rāhula, at another time, the king’s great warrior elephant on the battlefield (as stated above) worked with its fore-legs as well as with its hind-legs...... etc........ It fought also with its tail. With its trunk also, (holding aloft iron or wooden maces, and striking and demolishing targets eighteen cubits high) it worked. On seeing this behaviour of the warrior elephant, it occurred to the mind of the rider; ‘The king’s great warrior elephant in battle has worked with its fore-legs as well as with its hind legs....... etc....... It has worked with its tall. It has also worked with its trunk. The king’s warrior elephant has given up its life. Now there is nothing the mighty warrior elephant would not do.’ Son Rāhula, I say unto you, in like manner for the shameless person who knowingly tells lies, there is no act of demerit which he dares not do.

“Therefore Rāhula, you should resolve: ‘I will not speak lies, even jokingly or just for fun’ and strive to observe the three Training Rules (sikkhā).”

The Buddha had thus profoundly stressed the importance of refraining from telling lies.

He went on: “Son Rāhula, what do you think of what I am about to ask you? (i.e. you may answer Me as you please). What are the benefits of a mirror.” Rāhula replied: “One can benefit from it by improving one’s facial appearance when one sees black moles and pimples reflected in it.”

“In like manner, Son Rāhula, one’s physical, verbal and mental activities should be performed after due observation and consideration with one’s eye of wisdom.” With this brief preface to serve as a table of contents, the Buddha taught the discourse dealing elaborately on how one should do bodily actions, how one should speak, and how one should exercise the mind with great care and only after careful consideration using one’s intellectual faculty.

(The full elaboration of the discourse should be read in the Text or its translation. But a brief account of it is given below).

When an intention arises to perform a physical, verbal or mental act, before doing any of them, one should deliberate first: “Would my intended physical, verbal or mental action prove to be harmful to myself, to another person or to both? Would they become demeritorious deeds which would cause increased suffering?” If, after deliberation, the intended actions would prove harmful to oneself, to another or both; or would become demeritorious deeds which would cause increased suffering, one should strive to avoid performing such physical, verbal and mental deeds. On the other hand, if, after deliberation, these intended actions prove not to be harmful to oneself, to another or to both; or would become meritorious deeds which would promote happiness (sukha), then such physical verbal and mental deeds should be performed.

Likewise, while in the process of performing a physical, verbal or mental deed, one should deliberate thus: “Is what I am doing, saying, thinking harmful to myself, to another or to both? Are they demeritorious deeds causing increasing suffering?” If, after deliberation, they are found to be so, one should, with moral aversion, cease performing any of such acts (without proceeding any further). On the other hand, if, after deliberation, they are found to be not harmful to oneself, to another or to both, but are meritorious deeds furthering the cause of happiness, well being, they should be pursued with vigour, again and again.

When any physical, verbal or mental act has been performed, one should deliberate (as in the foregoing manner) thus: “Have my physical, verbal or mental action been harmful to myself, to another or to both? Have they been demeritorious deeds that have caused increased suffering?” If they proved to be so, with regard to demeritorious physical and verbal deeds, admission must be made before the Buddha or a wise and knowledgeable fellow disciple, frankly, clearly and without reservation that such wrong physical and verbal acts had been committed. Then one must discipline oneself that such wrong deeds will not recur in future.

With regard to demeritorious mental activities that have been committed, one should be weary of such mental acts, one must be ashamed of them and loathe them. One must also exercise restraint and discipline oneself that such misdeeds will not recur in future.

If, after such retrospection and deliberation, one finds that one’s physical, verbal or mental deeds have not harmed oneself or another or both but have contributed to promote happiness and well being, then night and day, one may dwell in the joy and satisfaction associated with such meritorious deeds and one must further strive in the observance of the three training precepts (sikkhā).

All the Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and Ariya Sāvakas of the past, the future and the present had lived, will live and are living in this manner, deliberating and retrospecting on their physical, verbal and mental deeds and had purified, will purify and are purifying all their physical, verbal and mental actions.

The Buddha concluded the discourse with these words of exhortation, “Dear son Rāhula, you should bear in mind always to strive for the purity of your bodily action, verbal action, and mental action by way of deliberation and reviewing them and to develop the observance of the three training precepts.

(Herein a question may arise as to when and where such physical, verbal and mental actions may occur and how they should be purified and absolved.)

This is the answer: No time should be lost. The physical and verbal actions, which are done in the morning, should be purified and absolved immediately after meal, as one sat down at the very place where one would spend the day.

To elaborate: A bhikkhu is required to review as to what offensive physical and verbal act he has done against anyone from dawn to the time of his arrival at the place where he is sitting to spend the day. If he recollects that he has done anything wrong against someone, either by physical or verbal action, he should make a confession to fellow bhikkhus, by way of informing them or making them clear about his offence. In case he is free from such taints of wrong deeds, he will actually feel great personal joy and satisfaction and should remain in that state of ease and happiness.

As regards mental activities, he should seek to be purified and absolved from them while still going on the alms-round, by retrospecting thus: “While going on the alms-round today, has there arisen in me, because of visual objects, etc., any mild or stronger form of greed, any offensive anger or any kind of delusion?” If he should find that some such thought has indeed arisen in him, he should resolve: “I will not allow such thoughts of greed, anger or delusion to arise again.” If no wrong thoughts have arisen in him (he should feel joy and satisfaction for himself and) he should continue to dwell in that serene state of mind.

End of the Discourse on Ambalathika Rahulovada Sutta.

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