Rāhula was the only son of Prince Siddhattha and Princess Yasodharā. He was born on the day when Prince Siddhattha decided to renounce the world. The happy news of the birth of his infant son was conveyed to him when he was in the park in a contemplative mood. Contrary to ordinary expectations, instead of rejoicing over the news, he exclaimed ‘Rāhu jāto, bandhanam jātam – A Rahu is born, a fetter has arisen!’ Accordingly the child was named Rāhula by King Suddhodana, his grandfather.
Rāhula was brought up as a fatherless child by his mother and grandfather. When he was seven years old, the Buddha
visited Kapilavatthu for the first time after His Enlightenment. On the seventh day after His arrival Princess Yasodharā gaily
dressed up young Rāhula and pointing to the Buddha, said –
“Behold, son, that golden coloured ascetic, looking like Brahmā, surrounded by twenty thousand ascetics! He is your father, and He had great treasures. Since His renunciation we do not see them. Go up to him and ask for your inheritance, and say – “Father, I am the prince. After my consecration I will be a universal monarch. I am in need of wealth. Please give me wealth, for the son is the owner of what belongs to the father.”
Innocent Rāhula came to the Buddha’s presence, and asking for his inheritance, as advised by his mother, very affectionately said: “O ascetic, even your shadow is pleasing to me.”
After the meal the Buddha left the palace and
Rāhula followed Him, saying –
“Give me my inheritance” and uttering
much else that was becoming. Nobody attempted to stop him. Nor did the Buddha prevent him from following Him. Reaching the park the Buddha thought: “He desires his father’s wealth, but it goes with the world and is full of trouble. I shall give him the sevenfold noble wealth which I received at the foot of the Bodhi tree, and make him an owner of a transcendental inheritance. He called Venerable Sāriputta and asked him to ordain little Rāhula.
Rāhula, who was then only seven years of age, was admitted into the Noble Order.
King Suddhodana was deeply grieved to hear of the unexpected ordination of his beloved grandson. He approached the Buddha and, in humbly requesting Him not to ordain any one without the prior consent of the parents, said “When the Lord renounced the world it was a cause of great pain to me. It was so when Nanda renounced and especially so in the case
of Rāhula. The love of a father towards a son cuts through the skin, (the hide), the flesh, the sinew, the bone and the marrow.
Grant, Lord, the request that the Noble Ones may not confer ordination on a son without the permission of his parents.”
The Buddha readily granted the request, and made it a Vinaya rule.
How a young boy of seven years could lead the Holy Life is almost inconceivable. But Sāmanera (Novice) Rāhula, cultured,
exceptionally obedient and well-disciplined as he was, was very eager to accept instruction from his superiors. It is stated
that he would rise early in the morning and taking a handful of sand throw it up, saying – “Today may I receive from my instructors as much counsel as these grains of sand.”
One of the earliest discourses preached to him, immediately after his ordination, was the Ambalatthika-rāhulovāda Sutta
in which He emphasized the importance of Truthfulness.
One day the Buddha visited the Venerable Rāhula who, seeing Him coming from afar, arranged a seat and supplied water for washing the feet.
The Buddha washed His feet and leaving a small quantity of water in the vessel, said:
“Do you see, Rāhula, this small quantity of water left in the vessel?”
“Similarly, Rāhula, insignificant, indeed, is the Samanaship (monkhood) of those who are not ashamed of uttering deliberate lies.”
Then the Buddha threw away that small quantity of water, and said:
“Discarded, indeed, is the Samanaship of those who are not ashamed of deliberate lying.”
The Buddha turned the vessel upside down, and said –
“Overturned, indeed, is the Samanaship of those who are not ashamed of uttering deliberate lies.”
Finally the Buddha set the vessel upright and said – “Empty and void, indeed, is the Samanaship of those who are not ashamed of deliberate lying.”
“I say of anyone who is not ashamed of uttering deliberate lies, that there is no evil that could not be done by him. Accordingly, Rāhula, thus should you train yourself – “Not even in play will I tell a lie.”
Emphasizing the importance of truthfulness with such homely illustrations, the Buddha explained to him the value
of reflection and the criterion of morality in such a way as a child could understand.
“Rāhula, for what purpose is a mirror?” questioned the Buddha.
“For the purpose of reflecting, Lord.”
“Similarly, Rāhula, after reflecting and reflecting should bodily action be done; after reflecting should verbal action be
done; after reflecting should mental action be done.
“Whatever action you desire to do with the body, of that particular bodily action you should reflect: ‘Now, this action that I desire to perform with the body – would this, my bodily action be conducive to my own harm, or to the harm of others,
or to that of both myself and others?’ Then, unskilful is this bodily action, entailing suffering and producing pain.
“If, when reflecting, you should realize: ‘Now, this bodily action of mine that I am desirous of performing, would be
conducive to my own harm or to the harm of others, or to that of both myself and others.’ Then unskilful is this bodily
action, entailing suffering and producing pain. Such an action with the body, you must on no account perform.
“If, on the other hand, when reflecting you realize: ‘Now, this bodily action that I am desirous of performing, would conduce neither to the harm of myself, nor to that of others, nor to that of both myself and others.’ Then skilful is this bodily action, entailing pleasure and producing happiness.
Such bodily action you should perform.”
