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Buddha's Teachings to His Son

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  • medit8ionsociety
    Two discourses given by the Buddha to his son, Venerable Rahula, are especially pertinent to understanding how to meditate on the four elements and on the
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2009
      Two discourses given by the Buddha to his son,
      Venerable Rahula, are especially pertinent to
      understanding how to meditate on the four elements
      and on the consciousness group. In "The Great
      Exhortation to Rahula,"[5] the Buddha instructs
      Ven. Rahula to meditate on the four elements. In "The
      Shorter Exhortation to Rahula,"[6] he teaches
      him how to observe the senses and the states of
      consciousness associated with them.

      The first discourse to Ven. Rahula is of
      particular interest to meditators in the
      tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin as it shows how
      meditation on the four elements can be
      an aid to mindfulness of breathing
      and insight meditation. According to the
      commentary, Ven. Rahula was eighteen when the
      Buddha gave this discourse. It seems that as
      Ven. Rahula was following the Buddha going
      out on the alms round one morning, he
      thought to himself, "I am handsome like
      my father, the Blessed One. The Buddha's form
      is beautiful, and mine is similar to his."
      The Buddha read Ven. Rahula's thoughts and
      decided to reprove him. This he did in an
      indirect way, but Ven. Rahula was able to
      understand immediately as soon as a hint
      was given to him.

      The Buddha's reproach was in the form of
      a meditation subject. He instructed Ven. Rahula
      to dissociate himself from all material form (rupa)
      by saying to himself with reference to all
      material forms: "This is not mine, I am not
      this, this is not my self." The Buddha, therefore,
      was giving his son a meditation subject that
      was directly related to his lack of understanding,
      and the method given was directly related to developing
      insight into the lack of a permanent self
      (anatta). Ven. Rahula asked the Buddha if only
      material form was to be seen in this way, so the Buddha
      enlarged on his first instruction by saying
      that the same was true for all five of the
      aggregates that sustain renewed existence:
      material forms rupa), sensations (vedana), perceptions
      (sanna), mental formations (sankhara), and
      consciousness (vinnana).

      Ven. Rahula decided that, after being given
      such instructions by the Buddha, he should not
      continue on the alms round but begin to meditate
      immediately. As he sat meditating, Ven. Sariputta
      came by. The commentary says that when the chief
      disciples resided in the same monastery as the
      Buddha, they always waited until he went out
      before they went on their alms round. Ven. Sariputta
      had ordained Ven. Rahula and was therefore one
      of his teachers. Seeing him seated in the
      cross-legged position and not being aware that
      the Buddha had already given a meditation subject, Ven.
      Sariputta told his pupil to develop mindfulness
      of breathing (anapana-sati).

      Ven. Rahula now had two different sets of instructions,
      and he was not able to make any progress. That
      evening, he went to the Buddha for more details on
      how to proceed. He simply asked how mindfulness of
      breathing was to be developed. The Buddha did not
      tell Ven. Rahula to go back to the original instructions
      he had been given. Instead, he gave a
      discourse in which he showed him how to use
      meditation on the elements, the four divine abidings,
      contemplation of impurity,[7] and the perception
      of impermanence as preparation for mindfulness of
      breathing. He said that contemplation of the elements[8]
      will lead to the same realization that
      he had told Ven. Rahula to work for that morning:
      "This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self."
      In this way, he would be repulsed by each
      of the elements and detached from them.

      The Buddha instructs Ven. Rahula to develop
      detachment with respect to agreeable and disagreeable
      sensory impressions by considering the
      indifference of the elements to anything with
      which they come into contact whether it be clean
      or unclean, feces or urine or spittle or pus or
      blood. The earth is not troubled or worried or
      disgusted by any of these, nor is water or fire
      or wind or space. In this way, the Buddha gave a more
      detailed way to meditate on mind (sensations,
      perceptions, mental formations, consciousness) and body.

      The next meditation subjects explained by
      the Buddha will help eliminate harmful mental
      states: loving kindness will eliminate ill will,
      compassion will eliminate harming, sympathetic
      joy will eliminate aversion, equanimity will
      eliminate repugnance, contemplation of impurity
      will eliminate sensual desire, and the perception
      of impermanence will eliminate egotism. After
      explaining all these types of meditation, the
      Buddha then instructs Ven. Rahula in mindfulness
      of breathing in great detail, including attaining
      the absorption states (jhanas).

      Other of Buddha's Teachings on Meditation

      In the first discourse,[10] the Buddha tells the
      bhikkhus that it is important, when meditating, to keep
      concentration, effort, and equanimity in proper
      balance. If only concentration is developed, there
      will be a tendency to idleness. If there
      is too much effort, there will be a tendency to
      agitation. If equanimity is over emphasized, right
      concentration may not be attained. The Buddha
      compares this balancing with the way a goldsmith
      will heat crude gold and blow on it from time to
      time, sprinkle water on it from time to time, and
      examine it from time to time. If he overdoes any
      one of these, he will not properly prepare his gold.

      The second discourse of the Buddha deals with
      attaining supreme coolness (i.e., Nibbana).
      He says the meditator should be intent on
      six things: on restraining the mind when necessary,
      on exerting the mind when necessary, on gladdening
      the mind when necessary, on observing the
      ind with indifference when necessary, on the
      supreme [goal], and on delighting in Nibbana.

      The third discourse by the Buddha deals with knowing
      the right time to develop the Factors of Awakening.
      When the mind is sluggish, the factors of tranquility,
      concentration, and equanimity should not be
      developed. When the mind is sluggish, the factors
      of investigating mental states, energy, and rapture
      should be developed. When the mind is elated,
      the opposite is true. The factor of mindfulness
      can be developed at all times, however.

      The Buddha's discourse to Ven. Rahula discussed above
      does not go into detail about the senses. In "The Shorter
      Exhortation," given to his son when Ven. Rahula
      was twenty-one, the Buddha instructs him in
      contemplation of the various aspects of the six
      senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and
      mental activity. This meditation subject was
      given because the Buddha realized that Ven. Rahula
      was mature in his understanding and ready for the
      highest attainment, Arahatship.

      The Buddha gives three things to be realized
      concerning every aspect of the senses: each aspect
      is impermanent (anicca), misery (dukkha), and
      must be considered as, "This is not mine, I am
      not this, this is not my self" (in other words,
      anatta, no-self). The various aspects to be
      considered include the sense organ (the eye, ear,
      nose, tongue, body, mind), the object perceived
      by the sense organs (material forms, sounds,
      smells, tastes, tangible objects, mental objects),
      the types of consciousness arising from the coming
      together of the sense organ with an
      object, the associated mental consciousness,
      and the four mental aggregates that are the result
      of this, namely sensations, perceptions,
      mental formations, and consciousness. When
      all this is understood correctly, it will lead
      to turning away, to being dispassionate, and to
      freedom. Realizing that freedom has been attained
      will come at the highest stage of development, when
      the meditator knows, "Birth is destroyed; the
      holy life has been fulfilled; what should be done
      has been done; there is no future life after this."

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