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Rāhula (Pāli and Sanskrit) was the only son of Siddhārtha Gautama (commonly known as the Buddha) (c. 563 or 480 – 483 or 400 BCE), and his wife and princess Yaśodharā. He is mentioned in numerous Buddhist texts, from the early period onward. Accounts about Rāhula indicate a mutual impact between Prince Siddhārtha's life and the lives of his family members. According to the Pāli tradition, Rāhula is born on the day of Prince Siddhārta's renunciation, and is therefore named Rāhula, meaning a fetter on the path to enlightenment. According to the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, and numerous other later sources, however, Rāhula is only conceived on the day of Prince Siddhartha's renunciation, and is born six years later, when Prince Siddhārtha becomes enlightened as the Buddha. This long gestation period is explained by bad karma from previous lives of both Yaśodharā and of Rāhula himself, although more naturalistic reasons are also given. As a result of the late birth, Yaśodharā needs to prove that Rāhula is really Prince Siddhārtha's son, which she eventually does successfully by an act of truth. Historian Wolfgang Schumann [de] has argued that Prince Siddhārtha conceived Rāhula and waited for his birth, to be able to leave the palace with the king and queen's permission, but Orientalist Noël Péri [fr] considered it more likely that Rāhula was born after Prince Siddhārtha left his palace.

The Elder

Prince Rahula and Buddha.jpg
Rāhula asking the inheritance from the Buddha
TitlePatriarch of the Dharma (East Asian Buddhism)
Other names1. Pali: Rāhula-bhadda, lit. 'Rāhula the Lucky', Sanskrit: Rāhula-bhadra;
2. Chinese: 長子; Japanese pronunciation: chōshi; "The Eldest Child"
Sources differ
ParentsPrince Siddhārtha (father), Princess Yaśodharā (mother)
Known for1. Pali: sikkhākāmanaṃ, lit. 'Eagerness for learning';
2. pinyin: mixing diyi; literally: 'Practicing with discretion'
Other names1. Pali: Rāhula-bhadda, lit. 'Rāhula the Lucky', Sanskrit: Rāhula-bhadra;
2. Chinese: 長子; Japanese pronunciation: chōshi; "The Eldest Child"
Senior posting
TeacherGautama Buddha, the Elder Śariputra
Initiation7–15 years in the Buddha's ministry
Park of Nigrodha
by Śāriputra

Between seven and fifteen years after Rāhula is born, the Buddha returns to his hometown, where Yaśodharā has Rāhula ask the Buddha for the throne of the Śākya clan. The Buddha responds by having Rāhula ordain as the first Buddhist novice monk. He teaches the young novice about truth, self-reflection, and not-self, eventually leading to Rāhula's enlightenment. Although early accounts state that Rāhula dies before the Buddha does, later tradition has it that Rāhula is one of the disciples that outlives the Buddha, guarding the Buddha's Dispensation until the rising of the next Buddha. Rāhula is known in Buddhist texts for his eagerness for learning, and was honored by novice monks and nuns throughout Buddhist history. His accounts have led to a perspective in Buddhism of seeing children as hindrances to the spiritual life on the one hand, and as people with potential for enlightenment on the other hand.


Some early texts such as those of the Pāli tradition do not mention Rāhula at all;[1][2] but he is mentioned in later Pāli texts such as the Apadāna and the commentaries, as well as in the texts on monastic discipline of the Mūlasarvāstivāda and Mahāsaṇghika traditions.[3] Earliest texts do not describe Rāhula in much detail, and he remains an ideal figure without much depth in character.[4] Because of the lack of detail, especially after Rāhula's ordination, some scholars have argued Rāhula did not have an important role in Buddhism.[5] Apart from the early texts, there are many post-canonical Buddhist texts that contain accounts about Rāhula.[1] The accounts about Rāhula reveal that when Prince Siddhārtha leaves his palace to become a monk, his decision and subsequent spiritual quest is not just a personal matter, but also affects his family every step during the way, as they respond to and affect the prince on his path to enlightenment. Thus, the prince's life before enlightenment is about two parallel spiritual lives, that of the Buddha and that of his family.[6]


Pāli traditionEdit

Just before the prince leaves the palace for the spiritual life, he takes one look at his wife Yaśodharā and his just-born child.

