Buddha’s advice to his son – Part 2


In my last post I shared the story of the lesson the Buddha gave his seven year old son, Rāhula.

Now in his teens, Rāhula get another famous lesson. This time on meditation. The instructions that the Buddha gives to Rāhula are very detailed, so much so that they are still used today as a guide to developing as meditator.

Here is the story:

The Buddha was on an alms round with some of his disciples, including Rāhula. 

Rāhula was preoccupied by his personal appearance, as teenagers sometimes are, and he confessed this to his father. The Buddha advised Rāhula:

“When seen with wisdom, the physical body should not be viewed as me, myself or mine.  In fact, one shouldn’t see any feeling, perception, mental activity or consciousness through concepts of me, myself or mine.”

Rāhula decided he would abandon the alms round and sit under a tree to meditate on the words. One of the Buddha’s closest disciples, Venerable Sarriputa, saw him and gave him some advice on cultivating mindfulness of the breath, and the benefits of this. 

Later that day Rāhula approached the Buddha for further advice on breath mediation – how to do it and how to get the benefits Sariputta talked about.

The Buddha began:

“Develop meditation that is like the earth: as the earth is not troubled by agreeable or disagreeable things it comes into contact with, so if you meditate like the earth, agreeable and disagreeable experiences will not trouble you.

“Develop meditation like water, like fire, like air and like space: as all of these are not troubled by agreeable or disagreeable things they come into contact with, so if you meditate like water, fire, air or space, agreeable and disagreeable experiences will not trouble you.”

Next the Buddha gives Rāhula advice on different subjects of meditation for different issues:

“Develop the meditation on loving-kindness, Rāhula. For by developing loving-kindness, ill-will is abandoned.

“Develop the meditation on compassion, Rāhula. For by developing compassion, cruelty is abandoned.

“Develop the meditation on sympathetic joy, Rāhula. For by developing sympathetic joy, aversion is abandoned.

“Develop the meditation on equanimity, Rāhula. For by developing equanimity, hatred is abandoned.

“Develop the meditation on impurity, Rāhula. For by meditating on impurity, lust is abandoned.

“Develop the meditation on the concept of transience, Rāhula. For by meditating on the concept of transience, pride of self is abandoned.”

Once this is explained, the Buddha then gives detailed instructions to Rāhula on the type of mediation he asked about – mindfulness of breath mediation:

“Inhaling and exhaling with mindfulness, cultivated and frequently practised, has many advantages.

“In order to learn, there are steps to take to train yourself. First find a quiet place, sit with legs crossed and the body held erect. Set an intention to be mindfulful.

“Consciously inhale; consciously exhale.

“When taking a long inspiration know ‘I am taking a long inspiration’; When making a long expiration, know ‘I am making a long expiration.’ When taking a short inspiration, know ‘I am taking a short inspiration’; When making a short expiration, know ‘I am making a short expiration.’

“Once you have mastered this, train yourself to be conscious of the whole body when breathing.

“Next, train yourself to experience calm when inhaling, calm when exhaling.

“Next, train yourself to experience pleasure when inhaling, pleasure when exhaling.

“Next, train yourself to experience happiness when inhaling, happiness when exhaling.

“Next, train yourself to be conscious of the body process when inhaling, and when exhaling.

“The next step is to train yourself to calm the body process when inhaling, and when exhaling.

“Next, perfectly conscious – inhale, perfectly conscious – exhale, thus you should train yourself.

“Next, with enraptured mind – inhale, with enraptured mind – exhale, thus you should train yourself.

“Next, thoroughly composing the mind you will inhale, thoroughly composing the mind will you exhale, thus you train yourself.

“Next, emancipating the mind you will inhale, emancipating the mind will you exhale, thus you train yourself.

“Next, reflecting on transience you inhale, reflecting on transience you exhale, thus you train yourself.

“Next, reflecting on freedom from lust – inhale, reflecting on freedom from lust – exhale, thus you train yourself.

“Next, reflecting on Cessation – inhale, reflecting on Cessation – exhale, thus you train yourself.

“Then, reflecting on complete emancipation you will inhale, reflecting on complete emancipation will you exhale, thus you train yourself.

“Mindfulness on inhaling and exhaling, Rāhula, cultivated in this way and frequently practised, is productive of much fruit and manifold advantage. When, Rāhula, inhaling and exhaling with mindfulness is thus cultivated and frequently-practised, even the last inspiration and expiration ceases consciously, not unconsciously.”

The venerable Rāhula, delighted, rejoiced at his words.

Author: Bite-Size Dhamma

I'm a Buddhist layperson, trying to live well and skilfully with compassion, generosity, and discernment. I work in the field of housing law and homelessness casework. I have a beautiful kind wife, a very cute dog, and two loveable but surly cats.

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