Rahula, the Buddha's Son | The traditional story of the Buddha sees him leaving his wife and baby son in the middle of the night, starting out on the great adventure which was to last six years and culminate in his enlightenment. Later, Rahula appears in the scriptures as one of the Buddha's disciples. So what advice did this very unique father give to his only son?
Reflection | This is captured in two particular suttas from the Pali Canon. First the Buddha instructs Rahula to avoid telling a lie, even in jest. He uses the analogy of a mirror to emphasize that every thought, word and deed should be preceded by reflection. Such reflection should seek to establish whether the intended action works for the benefit of others and/or oneself or for the affliction of others and/or oneself.
Rahula then asks him how mindfulness of breathing should be practiced for it to be successful. The Buddha advises that such meditation should have the qualities of the four elements, earth, air, water and fire. None of these react when agreeable or disagreeable things come into contact with them.
Be Like the Earth | For example, he says, 'Try to be like the earth, Rahula; for by so doing, when agreeable, or disagreeable contacts arise, they will not invade your heart and stay there, just when people drop clean things or filthy things or excrement or urine or spittle or pus or blood on the earth, for that the earth is not ashamed, humiliated or disgusted'.
The Buddha also offers some antidotes to negative states of mind: 'Practice loving-kindness to get rid of ill-will. Practice compassion to get rid of cruelty. Practice sympathy to get rid of apathy'. And finally, the Buddha discourses on how to develop breathing meditation, a key Buddhist practice.
Of course, the teaching the Buddha gave to his son was the teaching he would have given to any one of his disciples. Its signficance goes beyond a father and son relationship and resonates for all modern day people too. Read the instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone by Buddha.