Rāhula is born on same day Prince Siddhārtha Gautama renounces the throne by leaving the palace,[7] when the prince is 29 years old,[8][9][note 1] on the full moon day of the eight lunar month of the ancient Indian calendar.[13] That day, Prince Siddhārtha is preparing himself to leave the palace. The Pāli account claims that when he receives the news of his son's birth he replies "rāhulajāto bandhanaṃ jātaṃ", meaning 'A rāhu is born, a fetter has arisen',[14][13] that is, an impediment to the search for enlightenment. Accordingly, Śuddhodana, Prince Siddhārtha's father and king of the Śākya clan, names the child Rāhula,[13] because he does not want his son to pursue a spiritual life as a mendicant.[9] In some versions, Prince Siddhārtha is the one naming his son this way, for being a hindrance on his spiritual path.[5] Just before the prince leaves the palace for the spiritual life, he takes one look at his wife Yaśodharā and his just-born child. Fearing his resolve might waver, Prince Siddhārtha resists to hold his son and leaves the palace as he has planned.[7] Rāhula therefore becomes Prince Siddhārtha's first, but also last and only son.[15][14]

Other traditionsEdit

Other texts derive rāhu differently. For example, the Pāli Apadāna, as well as another account found in the texts of monastic discipline of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, derive rāhu from the eclipse of the moon, which traditionally was seen to be caused by the asura (demon) Rāhu.[16][17] The Apadāna states that just like the moon is obstructed from view by Rāhu, Prince Siddhārtha is obstructed by Rāhula's birth.[17][18] The Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition relates, however, that Rāhula is conceived on the evening of the renunciation of Prince Siddhārtha, and born six years later, on the day that his father achieves enlightenment,[7] which was during a lunar eclipse.[19][18] Further credence is given to the astrological theory of Rāhula's name by the observation that sons of previous Buddhas are given similar names, related to constellations.[5]

Mūlasarvāstivāda and later Chinese texts such as the Abhiniṣkramaṇa Sūtra give two types of explanation for the long gestation period.[20][21] The first type involves the karma of Princess Yaśodharā and Rāhula himself. According to this interpretation, Yaśodharā has to bear the suffering of carrying a child in her womb for six years, because in a previous life as a cow herder she had refused to help her mother to carry a pail of milk and left it for her mother to carry the extra pail for six leagues.[20][22] As for Rāhula, his karma was that in a previous life as a king he unintentionally had a sage wait for six days.[23][24] In this life, he was a king and his brother, a previous life of the Buddha,[5] was a hermit who had taken a vow he would only live from what was given by people. One day, the brother broke his vow to take some water, and feeling guilty, asked the king to punish him.[note 2] The king refused to issue a punishment for such a trivial matter, but had his brother wait for his final decision and constrained in the royal gardens. After six days, the king suddenly realized he had forgotten about the hermit and immediately set him free, including apologies and gifts. As a result, Rāhula had to wait for six years before being born.[21][26] In some versions, the king did not allow a sage to enter his kingdom and accumulated the same bad karma of a long gestation period.[27] The later Mahāyāna commentary Mahāprajñāpāramitāupadeśa (Chinese: 大智度論; pinyin: Dazhidulun) does not blame Yaśodharā's karma for the six years gestation period, but does mention Rāhula's same karma as a king. However, in the 13th-century Japanese devotional text Raun Kōshiki, Rāhula's late birth is seen as evidence of a miracle, rather than a result of karma.[28][note 3]

The second type of explanation consists of the more naturalistic argument that Yaśodharā is practicing religious austerities involving fasting and sleeping on a straw bed, which causes Rāhula's growth to slow down. She is involved in these practices during the time when Siddhārtha is practicing self-mortification. Later, King Śuddhodana prevents Yaśodharā from hearing any news of her former husband, and she gradually becomes healthier, as the pregnancy continues normally. However, some time later, the false rumor spreads that the former prince has died of his ascetism. Yaśodharā becomes very desperate and depressed, endangering her own pregnancy. When the news reaches the palace that Siddhārtha has attained enlightenment, Yaśodharā is overjoyed and gives birth to Rāhula. Buddhist Studies scholar John S. Strong notes that this account draws a parallel between the quest for enlightenment and Yaśodharā's path to being a mother, and eventually, they both are accomplished at the same time.[23][29]

The Buddha returning home following his enlightenment, being greeted by Rāhula. The Buddha is represented by his footprints and throne. Amarāvatī, 3rd century. National Museum, New Delhi.

