The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes Delivery of the Rahulovada Sutta to Rahula 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 Monk Sudinna, the Son of the Kalanda Merchant. 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 3 - Delivery of the Rahulovada Sutta to Rāhula

While the Buddha was staying at Jetavana monastery, Sāvatthi, the Buddha’s son, Rāhula, was then a novice of eighteen years of age. He had then reached the eleventh year as a sāmaṇera.

One day the Buddha entered the city of Sāvatthi in the morning for alms-food. The Sāmaṇera Rāhula followed the Buddha closely.

When the Buddha and Rāhula were thus walking, the latter close behind the former, the Buddha was as splendid looking as a grand bull elephant that marches out of a jungle to come upon the pleasant ground in a grove of sāla tree in full bloom. Rāhula too was as splendid looking as a young elephant that comes close behind the bull elephant. The Buddha was as splendid looking as the lion-king that marches out of his ruby cave to look for food in the evening. Rāhula too was as splendid as a young lion that comes close behind the great lion king. The Buddha was as splendid as the tiger king that marches out of his forest resembling a jade cave. Rāhula, too, was as splendid as a young tiger that comes close behind the tiger king.

The Buddha was as splendid as the garuḷa-bird king that emerges out of a forest of cotton trees while Rāhula was as splendid as a young garuḷa that comes close behind the garuḷa king. The Buddha was as splendid as the golden haṃsa king that flies up to the sky from Cittakūṭa Mount while Rāhula was as splendid as a young golden haṃsa that comes close behind the haṃsa-king. The Buddha was as splendid as a large golden boat that sails in Lake Chaddanta while Rāhula was as splendid as a smaller golden boat that comes behind the larger one. The Buddha was as splendid as the Universal Monarch that roams in space by the power of his Wheel-Treasure while Rāhula was as splendid as the eldest royal son that comes close behind the Monarch. The Buddha was as splendid as the moon, the lord of stars that roams in the cloudless sky while Rāhula was as splendid as the morning star that comes behind the moon.

The Buddha was born in the lineage of King Okkāka, a descendent from the Mahāsammata. So was the Sāmaṇera Rāhula. The Buddha belonged to the Khattiya birth that was as pure as the milk poured into a conch. So was Rāhula. The Buddha’s body was adorned with the thirty two marks of a great person and was attractive to the hearts of others as a jewel gate-post well erected at the gate of a celestial city or as a Pārichattaka tree in full bloom. So was Rāhula’s body.

In this manner the two extraordinary men, Noble Ones, who had realized their unique aspirations of the past, who had become ascetics from the ruling class, who had possessed royal gentleness, who had golden complexion, and who had borne the marks of a Great Man, walked along the same road, being resplendent as though they were to overcome by means of their own splendour, the splendour of two moons, two suns, and each pair of such deities as Sakka, Suyāma, Santusita, Sunimmita, Vasavattī, Mahā-Brahmā, and others.

While they were thus resplendent, Rāhula closely following the Buddha from behind, watched his father carefully from the surface of the soles up to the tip of the hair and saw his father’s resplendence generated by the glory of a Buddha.

Wonder-struck, he thought thus:

“As His body frame is exquisite with the thirty-two major marks and surrounded by body lustre, He is resplendent as though He were amidst gold dust drizzled all over, as a golden mountain encircled by streaks of lightening, as a golden gatepost exquisite with seven kinds of gems that are strung on mechanical threads, as a golden mountain screened by red rugs though He is attired in dark-red rag-robes, as a golden gate-post inlaid and adorned with coral creeps, as a golden shrine honoured with vermilion powder, as a golden sacrificial post painted with liquid of lac, as the moon that rises all of a sudden from between red clouds. The Buddha’s possession of splendour, that is effected by the power of His Perfections thirty in all, is amazing endlessly!”

Thereafter he looked at his own self and developed craving associated with household life on account of his own frame: “I am of beauty, too. If the Buddha were a Universal Monarch, Lord of the four continents, He would have appointed me pro-leader (parināyaka), the position reserved for the eldest son. In that case, the whole of Jambudipa would become splendid.”

While the Buddha was walking ahead it occurred to Him thus: “Now the body of my son Rāhula has grown with flesh and blood. It is a time when one’s mind restlessly wanders about all attractive objects such as sights, etc. I wonder by what thoughts he is being occupied to pass away his time!” While the Buddha was thus reflecting, He found out clearly His son’s thoughts that were accompanied by greedy inclinations towards household life (gehassita taṇhālobha), He found out Rāhula’s thoughts as though He saw the moving fish in the clear water, and as though He saw His own image in the round mirror. This led Him to decide as follows: “While following behind Me, My son, the Sāmaṇera Rāhula, had developed craving for household life on account of his own body, thinking: ‘I am beautiful. My appearance is pure and clean. Landing not at a right path and following a wrong path, he directs his mind to the unworthy sense objects. Like a travelling man who has lost his way, he is heading for a place which is not worth visiting. If the arising defilement of greed were to stay in him and allowed to grow, this would not give him a chance to see clearly the welfare of oneself, as well as that of another, in their true perspective. This will lead him to the four woeful states of purgatory, animals, petas, and asurakāyas, and also to conception in the mother’s cramped womb. Thus will he be thrown into the wheel of saṃsāra that knows no beginning (anamatagga). In fact, this greed produces what is fruitless. It destroys the meritorious consciousness. Owing to it, a terrible danger may occur in one’s mental continuum. This is not seen by men.

