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Ekottarika Āgama 17.1 (To Rāhula)

In EA 17.1 (English translation on SC), there is a sūtra on ānāpānasmṛti framed as a discourse given to Rāhula. In this sūtra, before going on an alms round, the Buddha tells Rāhula that he should observe the impermanence of the Five Skandhas. Then Rāhula believes that he is being admonished, so he stays behind to meditate observing the impermanence of the Five Skandhas. Then the Buddha returns and tells Rāhula that he should cultivate ānāpānasmṛti. Then the Buddha tells Rāhula that he is still cultivating with impurity and his desires have not ended. He then teaches Rāhula the Four Brahmavihāras, and goes away again. Then Rāhula starts wondering how he can cultivate ānāpānasmṛti, and goes to ask the Buddha. Then the Buddha tells him.

Any ideas about…

  1. Why the Buddha tells Rāhula that he should observe the impermanence of the Five Skandhas, when they are about to go into the city?
  2. Why Rāhula believes that he is being admonished just because the Buddha tells him that he should practice some type of contemplation?
  3. Why the Buddha would return and tell Rāhula that he should cultivate ānāpānasmṛti, but then not teach him that?
  4. Why the Buddha teaches the Four Brahmavihāras, even though Rāhula does not practice them?

I guess the intro of this sūtra makes some kind of sense, and it could be interpreted in a variety of different ways, but I get the feeling that maybe there are some cultural elements I am missing here, or maybe a literary device of some kind that would resolve at least some of these points in a more satisfactory way. Any ideas?

Hmm, it’s interesting that in the Pali version MN 62 it is Sāriputta that gives the subsequent instructions.

The Pali commentary fills in some of the gaps. Here is the relevant footnote from Ven. Bodhi’s translation:

While Rāhula was following the Buddha, he noted with admiration the physical perfection of the Master and reflected that he himself was of similar appearance, thinking: “I too am handsome like my father the Blessed One. The Buddha’s form is beautiful and so too is mine.” The Buddha read Rāhula’s thought and decided to admonish him at once, before such vain thoughts led him into greater difficulties. Hence the Buddha framed his advice in terms of contemplating the body as neither a self nor the possession of a self.

In the MN62 the Buddha first tells Rāhula to contemplate the body (rūpa), and only when asked by Rāhula does he add the other four khandhas.

When Rāhula has been been admonsied, he sits down at the foot of a tree to meditate. Ven. Sāriputta comes along, sees Rāhula and thinks he is meditating, and he encourages him to develop mindfulness of breathing. The commentary adds:

Ven. Sāriputta, Rāhula’s teacher, gave Rāhula this advice unaware that he had already been given different meditation instructions by the Buddha. He was misled by Rāhula’s cross-legged posture into thinking that he was practising mindfulness of breathing.

Later Ven. Rāhula approaches the Buddha and asks him how to develop mindfulness of breathing. The Buddha then teaches him meditation on the elements, the divine abidings, asubha meditation, and meditation on impermaence, before explaining mindfulness of breathing. The commentary explains this as follows:

The Buddha here explains the meditation on the four great elements rather than mindfulness of breathing in order to dispel Rāhula’s attachment to the body, which had not yet been removed by the brief instruction on the egolessness of material form.

Whether the commentary’s explanations have anything to do with what actually happened is hard to say. It could just be an ex post facto justification.

Ven. Analayo has studied this sutta here, see p.97.

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Thanks for this. I wasn’t aware before how similar MN 62 and EA 17.1 were in their intro sections. They are kind of parallels, and the common elements lead me to believe that these other practices were inserted sort of artificially. Here are some of my notes on the sequence as I see it so far.

MN 62

  1. The Buddha tells Rāhula that form is “not-self,” and the other skandhas too.
  2. Rāhula stays behind from getting alms to contemplate as the Buddha has said.
  3. Śāriputra tells Rāhula he should practice ānāpāna.
  4. Rāhula goes to ask the Buddha how to practice ānāpāna.
  5. Inserted: contemplation of the Five Elements.
  6. Inserted: practice of the Brahmavihāras.
  7. Inserted: contemplation of impurity.
  8. Inserted: contemplation of impermanence.
  9. The Buddha teaches Rāhula how to practice ānāpāna.

EA 17.1

  1. The Buddha tells Rāhula that form is “impermanent,” and the other skandhas too.
  2. Rāhula stays behind from getting alms to contemplate as the Buddha has said.
  3. The Buddha tells Rāhula he should practice ānāpāna.
  4. Inserted: practice of the Brahmavihāras.
  5. Rāhula goes to ask the Buddha how to practice ānāpāna.
  6. The Buddha teaches Rāhula how to practice ānāpāna.

Comparing the two texts, it seems that practices have been inserted into both texts, but at two different points. In MN 62, Rāhula asks the Buddha how to practice ānāpāna, and then a bunch of other practices are inserted. In EA 17.1, the Buddha also tells Rāhula that he should practice ānāpāna, but then teaches him Brahmavihāras instead. After that, Rāhula goes to the Buddha and asks how to practice ānāpāna, and the Buddha tells him.

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Don’t you mean “Sāriputta tells Rāhula he should practise ānāpāna…”?

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That’s right, thanks for that correction. I’ve updated the sequence.

I am interested in reading sanskrit version (in devanagari script) of Ekottarikāgama 12.1.
I found ekottaragama at the following place: http://www.sanskritworld.in/index/detailview/book_id/ekottaragama
but, The english translation (https://suttacentral.net/en/ea17.1) does not correspond to the sanskrit text. The Sanskrit text is not starting from Thus I have heard.
Can any one point me to the correct and full text?
I read the pali version and I want to read sanskrit version as I am more familiar with Sanskrit words.

Hello, I think this is the source text they are using:

http://gretil.sub.uni-goettingen.de/gretil/1_sanskr/4_rellit/buddh/ekottaru.htm

But it looks to be just fragments. As far as I know, there is no full version of the EA in Sanskrit. Most EBT’s did not survive in Sanskrit. Many of the texts that did survive are those that were popular in India during the later period.

For example, there is very little material in Sanskrit from the Saṃyukta Āgama, but we can still find manuscripts of very large Mahāyāna texts such as the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras. This is because the latter maintained their popularity into the late period.

Many early Buddhist texts only survived in Pali or Chinese. This is likely because there was large institutional support for copying and preserving Buddhist texts.

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