Exhorting the Sāmanera Rāhula to use reflection during and after one’s actions, the Buddha said:
“While you are doing an action with the body, of that particular action should you reflect: ‘Now, is this action that I am
doing with my body conducive to my own harm, or to the harm of others or to that of both myself and others?’ Then unskilful is this bodily action, entailing suffering and producing pain.”
“If, when reflecting, you realize: ‘Now, this action that I am doing with my body is conducive to my own harm, to the harm of others, and to that of both myself and others.’ Then unskilful is this bodily action, entailing suffering and producing pain. From such a bodily action you must desist”.
“If when reflecting, you should realize: ‘Now, this action of mine that I am doing with the body is conducive neither to
my own harm, nor to the harm of others, nor to that of both myself and others.’ Then skilful is this bodily action, entailing pleasure and happiness. Such a bodily action you should do again and again.”
The Buddha adds “If, when reflecting, you should realize: ‘Now, this action that I have done is unskilful.’ Such an action should be confessed, revealed, and made manifest to the Teacher, or to the learned, or to your brethren of the Holy Life. Having confessed, you should acquire restraint in the future.”
The admonition with regard to skilful and unskilful verbal and mental actions was treated in the same way.
Stating that constant reflection was essential for purification, the Buddha ended the discourse as follows:
“Thus must you train yourself – By constantly reflecting shall we purify our bodily actions, by constantly reflecting shall we purify our verbal actions, by constantly reflecting, shall we purify our
In the Samyutta Nikāya there is a special chapter where the Buddha explains to Sāmanera Rāhula, the transitoriness
As Venerable Rāhula entered the Order in his boyhood the Buddha availed Himself of every opportunity to advise and guide him on the right path. The Sutta Nipāta states that the Buddha repeatedly admonished him with the following stanzas:
“Give up five-fold sensual pleasures – so sweet, so charming.Going forth from home, with faith, be one who has put an end to suffering. Seek a remote lodging, secluded and noiseless.Be moderate in food.Have no attachment to robes, alms, requisites and lodging.Come not to this world again,. Practise restraint with regard to the Fundamental Code and the five senses.Cultivate mindfulness as regards the body and be full of dispassionateness.
Avoid alluring, lust-provoking objects (of sense). Develop your one-pointed, composed mind towards loathsomeness. Think not of the outward appearance of sense. Give up latent pride. Thus eradicating pride, you shall fare on in perfect peace.”
In his eighteenth year the Buddha preached a profound discourse on mind-culture, the occasion for it being a sense-desire that arose in Venerable Rāhula’s mind on account of his beautiful appearance.
One day the Venerable Rāhula was following the Buddha in quest of alms. As the Buddha went along, followed by Rāhula, it seems that the pair was like an auspicious royal elephant and his noble offspring, a royal swan with its beauteous cygnet, a regal lion with its stately cub. Both were golden in complexion, almost equal in beauty; both were of the warrior caste; both had renounced a throne. Rāhula, admiring the Teacher, thought: “I too am handsome like my parent the Exalted One. Beautiful is the Buddha’s form, and mine is similar.”
The Buddha instantly read his evil thought, and looking back addressed him thus:
“Whatsoever form there be should be regarded thus:
“This is not mine (N’etam mama); this am I not (N’eso ’ham ’asmi); this is not my soul (Na me so attā).”
Rāhula submissively inquired of Him whether he should regard only form as such.The Buddha replied that he should regard all the five aggregates (Khandhas) as such.
The Venerable Rāhula, having been thus edified by the Buddha Himself, preferred not to enter the village for alms. He turned back and sat at the foot of a tree, with legs crossed, the body held erect, intent on mindfulness.Venerable Sāriputta noting the suggestive posture of Rāhula Sāmanera, advised him to concentrate on inhaling and exhaling, not knowing that he was practising another object of meditation on the instruction of the Buddha.
Venerable Rāhula was perplexed because he was given two different objects of meditation – one by the Buddha and the
other by his own teacher. In obedience to his teacher be concentrated on “breathing” and went to the Buddha to get His own instruction on the subject. As a wise physician would give the needed medicine, ignoring the desires, the Buddha first expanded His brief instruction on meditation on form and other aggregates and then briefly enumerated certain subjects of meditation with the specific evil conditions temporarily eliminated by each and then explained the meditation on “respiration” (Ānāpanā Sati).
Acting according to the Buddha’s instructions, he succeeded in his meditations, and, before long, hearing the Cūla Rāhulovāda Sutta, he attained Arahantship.In the fourteenth year after the Enlightenment of the Buddha, Sāmanera Rāhula received his Higher Ordination. He predeceased the Buddha and Venerable Sāriputta. Venerable Rāhula was distinguished for his high standard
of discipline. The following four verses are attributed to him in the Theragāthā:
“Being fortunate from both sides, they call me “Lucky Rāhula”. I was the son of the Buddha and that of the Seer of Truths.
Destroyed are all my Corruptions. There is no more rebirth to me.An Arahant am I, worthy of offering.Possessed of threefold knowledge and a seer of Deathless am I, “Blinded by sense-desires, spread over by a net, covered by a cloak of craving, bound by the ‘kinsman of heedlessness’ was I
like a fish caught in the mouth of a funnel-net.That sense-desire have I burnt. The bond of Māra have I cut.Eradicating craving, from its root, cool am I, peaceful am I now.