The late childbirth leads to doubts in the Śākya clan as to who is the father, as told in the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, in the Mahāprajñāpāramitāupadeśa and in the later Chinese Zabaozang jing (Chinese: 雜寶藏經).[1] Since Rāhula's birth was not regarded by Buddhists to be a virginal or miraculous birth, tradition had to explain that Prince Siddhārtha was actually the father.[19] Yaśodharā responds by putting her child on a stone in a pond of water and making an act of truth that if Rāhula is really his child, that Rāhula and the stone may not sink, but rather float back-and-forth. After she makes the declaration, the child floats according to her vow.[30][31] Strong notes that this is a symbolic parallel with the attainment of enlightenment by the Buddha, described as the "further shore", and coming back to teach humankind.[23][31] The Mahāprajñāpāramitāupadeśa contains another account, in which Prince Siddhārtha has several wives, and a wife other than Yaśodharā is the one defending her, being witness of her innocence.[32]

Furthermore, in both the Mūlasarvāstivāda texts and the Mahāprajñāpāramitāupadeśa, there is a third account that proves Yaśodharā's innocence: the Buddha makes everyone around him look identical to him, through a supernatural accomplishment. Rāhula proves that the Buddha is his true father when he manages to approach the real Buddha straight away.[31][33][note 4] In a fourth story about proving Yaśodhara's purity, appearing in Chinese Avadāna-style texts from the 5th century CE onward, she is burnt alive, but miraculously survives. In this account, King Śuddhodana orders that she be killed by burning her alive as punishment for her alleged impurity. Instead of being hurt by the flames, however, she performs an act of truth and the fire transforms into a pond of water. Śuddhodana welcomes her and her son back into the clan, and later becomes very fond of Rāhula.[34] Some Chinese Jātakas say that he recognizes his son Siddhārtha in the child, and manages to better cope with the loss of Prince Siddhārtha.[35] Religion scholar Reiko Ohnuma sees the fire ordeal as a metaphor that parallels the Buddha's enlightenment, a similar argument that Strong makes.[30]

Scholarly analysisEdit

Historian Wolfgang Schumann [de] hypothesized that Prince Siddhārtha conceived Rāhula to please his parents, to obtain their permission for leaving the palace and becoming a mendicant. He further speculated that the prince only conceived a son thirteen years after his marriage, because Yaśodharā initially did not want to bear a child, for fear that the prince would leave the palace and the throne as soon as the child was conceived.[36] Orientalist Noël Péri  [fr] believed that a late gestation period was more historically probable than the birth on the same day, as in the Pāli tradition. She believed that if Prince Siddhārtha had left an heir to the throne, there would have been no sound reason for him to leave secretly at night. She further argued that there are many sources that try to explain the long gestation period, indicating an established tradition.[37]

From a mythological point of view, Buddhist Studies scholar Kate Crosby argues that Prince Siddhārtha conceiving or giving birth to a son before his renunciation functions as a motif to prove that he is the best at each possible path in life: after having tried the life of a father to the fullest, he decides to leave it behind for a better alternative. In early Buddhist India, being a father and bearing a son was seen as a spiritual and religious path as well as that of renouncing one's family, and Prince Siddhārtha's bringing a son in the world before renunciation proves he is capable of both.[38]


