Commentary on the Mahaaraahulovaadasutta
Translated by Nina van Gorkom
For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma.
Introduction to the Commentary on the Mahaaraahulovaadasutta
The Great Commentator Buddhaghosa, who lived in the first half of the fifth
century A.D., translated from Singhalese into Pali the ancient Commentaries he
found in the Mahaavihaara in Anuraadhapura. These original Commentaries which no
longer exist stem from the oldest doctrinal tradition; Buddhaghosa referred to
them as the "poraa.nas, the teachers of old".
The Mahaaraahulovaadasutta is part of the Majjhima Nikaaya, and the
commentary to the Majjhima Nikaaya is called the Papa˝casuudanii. The
Commentary to each of the suttas is called va.n.nanaa, an explanation. Thus, in
the case of this sutta, we have the Mahaaraahulovaadasutta va.n.nanaa.
The Commentary brings the sutta nearer to our daily life. It is encouraging
and uplifting, demonstrating the power of the Dhamma which can lead us to the
final liberation of dukkha, of the cycle of birth and death. The Commentary
tells us about Raahula's defilements and very human tribulations; he was
attached to the beauty of his body and he was hoping for a position of honour
from his father, the Lord Buddha. The Buddha knew that he was almost succumbing
to his defilements, but he did not reproach him, he did not tell him that he
should not have such thoughts. He also knew Raahula's potential for wisdom,
accumulated for aeons, and, for this reason, he taught him Dhamma, explaining
the five khandhas. When Raahula asked him whether he should know only
ruupakkhandha the Buddha said that he should know all five khandhas, that is,
all mental phenomena and physical phenomena occurring in daily life. Raahula
should not only listen to the Dhamma, but he should consider what he heard and
Saariputta, his preceptor and his noble friend in Dhamma, who did not know
that the Buddha had taught Raahula the five khandhas, taught him mindfulness of
breathing and said to him: "After you have comprehended inbreathing and
outbreathing, and with this subject attained the fourth or the fifth stage of
jhaana, and you have developed insight, you should reach arahatship."
Saariputta's exhortations show the importance of good and noble friendship
the Buddha often emphasized as one of the conditions for attaining
Raahula did not go on his round of collecting almsfood, but he would rather
consider the Dhamma he had learnt, thinking, "It is truly difficult to
receive a Blessed One's exhortation even in the course of countless aeons."
The Buddha did not bring him food because he knew that Raahula would soon
enjoy the food of the Deathless, he would realize enlightenment and experience
nibbaana, the Deathless. Raahula was mindful of the five khandhas and realized
their true characteristics: "Materiality truly is impermanent, it truly is
unsatisfactory, it truly is foul, it truly is non-self".
In the evening the Buddha taught him about the four Great Elements of Earth,
Water, Fire and Wind, and also about Space. He taught him to see the body as
elements in order to become detached. He told him to be like these elements: to
be unaffected by like and dislike. He taught him the Brahmavihaaras, beginning
with mettaa in order to explain the condition for arahatship. He taught him the
meditation on Foulness, the Perception of Impermanence and finally he taught him
Mindfulness of Breathing.
The Commentary refers to the explanations of the Visuddhimagga on this
subject. The Visuddhimagga explains that the Anapanasati sutta deals with the
four Applications of Mindfulness: Mindfulness of the Body, of Feelings, of
Cittas and of Dhammas. The four foundations of mindfulness, when developed and
much practised, perfect the seven enlightenment factors and these, when
developed and much practised, perfect clear vision and deliverance. The final
goal is arahatship which Raahula was sure to attain.
This Commentary gives us a striking account of a person who was full of
attachment, but who, by following the Master's instruction, could develop the
Path leading to the eradication of all defilements. It is encouraging to know
that there is such a Path and that it can be followed, even though it may take