Ekottara Agama 17.1—Mindfulness of Breathing

Thus have I heard.1 At one time the Buddha was stay­ing in Śrāvastī, at the Jeta Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. Then, in time, the Exalted One put on his [outer] robes and took up his alms-bowl. Entering the city of Śrāvastī, he was fol­lowed by Rāhula.

Caring for the lat­ter, he turned to the right and look­ing back, said: ‘Now, Rāhula, you must con­tem­plate form as be­ing im­per­ma­nent.’

‘Certainly, Exalted One,’ replied Rāhula, ‘form is im­per­ma­nent.’

‘O Rāhula,’ the Exalted One went on to say, ‘feel­ing, per­cep­tion, for­ma­tive forces, and consciousness—they are all ab­solutely im­per­ma­nent.’

Again Rāhula re­sponded: ‘Certainly, Exalted One; feel­ing … and consciousness—all are im­per­ma­nent.’ Now Venerable (bhadanta) Rāhula thought to him­self: ‘For what rea­son (kiṁkāraṇa) am I be­ing cared for while just reach­ing the city? And why is it that on the way the Exalted One ad­mon­ishes (avava­dati) me? Now I ought to re­turn to my place; no need to en­ter the city and beg for alms-food.’

So, mid­way on the spot, Venerable Rāhula re­turned to the Jetavanavihāra,2 and with robes and alms-bowl, he pro­ceeded to the root of a tree and sat down cross-legged (paryaṅka), straight­en­ing body and mind. Fully con­cen­trated and with one-pointedness of mind (cit­taikā­gratā), he con­tem­plated form, feel­ing, per­cep­tion, for­ma­tive forces, and con­scious­ness as be­ing im­per­ma­nent.

Meanwhile, the Exalted One had fin­ished beg­ging for alms-food at Śrāvastī and, af­ter his repast at the Jetavanavihāra, he took his walking-exercise (caṅkra­maṇa). In the course of time he came to the place where Rāhula was to be found and ad­dressed him as fol­lows:

‘You should prac­tise [mind­ful­ness of] breath­ing (ānāpā­nas­mṛti). If such is your prac­tice (dharma) all sor­row (śokasaṁjñā) you may ex­pe­ri­ence is bound to be com­pletely left be­hind. You are still in the grip of worldly ways3 and mud­dled think­ing. Covetousness (lobha) and at­tach­ment (anunaya) have to be erad­i­cated.

‘Now, Rāhula, you should cul­ti­vate friend­li­ness (maitrī) in your heart. You have al­ready cul­ti­vated it, but any dis­like (dveṣa), any aver­sion (pratigha) still in existence—an end has to be put to all that once and for all. O Rāhula, you must also cul­ti­vate a heart [full of] com­pas­sion (karuṇā). You have surely cul­ti­vated it, but even the slight­est [ten­den­cies to­wards] cru­elty (vi­hiṁsā) in your heart have to be wiped out. You must fur­ther cul­ti­vate a heart [full of] sym­pa­thetic joy (mu­ditā). [Although] you have al­ready done so, you must [per­sist in your prac­tice in or­der to] cleanse your heart to­tally of jeal­ousy (īrṣyā). O Rāhula, do cul­ti­vate equa­nim­ity (up­ekṣā).4 You have cer­tainly been do­ing so, [but con­tinue cul­ti­vat­ing it] so as to ex­tir­pate con­ceit (māna) and ar­ro­gance (mada).’

Thereupon the Exalted One ad­dressed these verses to Rāhula:

Eschew once and for all at­tach­ment to views and
Always fol­low [in­stead] the Teaching whole­heart­edly.
He who is en­dowed [due to Dharma prac­tice] with [in­sight
Knowledge will there­fore be held in es­teem every­where.

Holding [aloft] for mankind the torch of wis­dom (vidyā),
One will dis­pel the dark­ness [of delu­sion] and [thus
Be deeply re­spected by gods and nā­gas.
[This is the] proper [way of] ven­er­at­ing one’s Master.’