Ordination of Rāhula, Indian Museum, Kolkata

The accounts continue and describe that Rāhula is raised by his mother Yaśodharā and grandfather King Śuddhodana.[7] When Rāhula is seven,[13] nine[39][40] or fifteen[41] years old, the Buddha returns to his home city of Kapilavastu at the request of Śuddhodana.[13] The Mahāvastu text from the Lokottaravāda tradition states that the royals try to prevent Rāhula from learning about the return of his father, but eventually he insists to know who the "Great Ascetic" about to arrive is, and he is told—indologist Bhikkhu Telwatte Rahula [sic] argues that the child was conscious of being without father.[42] Next, the Mahāvastu and the Mūlasarvāstivāda texts relate that Yaśodharā tries to tempt the Buddha back into his life as a prince by having Rāhula offer the Buddha an aphrodisiac.[43][44] Mūlasarvāstivāda texts continue and tell that her plan backfires when the Buddha has Rāhula eat it himself, and Rāhula therefore becomes enamored by his father and wishes to follow him.[45][43] In the Pāli version of the story, on the seventh day of the Buddha's return, Yaśodharā takes Rāhula to see his father, the Buddha. She tells Rāhula that since his father has renounced the palace life and as he is the next royal prince in line, he should ask his father for his inheritance of crown and treasure, for his future sake when his grandfather will no longer rule the kingdom.[7][44] After the Buddha has had a meal, Rāhula follows the Buddha, asking him for his inheritance.[17] The Buddha does not try to prevent Rāhula from following him,[46] but in some versions of the story, some women from the court do try to, yet Rāhula persists.[47] He then looks at his father and says, "Pleasant is your shadow, recluse".[48] Reaching the Park of Nigrodha, where the Buddha is staying,[48] the Buddha considers that the heritage of the throne will one day perish, and is tied up with suffering and stress: "I will give him the wealth I obtained under the tree of enlightenment thus making him the heir of an inheritance that does not perish."[46]

"The Prince Rāhula

When he was nine years old
Went forth from the home life
To cultivate the Eightfold Path.

Let us take refuge in and pay highest homage to Venerable Rāhula, who was born and went forth in order to benefit sentient beings."

cited in Sekiguchi (1998, p. 16), translated by Meeks (2016, p. 144), Raun Kōshiki

Most traditions relate that the Buddha then calls Śāriputra and asks him to ordain Rāhula. Rāhula ordains and is the first śrāmaṇera (novice monk),[7] and probably the first person in the monastic order to ordain in a formal way.[49] In some versions of the story, such as the 9th century Chinese Weicengyou Yinyuan Jing (Chinese: 未曾有因緣經), a group of young boys ordain together with him.[50][51] The king discovers that now his grandson, his son Nanda and a number of other young men in the royal family have ordained and left the palace. Seeing his daughter grieve, he asks the Buddha that from now on, he only ordain people with the consent of their parents.[7][52] Śuddhodana explains that Rāhula's ordination was a great shock to him. The Buddha assents to the proposal.[48] This rule is later expanded in the case of women ordaining, as both parents and the husband have to give permission first to allow women to join the order of monks and nuns.[53] In some versions of the story of Rāhula's ordination, Yaśodharā also protests, but relents in the end.[54] The Mahāvastu states, however, that Rāhula asks to ordain himself, and is eventually granted permission by Yaśodharā and Śuddhodana.[44]

Archaeologist Maurizio Taddei has noted that in many Gandharan art depictions, Rāhula's life is linked to that of a previous life of the Buddha, the hermit Sumedha. The Buddha giving his spiritual heritage to his son is compared to that of Sumedha allowing the Buddha Dīpaṃkara to walk over him, which is followed by Dipaṃkara predicting that Sumedha will become a Buddha in a future life. Both the figure of Gautama Buddha giving his inheritance to his son, and the figure of Dīpaṃkara Buddha giving his inheritance of Buddhahood to Sumedha are depicted with flames emitting from their bodies; both scenes are depictions of inheritance, filial and disciple piety; both may have been considered by 5th-century Buddhists to be representations of "eager youth".[55]

Enlightenment and deathEdit

Statue of Rāhula as monk at Ping Sien Si, Pasir Panjang, Perak, Malaysia

According to the Pāli texts, once Rāhula has become novice, the Buddha teaches Rāhula regularly.[17] His instructions are very age-specific, using vivid metaphors and simple explanations.[56] The Buddha's teachings have led to numerous discourses being named after Rāhula in the Early Buddhist Texts.[17] Pāli texts relate how Rāhula grows up to become a novice that is diligent, dutiful, amenable and eager for learning,[17][57] but there are also some early medieval Chinese and Japanese accounts which relate that Rāhula initially struggles with being a novice and only later appreciates the Buddha's teaching.[50] Besides the Buddha, Śāriputra and Maugalyayāna also help to teach Rāhula.[58][57] Rāhula often assists Śāriputra on his rounds for alms in the morning, and sometimes on other travels.[59] Every morning, Rāhula wakes up and throws a handful of sand in the air, making the wish that he may be counselled by good teachers as much as those grains of sand.[17][48]