One who craves, does not see the cause and its effect clearly. When a being is overwhelmed by greed, complete darkness reigns.

A big mechanized boat, fully loaded with treasures, is not to be neglected, even for a moment, if water is seeping in through the breakage of the planks. As the breakage should be blocked up quickly, so the Sāmaṇera Rāhula should not be negligently left aside. Before the defilement of greed destroys the treasures of the virtuous, such as morality and the like, that have accrued to him, I shall subdue those moral defilements of his.”

In such an event the Buddha used to look back by turning round His whole body like a bull elephant which is called nāga-vilokana, ‘an elephant’s looking.’

The Buddha stood, after turning His whole body as though a golden statue turned mechanically, and He addressed Rāhula:

“Rāhula, there is matter (rūpa) of the past, matter of the future, and matter of the present (3), matter inside the body and matter outside the body (2), rough matter and soft matter (2), bad matter and good matter (2), far matter and near matter (2). All this matter of eleven kinds is not mine; it is not I; it is not my self; thus must matter be contemplated as it really is through Vipassanā Knowledge and Wisdom.”

When Rāhula asked: “Exalted Buddha, must only matter be (thus) contemplated? Speaker of Good Words, must only matter be (thus) contemplated?” The Buddha answered: “Matter must be (thus) contemplated, Rāhula; sensation (vedanā) must be (thus) contemplated;perception (saññā) must be (thus) contemplated; mental formations (saṅkhāra) must be (thus) contemplated; consciousness (viññāṇa) must be (thus) contemplated.”

(Herein the reason for Rāhula’s question, “must only matter be (thus) contemplated?”, was as follows:

(On hearing the Buddha’s instruction that “All this matter of eleven kinds is not mine; it is not I; it is not my self: thus this matter be contemplated as it really is, through Vipassanā Knowledge and Wisdom,” it occurred to Rāhula, who developed skill in application of methods (nayakusala-ñāṇa), thus: “The Exalted One said: ‘All matter must be thus contemplated through Vipassanā Knowledge and Wisdom’; how must the remaining four aggregates, such as sensation, etc., be contemplated? It should follow that they must also be contemplated as in the case of the aggregate of matter!” Hence his question on the basis of his skill in application of methods (nayakusula-ñāṇa).

(Indeed, the Venerable Rāhula possessed nayakusala-ñāṇa (a high degree of intelligence). When taught just one thing saying “This should not be done,” he would then ponder this too should not be done; this too should not be done" and penetratingly proceeded in hundreds of thousands of ways. Similarly, when instructed just one thing, saying, “This should be done”, he would then ponder, “This too should be done; this too should be done”, he was able to penetrate by hundreds of thousands of means.

(Besides, Venerable Rāhula cherished the threefold training. Early in the morning, in the precincts of the Buddha’s Scented Chamber, he would scatter daily a pattha[1] of grains of sand and utter: “May I today get from the Exalted One or from my preceptor Thera Sāriputta words of advice as much as this sand.” (He put forward his questions because he wished to practise fully as he possessed nayakusala intelligence and cherished the three training.)

On receiving the Buddha’s reply the Venerable Rāhula considered thus:

“After knowing the craving that has its base in my body, the Exalted One did not admonish me indirectly saying to the effect that, ‘A monk should not have such an idea!’ Neither did He send a messenger to me saying: ‘Go, monk, ask him not to have such an idea!’ In fact, He stood face to face with me and gave me a Buddha’s instruction presently as though He seized a thief together with the stolen property, catching hold of his top knot. Hard is to get a Buddha’s advice even in the long duration asaṅkhyeyya aeons! Who, on getting the instruction of a Buddha in person, would care to enter a town or a village for food if he were truly wise?”

Accordingly, Rāhula gave up his alms-food round and turned back from the spot where he heard the Buddha’s exhortation (without following the Buddha further) and sat down at the foot of a tree.

Though the Buddha saw Rāhula turning back, He did not forbid him by saying: “Rāhula, do not go back yet. This is the time for you to go on alms-round,” for he had conceived an idea: “Let Rāhula take the food of immortality the kāyagatā-sati, body-related mindfulness, meditation, for the day!”

Footnotes and references:


Pattha: a certain measure of capacity. Grains of rice measuring eight times (of a condensed milk tin) is a pattha in Pāli and pyi in the Myanma Language.

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