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Christopher Titmuss: The Buddha and his Meetings with Spiritual Seekers, Parents and Young People | 3: The Buddha’s Meets with his son, Rahula

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The Buddha also spoke about his experience before his awakening when he went through a crisis at the Palace at the age of 29 and ran away to engage in a six year long spiritual pursuit. He certainly abandoned his responsibilities as a husband, father of a week-old son, Rahula, and to his family. As heir to the Sakyan throne, he walked out on his duty. To some degree, this indicates the behaviour of a man in a crisis who could no longer cope with life in the Palace, the daily duties, the maximisation of pleasure and his exceptional privileges. He had witnessed in Kapilavatthu, the capital city of the Sakya, the world of ageing, pain and death and, subsequently, he experienced a sense of pointlessness to all that the royal life had prepared for him.

When the Buddha left Sarnath he went straight to Kapilavatthu to see for the first time in six years his son. The boy’s mother saw the Buddha walking towards the city. She said to Rahula.

“This is your father. Go and ask for your inheritance.”

“Give me my inheritance, recluse,” said the boy.

The Buddha spoke to his son about finding the true riches of life within.

The boy’s grandfather, King Suddodhana said it “cuts into the skin” for a child to leave parents and grandparents. The Buddha agreed and told his Sangha that all parents must give consent for their children to join the Sangha. Today some children in Buddhist countries insist that their parents allow them to leave home and take novice ordination. Some of these children have had deep spiritual experiences or sense a deep connection with the monastic life feeling that the monastery provides an environment to explore the deep questions of life. Monks and nuns will attribute this yearning for truth among the young to their past lives.

The youngsters, who join the monastic order between the age of 7 -20 years, agree to keep 10 precepts; not killing, not stealing, a celibate life, not lying, not taking alcohol or drugs, keeping to the times of eating between dawn and noon, restraining from entertainment, restraining from jewellery and perfume and restraining from sleeping on high beds. Like the monks, the novices engage in an austere lifestyle: they could be expelled for violating the serious rules of killing and stealing.

After meeting his father, Rahula joined the Sangha. The Buddha engaged in various conversations with his son who ordained age seven as a novice until he could take full ordination. Teenagers can take ordination at 19 years and three months in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as the month of conception marks the beginning of human life. A young man or woman wishing to join the homeless order would spend four months with the monks and nuns before being granted permission to take novice ordination

In a conversation with Rahula, the Buddha advised his son on the importance of speaking the truth and to never engage in the deliberate telling of a life. We do not know why the Buddha spoke on this specific issue. The Buddha then asked his son the purpose of a mirror. Rahula said the mirror serves to reflect. The Buddha added: “So too, one must engage in repeated reflection on the activities of body speech and mind, otherwise such activities can lead onto painful consequences.”

He explained to Rahula that all those in the past, present and future, who came to purity in their mind, speech and body (actions) engaged in repeated reflection. He then encouraged Rahula to make full use of reflection to abide happily in a wholesome way, day and night. (MLD 61).

In another discourse with Rahula, he explained the importance of directing wisdom and love to everything, internal or external, gross or subtle, near or far. He then encouraged Rahula to meditate on the material form of the body and to see clearly hair, nails and teeth become disenchanted with clinging on to the various parts of the body. The Buddha pointed to putting an end to the disagreeable clinging including the mental faculties of perceptions, feelings, thoughts and consciousness.

The same discourse also includes importance of the development of meditation to reveal and know the divine elements. One develops:
Friendship/love/loving kindness to overcome ill will
Compassion to overcome inflicting harm
Appreciate joy to abandon discontent
Equanimity to abandon reactivity
Non-beautiful to overcome lust.

He made clear to Rahula the great benefits of mindfulness of breathing to experience the benefits of calm and insight, right to the very last breath of life. (MLD 62) The discourse serves as a clear example of the significance the Buddha gave to meditation as one of the vehicles along the path of transformation. He never relied on a specific meditation, as if one medicine worked for all ills, but recommended various meditations to bring out the fullness of wisdom. Following an exchange with the Buddha, practitioners would remember the essential points and cultivate them – to change from ill will to friendship, from causing harm to compassion and so on.

The Buddha emphasised that parent musts care for their children beyond their basic material needs so children develop the value of ethics, skills for life and applicable knowledge. In 10,000 discourses, the Buddha never gave any support for punishment of children, nor violent or abusive language as it would only provoke an angry reaction sooner or later.

 [ to be continued ]

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Source: Christopher Titmuss Dhrama Blog | A Buddhist Perspective

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