Still in the same year as Rāhula's ordination, the Buddha teaches his son the importance of telling the truth in a discourse known as the Ambalatthika-Rāhulovāda Sutta.[17][13] In this discourse, the Buddha teaches and encourages consistent self-reflection, to help let go of all evil actions that lead to harm to oneself and others, and to develop self-control and a moral life.[48][60] He encourages reflection before, during and after one's actions,[60] and explains that lying makes the spiritual life void and empty,[48] leading to many other evils.[61]

When Rāhula becomes eighteen years old, the Buddha instructs Rāhula in a meditation technique to counter the desires that hinder him during his tours for alms. Rāhula has grown enamored with his own and his father's handsome appearance. To help Rāhula, the Buddha teaches another discourse to him. He tells Rāhula that all matter is not-self, and the same holds for the different parts of one's mental experience.[62] Having heard the discourse, Rāhula starts to practice meditation. His teacher Śāriputra recommends him to practice breathing meditation,[63] but is unable to give Rāhula the instructions he needs.[41] Rāhula therefore asks the Buddha to explain the meditation method in more detail and the Buddha responds by describing several meditation techniques to him.[63][64] On a similar note, the Buddha teaches Rāhula at a place called Andhavana about the impermanence of all things, and instructs him how to overcome the "taints" inside the mind. As a result, Rāhula attains enlightenment.[65][66] Pāli tradition has it that the sermon is also attended by a crore of heavenly beings, who once had vowed to witness the enlightenment of the son of the Buddha. Rāhula obtains the name "Rāhula the Lucky" (Pali: Rāhula-bhadda; Sanskrit: Rāhula-bhadra), which he himself explains is because of being the son of the Buddha, and because of having attained enlightenment.[67]

Statue of Rāhula, Bihar, India.

Later, the Buddha declares that Rāhula is foremost among all disciples in eagerness in learning (Pali: sikkhākamānaṃ).[14][17] and in the Pāli Udāna, the Buddha includes him as one of eleven particularly praiseworthy disciples.[68] Chinese sources add that he is also known for his patience, and that he is foremost in 'practicing with discretion' (pinyin: mixing diyi), meaning practicing the Buddha's teaching consistently, dedication to the precepts and study, but without seeking praise or being proud because of being the son of the Buddha.[69] Pāli texts give examples of Rāhula's strictness in monastic discipline. E.g. after there was a rule established that no novice could sleep in the same room as a fully ordained monk, Rāhula is said to have slept in an outdoor toilet.[17][48] When the Buddha becomes aware of this, he admonishes the monks for not taking proper care of the novices. After that, the Buddha adjusts the rule.[70]

Pāli texts state that despite Rāhula being his son, the Buddha did not particularly favor him: he is said to have loved problematic disciples such as Aṅgulimāla and Devadatta as much as his own son, without any bias.[17]

Later in Rāhula's life his mother Yaśodharā becomes ordained as a nun. In one story, the nun Yaśodharā falls ill with flatulence. Rāhula helps her recover by asking his teacher Śāriputra to find sweetened mango juice for her, which is the medicine she is used to and requires. Therefore, with Rāhula's help, she eventually recovers.[71]

When he is 20 years old, Rāhula fully ordains as a monk in Sāvatthī.[72]

Rāhula's death receives little attention in the earliest sources.[73] Rāhula dies before the Buddha and his teacher Śariputra do. According to Pāli[17] and Chinese[7] sources, this happens as he is travelling through the second Buddhist heaven (Sanskrit: Trāyastriṃśa). According to the early Ekottara Āgama (Sārvastivāda or Mahāsaṅghika tradition) and the later Śāriputrapṛcchā, however, Rāhula is one the four enlightened disciples whom Gautama Buddha asks to prolong their lives to stay in the world until the next Buddha Maitreya has risen, to protect his dispensation.[43]

Previous livesEdit

Following the Pāli and Sanskrit language sources, Rāhula is the son of the Buddha-to-be throughout many lifetimes.[7][17] He developed his habit of being amenable and easy to teach in previous lives.[17][48] Pāli texts explain that in a previous life he was impressed by the son of a previous Buddha, and vowed to be like him in a future life.[17]


