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Ambalaṭṭhika Rāhulovāda Suttaṃ

(M.i.414)

A Discourse to Rāhula at Ambalaṭṭhikā

107. Thus have I heard — at one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha, in the Bamboo grove, in the squirrels’ feeding ground. Then, on that occasion, the Venerable Rāhula ¹ was dwelling at Ambalaṭṭhikā. Then, in the evening, having arisen from solitary meditation, he approached Venerable Rāhula at Ambalaṭṭhikā. The Venerable Rāhula saw the Blessed One coming from a distance. Having seen him, he prepared a seat and set out water for washing the feet. Then the Blessed One sat on the seat that had been prepared, and having sat down, washed his feet. The Venerable Rāhula paid homage to the Blessed One and sat down at one side.

108. Then the Blessed One, having left a little water in the vessel, asked Rāhula: “Do you see, Rāhula, this little amount of water left in the vessel?” “I do, Venerable sir.” “Of that much account, Rāhula, is the recluseship of one who is not ashamed of telling deliberate ² lies.”

Then the Blessed One threw away the little remaining water and asked Rāhula: “Do you see, Rāhula, this little amount of water thrown away?” “I do, Venerable sir.” “Thus thrown away, Rāhula, is the recluseship of one who is not ashamed of telling deliberate lies.”

Then the Blessed One, having overturned the vessel, he asked Rāhula: “Do you see, Rāhula, that this vessel is overturned?” “I do, Venerable sir.” “Thus overturned, Rāhula, is the recluseship of one who is not ashamed of telling deliberate lies.”

Then the Blessed One, having turned the vessel upright, he asked Rāhula: “Do you see, Rāhula, that this vessel is hollow and empty?” “I do, Venerable sir.” “Thus hollow and empty, Rāhula, is the recluseship of one who is not ashamed of telling deliberate lies.”

“It is like, Rāhula, a royal bull elephant with tusks like chariot poles, fully-grown and strong, of noble birth, and accustomed to battle, having gone into battle he uses his front feet, his hind feet, his fore-quarters, his hind-quarters, his head, his ears, his tusks, his tail, [415] but he would keep back his trunk. Then the mahout would think: ‘This royal bull elephant … keeps back his trunk. He has not yet surrendered his life.’ However, Rāhula, when a royal bull elephant … and uses his trunk, then the mahout thinks, ‘This royal bull elephant … has surrendered his life. There is now nothing that this bull elephant will not do.’ Likewise, Rāhula, whoever is not ashamed of telling a deliberate lie, I declare that there is no evil that they will not do. Therefore, Rāhula, train yourself thus, ‘I will not tell a lie even for a joke.’

109. “What do you think, Rāhula, is the purpose of a mirror?” “For reflection, Venerable sir.”

“In the same way, Rāhula, reflection on one’s bodily actions should be done repeatedly, reflection on one’s verbal actions should be done repeatedly, reflection on one’s mental actions should be done repeatedly. Rāhula, whenever you wish to do a physical action, you should reflect on that physical action: ‘Does this physical action that I wish to do lead to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both? — Does this unwholesome physical action cause pain and have a painful result.’ If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This physical action that I wish to do leads to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both — this unwholesome physical action causes pain and has a painful result,’ as far as possible (sasakkaṃ),³ such a physical action should not be done (na karaṇīyaṃ). [416] If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This physical action that I wish to do does not lead to the harm of myself, nor to the harm of others, nor to the harm of both — this wholesome physical action causes pleasure and has a pleasant result,’ such a physical action should be done (karaṇīyaṃ).

“Also, Rāhula, whenever you are doing a physical action, you should reflect on that physical action: ‘Does this physical action that I am doing lead to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both? — Does this unwholesome physical action cause pain and have a painful result.’ If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This physical action that I am doing leads to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both — this unwholesome physical action causes pain and has a painful result,’ then you should desist (paṭisaṃhareyyāsi) from such a physical action. If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This physical action that I am doing does not lead to the harm of myself, nor to the harm of others, nor to the harm of both — this wholesome physical action causes pleasure and has a pleasant result,’ such a physical action should be done.

