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Rāhula Thera

1. Rāhula Thera.– The only son of Gotama Buddha. He was born on the day on which his father left the household life.¹ 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 himWhen 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

It is said ⁴ that immediately after Rāhula’s ordination the Buddha taught 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 and the Tittira Jātaka to show them that in past births, too, Rāhula had been known for his obedience. When Rāhula was seven years old, the Buddha taught him the Ambalaṭṭhika Rāhulovāda Sutta (q.v.) as a warning that he should never lie, even in jest. Rāhula used to accompany the Buddha on his begging rounds.⁷ Rāhula noticed that he harboured carnal thoughts fascinated by his own physical beauty and that of his father, the Buddha taught him, at the age of eighteen, the Mahārāhulovāda Sutta (q.v.) Two other suttas, also called Rāhulovāda (q.v.), one included in the Saṃyuttanikāya and the other in the Aṅguttaranikāya, formed the topics for Rāhula’s insight meditation (vipassanā). Later, the Buddha, knowing that Rāhula’s mind was ripe for final attainment, went with him alone to Andhavana, and taught him the Cūḷarāhulovāda Sutta. At the end of the discourse, Rāhula became an Arahant, together with one trillion listening devas.⁹ Afterwards, in the assembly of monks, the Buddha declared Rāhula foremost among those of his disciples who were anxious for training (sikkhākāmānaṃ).¹⁰

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, both Rāhula and Raṭṭhapāla were rich householders of Haṃsavatī, who, realising 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, Paṭhavindhara, and had been impressed by its magnificence. Therefore, in returning thanks to Rāhula for his hospitality, he wished that his host might resemble Paṭhavindhara. Rāhula remembered this, and after death he was born in the Nāga world as Paṭhavindhara, 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 recognised him, and finding out that he was dissatisfied, suggested to him a remedy. Paṭhavindhara 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 Paṭhavindhara was so fascinated by him that he could not take his eyes off him. Discovering who he was, Paṭhavindhara 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 Paṭhavindhara, the eldest son of King Kiki, later becoming his viceroy. His seven sisters built seven residences for the Buddha, and, at their suggestion, Paṭhavindhara built five hundred residences for the monks.¹¹

Four verses uttered by Rāhula are included in the Theragāthā.¹²

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, bandhanaṃ jātaṃ” — the word “rāhula” meaning bond).¹³

According to the Dīgha and Saṃyuttanikāya Commentaries,¹⁴ Rāhula predeceased the Buddha and even Sāriputta, and the place of his death is given as Tāvatiṃsa. For twelve years he never lay on a bed.¹⁵

In numerous Jātaka stories, Rāhula is mentioned as having been the Bodhisatta’s son — e.g., in the Uraga, Kapi, Kumbhakāra, Candakumāra, Cūḷa Sutasoma, Daddara, Bandhanāgāra, Makkaṭa, Maghādeva, Mahājanaka, Mahāsudassana, Vidhura, Vessantara, Sīhakotthu, and Sonaka. He was also Yaññadatta, son of Mandavya (Sāriputta) and the young turtle in the Mahā Ukkusa. The Apadāna ¹⁶ says that in many births Uppalavaṇṇā and Rāhula were born of the same parents (ekasmiṃ sambhave) and had similar tendencies (samānacchandamānasā).

Rāhula was known to his friends as Rāhulabhadda (Rāhula, the Fortunate). He himself says ¹⁷ 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 ¹⁸ that, though Rāhula was his own son, the Buddha showed as much love for Devadatta, Aṅgulimāla, and Dhanapāla as he did for Rāhula.

Asoka built a thūpa in honour of Rāhula, to be specially worshipped by novices.¹⁹


¹ J.i.60; AA.i.82, etc; cf. J.i.62.

² According to SNA.i.340, Mahā-Moggallāna recited the formal act of the Saṅgha (kammavācācariyo ahosi); see also J.ii.393.

³ Vin.i.82 f; the story of Rāhula’s conversion is also given at DhA.i.98 f.

AA.i.145. J.i.160 ff. J.iii.64 ff.

Sometimes he would accompany Sāriputta on his begging rounds. He was present when Sāriputta went to his (Sāriputta’s) mother’s house, where he was roundly abused by her for having left her. DhA.iv.164 f).

To these, Buddhaghosa (MA.i.635) adds the Sāmaṇera Sutta or Kumāra­pañhā, and proceeds to enumerate the different purposes that the Buddha had in view in teaching these suttas; see also AA.ii.547. SNA.i.340 says, about the Rāhula Sutta (q.v.), that the Buddha constantly taught it to Rāhula. See also the Rāhula Saṃyutta.

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.

¹⁰ A.i.24; the Vinaya (Vin.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 latrine. 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.161 f. 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. However, the plot failed. This was eight years after Rāhula had attained Arahantship (DhA.iv.69 f).

¹¹ The story of the past as given here is taken from AA.i.141 ff; part of it is given in MA.ii.722 under Raṭṭhapāla, but the account differs in details. There the Nāga world is called Bhumindhara, and the Nāga king, pālita. SNA.i.341 differs again and calls the king Saṅkha. See also ThagA.ii.30 on Raṭṭhapāla, where no mention is made of Rāhula. The Apadāna (Ap.i. 60 f ) gives a different version altogether. There Rāhula gave Padumuttara Buddha a carpet (santhara), as a result of which, twenty-one world-cycles ago, he was born as a warrior (khattiya) named Vimala, in Reṇuvatī. There he lived in a palace, Sudassana, specially built for him by Vissakamma.

¹² Vs.295‑98; Mil.413 contains several other stanzas attributed to Rāhula.

¹³ J.i.60; DhA.i.70. The Apadāna Commentary, however, derives Rāhula from Rāhu; just as Rāhu obstructs the moon, so would the child be an obstruction to the Bodhisatta’s Renunciation.

¹⁴ DA.ii.549; SA.iii.172. ¹⁵ DA.iii.736. ¹⁶ Ap.ii.551. ¹⁷ Thag. vs. 295 f.

¹⁸ DhA.i.124; MA.i.537; Mil.410 attributes this statement to Sāriputta; SNA.i.202 expands it to include others.

¹⁹ Beal, Records i. 180, 181.

2. Rāhula Thera.– One of the four monks who accompanied Chapaṭa (s.v. Saddhammajotipāla) to Sri Lanka. These monks later became the founders of the Sīhalasaṅgha 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., 23 f.