Rāhula on a Tibetan painting, 16th century

Texts in the Mahayāna tradition describe that Rāhula is the eleventh of the 16 Elders (Sanskrit: Ṣoḍaśasthavira; Chinese tradition added two elders in the 10th century, making for 18 Elders[74]), enlightened disciples that have been entrusted with taking care of the Buddha's dispensation until the rising of Maitreya Buddha. Tradition states therefore that Rāhula is still alive, and resides with 1,100 of his pupils in an island called the 'land of chestnuts and grains' (Chinese: 畢利颺瞿洲; pinyin: Biliyangqu zhou).[75] The pilgrim Xuan Zang (c.602–664) heard a brahmin claim that he met Rāhula as an old man, who had delayed his passing into Nirvana and was therefore still alive.[76][77] On a similar note, Rāhula is considered one of the Ten Principal Disciples,[78] known for his dedication to training new monks and novices.[79] Moreover, he is considered to be one of the 23–28 masters in the lineage of the Tiantai tradition, one of the 28 in the Chan lineage,[80] and one of the eight enlightened disciples in the Burmese tradition.[77]

As one of the enlightened disciples responsible for protecting the Buddha's dispensation, Rāhula has often been depicted in East Asian art. He is depicted with a large, "umbrella-shaped" head, prominent eyes and a hooked nose.[81]

The Chinese monks Xuan Zang and Faxian (c.320–420 CE) noted during their pilgrimages in India that a cult existed that worshiped Rāhula, especially in the Madhura area. Whereas monks would worship certain early male disciples following their particular specialization, and nuns would honor Ānanda in gratitude for helping to set up the nun's order, novices would worship Rāhula.[82] The two Chinese pilgrims noted that Emperor Aśoka built a monument in honor of Rāhula, especially meant for novices to pay their respects.[17] Religious studies scholar Lori Meeks points out with regard to Japan, however, that Rāhula was not the individual object of any devotional cult, but was rather honored as part of a group of enlightened disciples, such as the 16 Elders. Exception to this was the 13th–14th century, when the figure of Rāhula became an important part of a revival of devotion to early Buddhist disciples among the old Nara schools, as chanted lectures (kōshiki) rites, and images were used in dedication to Rāhula. On regular days of religious observance, male and female novices performed rites and gave lectures in honor of Rāhula. These were popular with the laypeople, as well as with priests that aimed to revive early Buddhist monastic discipline.[83] In the kōshiki Rāhula was praised extensively, and was described as the "Eldest Child", eldest being a devotional term, since Prince Siddhārtha had no other children.[84]

The Lotus Sūtra, as well as later East Asian texts such as the Raun Kōshiki, relate that Gautama Buddha predicts Rāhula will become a Buddha in a future life,[7] named "Stepping on Seven Treasure Flowers" (Sanskrit: Saptaratnapadmavikrama). In these texts, Rāhula was seen as a Mahāyāna type of Buddha-to-be, who would save many sentient beings and live in a Pure Land.[85]

The exhortations the Buddha gives to Rāhula have also become part of his legacy. The Ambalatthika-Rāhulovāda Sutta became one of the seven Buddhist texts recommended for study in the inscriptions of the Emperor Aśoka.[61][86] This discourse has been raised by modern ethicists as evidence for consequentalist ethics in Buddhism, though this is disputed.[60]

Rāhula is mentioned as one of the founders of a system of Buddhist philosophy called the Vaibhāṣika, which was part of the Sarvāstivāda schools.[87][88] He is also considered by some Thai schools of Buddhist boran meditation to be the patron of their tradition, which is explained by referring to Rāhula's gradual development in meditation as opposed to the instant enlightenment of other disciples.[89]

Childhood in BuddhismEdit

The acceptance of Rāhula in the monastic order as a child set a precedent, which later developed into a widespread Buddhist tradition of educating children in monasteries.

