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The Lesson Given To Rahula

Before Rahula, the son of Gotama Siddhattha and Yasodhara,
attained to the enlightenment of true wisdom, his conduct was not
always marked by a love of truth, and the Blessed One sent him to
a distant vihara to govern his mind and to guard his tongue.

After some time the Blessed One repaired to the place, and Rahula
was filled with joy.

And the Blessed One ordered the boy to bring him; basin of water
and to wash his feet, and Rahula obeyed.

When Rahula had washed the Tathagata's feet, the Blessed One
asked: "Is the water now fit for drinking?"

"No, my Lord," replied the boy, "the water is denied."

Then the Blessed One said: "Now consider thine own case. Although
thou art my son, and the grandchild of a king, although thou art
a samana who has voluntarily given up everything, thou art unable
to guard thy tongue from untruth, and thus defilest thou thy

And when the water had been poured away, the Blessed One asked
again: "Is this vessel now fit for holding water to drink?"

"No, my Lord," replied Rahula, "the vessel, too, has become

And the Blessed One said: "Now consider thine own case. Although
thou wearest the yellow robe, art thou fit for any high purpose
when thou hast become unclean like this vessel?"

Then the Blessed One, lifting up the empty basin and whirling it
round, asked: "Art thou not afraid lest it should fall and

"No, my Lord," replied Rahula, "the vessel is but cheap, and its
loss will not amount to much."

"Now consider thine own case," said the Blessed One. "Thou art
whirled about in endless eddies of transmigration, and as thy
body is made of the same substance as other material things that
will crumble to dust, there is no loss if it be broken. He who is
given to speaking untruths is an object of contempt to the wise."2

Rahula was filled with shame, and the Blessed One addressed him
once more: "Listen, and I will tell thee a parable:

"There was a king who had a very powerful elephant, able to cope
with five hundred ordinary elephants. When going to war, the
elephant was armed with sharp swords on his tusks, with scythes
on his shoulders, spears on his feet, and an iron ball at his
tail. The elephant-master rejoiced to see the noble creature so
well equipped, and, knowing that a slight wound by an arrow in
the trunk would be fatal, he had taught the elephant to keep his
trunk well coiled up. But during the battle the elephant
stretched forth his trunk to seize a sword. His master was
frightened and consulted with the king, and they decided that the
elephant was no longer fit to be used in battle.

"O Rahula! if men would only guard their tongues all would be
well! Be like the fighting elephant who guards his trunk against
the arrow that strikes in the center.

"By love of truth the sincere escape iniquity. Like the elephant
well subdued and quiet, who permits the king to mount on his
trunk, thus the man that reveres righteousness will endure
faithfully throughout his life."

Rahula hearing these words was filled with deep sorrow; he never
again gave any occasion for complaint, and forthwith he
sanctified his life by earnest exertions.

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