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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