From the narratives surrounding Rāhula several conclusions have been drawn with regard to Buddhist perspectives on childhood. Several scholars have raised Rāhula's example to indicate that children in Buddhism are seen as an obstacle to spiritual enlightenment,[90] or that Buddhism, being a monastic religion, is not interested in children.[91] Education scholar Yoshiharu Nakagawa argues, however, that Rāhula's story points at two ideals of childhood which exist parallel in Buddhism: that of the common child, subject to the human condition, and that of the child with a potential for enlightenment, who Crosby describes as a heroic disciple.[92][93] Religion scholar Vanessa Sasson notes that although Prince Siddhārtha initially abandons his son, he comes back for him and offers a spiritual heritage to him as opposed to a material one. This heritage is given from a viewpoint of trust in the potential of the child Rāhula, presuming that the Buddhist path can also be accessed by children.[94]

The acceptance of Rāhula in the monastic order as a child set a precedent, which later developed into a widespread Buddhist tradition of educating children in monasteries.[95] The numerous teachings given to Rāhula have left behind teaching material which could be used for teaching children of different ages, and were sophisticated for the time period. Theravāda tradition further built on this genre, with Pāli manuals of religious teaching for novices.[96]


  1. ^ According to some traditional sources, the prince is sixteen then.[10] Furthermore, some sources say that Rāhula is born seven days before Prince Siddhārtha leaves the palace.[11][12]
  2. ^ In the texts of the Mūlasarvāstivāda tradition, the brother is another hermit, not the king, but he sends his brother to see the king for punishment.[25]
  3. ^ In the Pāli texts, no long gestation period of Rāhula is mentioned, but a similar motif occurs in the story of Suppāvāsā, with a similar karma in a past life.[5]
  4. ^ Yaśodharā had Rāhula present a gift to his real father, and he manages to find him straight away. In one version of the story the gift is a ring signet,[33] in another version it is an aphrodisiac.[31](See § Ordination, below.)