“Also, Rāhula, whenever you have done a physical action, you should reflect on that physical action: ‘Did this physical action that I did lead to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both? — Did this unwholesome physical action cause pain and have a painful result.’ If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This physical action that I did, led to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both — this unwholesome physical action caused pain and had a painful result,’ then you should confess (desetabbaṃ) such a physical action to your teacher or your wise companions in the holy life, you should reveal it (vivaritabbaṃ), and make it open (uttānīkātabbaṃ). Having confessed it, revealed it [417] and made it open, you should undertake to restrain yourself thenceforth. If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This physical action that I did, did not lead to the harm of myself, nor to the harm of others, nor to the harm of both — this wholesome physical action caused pleasure and had a pleasant result,’ then you can be glad and rejoice and dwell training yourself by day and by night in wholesome states.

110. “Rāhula, whenever you wish to do a verbal action, you should reflect on that verbal action … such a verbal action should be done.

“Also, Rāhula, whenever you are doing a verbal action … [418] such a verbal action should be done.

“Also, Rāhula, whenever you have done a verbal action … then you can be glad and rejoice and dwell training yourself by day and by night in wholesome states.

111. “Rāhula, whenever you wish to do a mental action, you should reflect on that mental action … [419] such a mental action should be done.

“Also, Rāhula, whenever you are doing a mental action … such a mental action should be done.

“Also, Rāhula, whenever you have done a mental action, you should reflect on that mental action: ‘Did this mental action that I did lead to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both? — Did this unwholesome mental action cause pain and have a painful result.’ If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This mental action that I did, led to the harm of myself, or to the harm of others, or to the harm of both — this unwholesome mental action caused pain and had a painful result,’ then you should be troubled (aṭṭīyitabbaṃ), ashamed (harāyitabbaṃ), and disgusted (jigucchitabbaṃ); being troubled, ashamed, and disgusted, you should undertake to restrain yourself henceforth.⁴ If, Rāhula, on reflecting thus you know: ‘This mental action that I did, did not lead to the harm of myself, nor to the harm of others, nor to the harm of both — this wholesome mental action caused pleasure and had a pleasant result,’ then you can be glad and rejoice, and dwell training yourself by day and by night in wholesome states. [420]

112. “Whatever recluses or priests in the past, Rāhula, purified their physical, verbal, and mental actions, all of them did so having reflected repeatedly on their physical, verbal, and mental actions. Whatever recluses or priests in the future, Rāhula, will purify their physical, verbal, and mental actions, all of them will do so by reflecting repeatedly on their physical, verbal, and mental actions. Whatever recluses or priests in the present, Rāhula, have purified their physical, verbal, and mental actions, all of them have done so by reflecting repeatedly on their physical, verbal, and mental actions. Therefore, Rāhula, ‘I will reflect repeatedly on my physical, verbal, and mental actions; having reflected repeatedly I will purify my physical, verbal, and mental actions.’ Thus,Rāhula, you should train yourself.”

This is what the Blessed One said. Delighted, the Venerable Rāhula rejoiced in what the Blessed One had said.

Notes:

1. The Commentary says that this discourse was given to Rāhula when he was seven years old, i.e. shortly after his going-forth.

2. Lying with clear comprehension (sampajānamusāvāde), knowing it to be false. If one believes that it is true, though it is false, it is not a lie. If one speaks in haste, without clear comprehension, or making a slip of the tongue, it is not a lie. For a bhikkhu, a deliberate lie is an offence to be confessed, or an offence of defeat if one tells a deliberate lie about superhuman attainments. If one is speaking in jest, it is a minor offence of wrong-speech.

3. Bhikkhu Bodhi translates this as “You definitely should not do such an action with the body.” However, the PTS dictionary translates sakka as “able, possible,” and sasakka “As much as possible.” One who is not a Noble One will not always be able to restrain himself or herself from doing wrong deeds by body, speech, or mind. Although one definitely should not do any unwholesome action, it is inevitable that an ordinary person will when the defilements are strong enough. A Stream-winner would rather die than kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, or tell a deliberate lie, but this is not the case for ordinary persons. If one could always resist the urge to do any unwholesome actions, the subsequent paragraphs to desist from them or confess them would be rendered redundant.

4. Mental misdeeds such as lust, jealousy, or ill-will, do not need to be confessed. There is no offence even if one plots to kill one’s teacher for giving one a thorough scolding in front of others. However, one should reflect on such unwholesome thoughts to become troubled, ashamed, and disgusted by them so that one can abandon them.


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