Thereupon the bhikṣu Rāhula, in re­ply to the Exalted One, ut­tered the fol­low­ing verses:

I will not be at­tached to views and will
Always fol­low the Teaching. {T 2, 582a}
Being en­dowed with [insight-]knowledge [due to Dharma prac­tice],
[I will] thus be able [re­ally] to ven­er­ate the Master.’

Having given this in­struc­tion, the Exalted One left and went back to his [own] quiet room, whilst Venerable Rāhula was won­der­ing how one would prac­tise [mind­ful­ness of] breath­ing, aban­don [vain] thoughts and over­come all sor­row. Then Rāhula rose from his seat and went to the Exalted One’s where­abouts. On his ar­rival, he bowed down his head at [the Exalted One’s] feet and sat down at one side. Presently (muhūrtena), he rose again and asked the Exalted One:

‘How does one prac­tise [mind­ful­ness of] breath­ing, aban­don [vain] thoughts and over­come all sor­row? How does one ob­tain as sub­lime re­sult (mahāphala) the taste of death­less­ness (amṛ­tarasa)?’

The Exalted One replied: ‘Well said, well said, (sādhu), Rāhula! You are in­deed ca­pa­ble of ask­ing this ques­tion and thereby “roar­ing the lion’s roar” (siṁhanā­danādin) in front of the Tathāgata: How does one prac­tise [mind­ful­ness of] breath­ing … the taste of death­less­ness? Now, Rāhula, lis­ten at­ten­tively and take heed (śṛṇu sādhu ca suṣṭhu ca manasi-kuru).5 The time has come for me to elu­ci­date and give you de­tails (nir-diś).’

‘Just so, Exalted One,’ replied Rāhula. While Venerable Rāhula [joined his hands as a to­ken of rev­er­ence] to re­ceive the Exalted One’s Teaching, he was given the fol­low­ing in­struc­tion:

‘A bhikṣu in­tent on a quiet, se­cluded and re­ally lonely place [goes there], sits down cross-legged and straight­ens body and mind. Concentrating on the tip of his nose with­out let­ting men­tal pro­lif­er­a­tion (nānātva) arise, he breathes out6 a long [breath] and is fully aware of it; breath­ing in a long [breath], he is fully aware of it; breath­ing out a short [breath], he is fully aware of it; breath­ing in a short [breath], he is fully aware of it; breath­ing out a cool [breath] … breath­ing in a cool [breath] …, breath­ing out a warm [breath] … breath­ing in a warm [breath], he is fully aware of it. He con­tem­plates the whole bod­ily [process of] in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing7 and is fully aware of every­thing. When there is breath­ing he is fully aware of its pres­ence, and when there is no breath­ing, he is fully aware of its ab­sence. In the event of breath­ing out con­di­tioned by the mind, he is fully aware of it; and in the event of breath­ing in con­di­tioned by the mind, he is fully aware of it. In this way, Rāhula, one can prac­tise [mind­ful­ness of] breath­ing and thereby aban­don all thoughts of aver­sion and con­fu­sion (vikṣip­tasaṁjñā), over­come all sor­row and thus ob­tain the taste of death­less­ness as sub­lime re­sult.’

When the Exalted One had im­parted this sub­tle Teaching (sūkṣ­mad­harma) in some de­tail to Rāhula, the lat­ter rose from his seat, paid his re­spects at the Buddha’s feet, cir­cum­am­bu­lated8 [the for­mer] thrice and left. Rāhula went to the foot of a tree in the Andhavana,9 sat down cross-legged and straight­ened body and mind, con­cen­trat­ing on the tip of his nose with­out let­ting any re­dun­dant (ad­hika) thoughts arise. Breathing out a long [breath] he was fully aware of it; breath­ing in a long [breath], he was fully aware of it; breath­ing out a short [breath] … a cool [breath] … a warm [breath] …, he was fully aware of it. He con­tem­plated the whole bod­ily [process of] in­hal­ing and ex­hal­ing and was fully aware of every­thing. When there was breath­ing … and no breath­ing, he was also fully aware of its ab­sence. In the event of breath­ing out … breath­ing in con­di­tioned by the mind, he was again fully aware of it.