  1. ^ a b c Meeks 2016, p. 139.
  2. ^ Strong 1997, p. 113.
  3. ^ For the Apadāna, see Crosby (2013, p. 105). The other information is mentioned in Meeks (2016, p. 139).
  4. ^ Crosby 2013, p. 109.
  5. ^ a b c d e Rahula 1978, p. 136.
  6. ^ Strong 1997, pp. 122–4.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Buswell & Lopez 2013, Rāhula.
  8. ^ Keown 2004, p. 233.
  9. ^ a b Irons 2007, p. 400.
  10. ^ Keown 2004, p. 267.
  11. ^ Malalasekera 1960, Rāhulamātā.
  12. ^ Sarao 2017, Biography of the Buddha and Early Buddhism.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Saddhasena 2003, p. 481.
  14. ^ a b c Powers 2013, Rāhula.
  15. ^ Violatti, Cristian (9 December 2013). "Siddhartha Gautama". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 25 August 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
  16. ^ Gnoli 1977, p. 119.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Malalasekera 1960, Rāhula.
  18. ^ a b Crosby 2013, p. 105.
  19. ^ a b Strong 1997, p. 119.
  20. ^ a b Meeks 2016, pp. 139–40.
  21. ^ a b Sasson & Law 2008, p. 69.
  22. ^ Sasson & Law 2008, pp. 69–70.
  23. ^ a b c Meeks 2016, p. 140.
  24. ^ Ohnuma 2012, p. 143.
  25. ^ Péri 1918, p. 8.
  26. ^ Strong 1997, p. 117.
  27. ^ Shirane 2013, pp. 168–9.
  28. ^ Meeks 2016, p. 141.
  29. ^ Strong 1997, pp. 118–9.
  30. ^ a b Ohnuma 2012, p. 142.
  31. ^ a b c d Strong 1997, p. 120.
  32. ^ Meeks 2016, pp. 139–41.
  33. ^ a b Edkins 2013, pp. 32–3.
  34. ^ Meeks 2016, p. 142.
  35. ^ Péri 1918, p. 22.
  36. ^ Schumann 2004, p. 46.
  37. ^ Péri 1918, pp. 34–5.
  38. ^ Crosby 2013, pp. 108–9.
  39. ^ Meeks 2016, p. 136.
  40. ^ Schumann 2004, p. 123.
  41. ^ a b Crosby 2013, p. 110.
  42. ^ Rahula 1978, pp. 133–4.
  43. ^ a b c Strong 1997, p. 121.
  44. ^ a b c Rahula 1978, p. 134.
  45. ^ Ohnuma 2012, p. 145.
  46. ^ a b Penner 2009, p. 68.
  47. ^ Péri 1918, p. 5.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h Saddhasena 2003, p. 482.
  49. ^ Rahula 1978, p. 83.
  50. ^ a b Meeks 2016, p. 143.
  51. ^ Edkins 2013, pp. 34–5.
  52. ^ Keown 2004, p. 281.
  53. ^ Schumann 2004, p. 163.
  54. ^ Edkins 2013, p. 34.
  55. ^ Crosby 2013, pp. 119–20.
  56. ^ Crosby 2013, pp. 113, 115.
  57. ^ a b Nakagawa 2005, p. 34.
  58. ^ The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica; Stefon, Matt. "Shariputra – Disciple of the Buddha". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 14 November 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  59. ^ Both Buswell & Lopez (2013, Rāhula) and Malalasekera (1960, Rāhula) mention the alms, but only Malalasekera (1960, Rāhula) mentions the other travels.
  60. ^ a b c Schlieter 2014, p. 319.
  61. ^ a b Malalasekera 1960, Ambalatthika-Rāhulovāda Sutta.
  62. ^ For the part on alms rounds, see Saddhasena (2003, p. 482). For the part about not-self, see Malalasekera (1960, Rāhula) and Crosby (2013, p. 115).
  63. ^ a b Shaw 2006, pp. 189–93.
  64. ^ Crosby 2013, p. 115.
  65. ^ Saddhasena 2003, pp. 482–3.
  66. ^ Crosby 2013, p. 116.
  67. ^ See Buswell & Lopez (2013, Rāhula) and Malalasekera (1960, Rāhula). For the Sanskrit translation, see Burnouf (2010, p. 489).
  68. ^ Sarao 2004, p. 720.
  69. ^ For the aspect of dedication to the precepts and to study, as well as avoiding being proud, see Irons (2007, p. 163); for the aspect of seeking praise, see Buswell & Lopez (2013, Rāhula).
  70. ^ Malalasekera 1960, Tipallatthamiga Jātaka (No.16).
  71. ^ See Malalasekera (1960, Rāhulamātā) and Crosby (2013, p. 112). Only Malalasekera mentions the mango juice and the recovery.
  72. ^ See Baroni (2002, p. 261) and Schumann (2004, p. 123). For the information that he was fully ordained in Sāvatthī, see Sarao (2013, p. 157).
  73. ^ Crosby 2013, p. 106.
  74. ^ Dong 2010, p. 33.
  75. ^ See Buswell & Lopez (2013, Rāhula) and Meeks (2016, pp. 137–8). For the number of 18, see Irons (2007, p. 400); Strong (1997, pp. 121–22). For the information that Biliyangqu zhou is an island, see Dong (2010, p. 59 n.11).
  76. ^ Meeks 2016, p. 146.
  77. ^ a b Strong 1997, p. 122.
  78. ^ Keown 2004, p. 298.
  79. ^ Baroni 2002, p. 262.
  80. ^ Welter (2004, pp. 462–3) says Tiantai has only 23 patriarchs, whereas Irons (2007, p. 526) states they later expanded to 28.
  81. ^ Watters 1898, p. 340.
  82. ^ Meeks 2016, pp. 135–6.
  83. ^ Meeks 2016, pp. 131–3, 147.
  84. ^ Meeks 2016, p. 137, n.2.
  85. ^ Meeks 2016, p. 144.
  86. ^ Hazzra 1995, p. 38.
  87. ^ Burnouf 2010, p. 418.
  88. ^ Crosby 2013, p. 107.
  89. ^ Crosby 2013, p. 121.
  90. ^ Thompson et al. 2012, p. 61.
  91. ^ Sasson 2014, pp. 594–5.
  92. ^ Nakagawa 2005, p. 41.
  93. ^ Crosby 2013, pp. 119, 121.
  94. ^ Sasson 2014, p. 595.
  95. ^ Nakagawa 2005, pp. 34–5.
  96. ^ Crosby 2013, pp. 117–8.


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Buddhist titles
Preceded by
Chan and Zen lineages
(According to the Zen schools of China and Japan)
Succeeded by