Then Rāhula wisely re­flected (manasi-kṛ) thus: ‘A mind full of at­tach­ment sub­se­quently set free from [all pas­sions] is cleansed (nir­mukta) of all that is karmi­cally un­whole­some (akuśala).’ He [en­tered and] re­mained in the first ab­sorp­tion (dhyāna) in which there is think­ing, de­lib­er­a­tion (sav­i­tarka, sav­icāra)10 and mind­fully ex­pe­ri­enc­ing joy (prīti) and hap­pi­ness (sukha).

Upon the ces­sa­tion of think­ing and de­lib­er­a­tion, he [re­alised] per­fect in­ner quiet and per­fect con­cen­tra­tion (ad­hyāt­mam sam­prasāda, cetasa ekotīb­hāva).11 He [en­tered and] re­mained in the sec­ond ab­sorp­tion in which there is nei­ther think­ing nor de­lib­er­a­tion, yet mind­fully ex­pe­ri­enc­ing joy [born] of con­cen­tra­tion (samād­hija).

Then per­fectly mind­ful, af­ter the ces­sa­tion of joy (niṣprītika), while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing just that phys­i­cal well-being (sukhaṁ ca kāyena prati­saṁve­day­ati)12 which the Noble Ones ex­pe­ri­ence (upa-labh) with equa­nim­ity,13 com­plete sat­is­fac­tion (par­i­toṣa) and mind­ful­ness, he [en­tered and] re­mained in the third ab­sorp­tion.

When he had gone be­yond (prahāṇa)14 plea­sure and pain and was rid of sor­row, he [en­tered and] re­mained in the forth ab­sorp­tion which is free of both suf­fer­ing and hap­pi­ness and ut­terly pure [be­cause of] equa­nim­ity and mind­ful­ness.

With the help of this con­cen­tra­tion, his mind be­came ut­terly pure and was rid of flaws (ra­jas) and blem­ishes (doṣa), while his body was ex­ceed­ingly sup­ple (mṛdu). He recog­nised places from the past and re­mem­bered what he had pre­vi­ously done. He vividly (dravy­atas) recog­nised his [for­mer] abodes15 dur­ing in­cal­cu­la­ble aeons. He also re­mem­bered for­mer ex­is­tences (jāti)—one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hun­dred, a thou­sand, ten thou­sand, sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand pre­vi­ous lives, a pe­riod of evo­lu­tion and of de­struc­tion [of the world] (vi­varta, saṁ­var­takalpa), in­nu­mer­able pe­ri­ods of evo­lu­tion and de­struc­tion, hun­dreds of mil­lions, in­cal­cu­la­ble aeons. [He re­mem­bered:] I was born and had such and such a name, be­longed to such and such a lin­eage, had such and such food, ex­pe­ri­enced such and such pains and plea­sures, had [such and such] long and short life-spans. There I died, here I was re­born; here I died [again] and was re­born there.

With the help of this con­cen­tra­tion, his mind was ut­terly pure and rid of flaws, blem­ishes and all fet­ters (saṁy­o­jana). Furthermore, he [di­rected his] mind to the knowl­edge of be­ings’ com­ing into ex­is­tence. With the pu­ri­fied and im­mac­u­late ‘di­vine eye’ (di­vy­a­cakṣus) he saw [many] kinds of beings—how they are born and how they die. He un­der­stood in ac­cor­dance with fact (yathāb­hū­tam) that [be­ings] are good-looking, ugly, well-destined or ill-destined—depending re­spec­tively on their good and bad be­hav­iour (carita) and deeds (kṛta). [He un­der­stood that] on the one hand, there are be­ings who bod­ily, vo­cally and men­tally mis­be­haved, in­sulted the Noble Ones, held false views, per­formed ac­tions de­ter­mined by false views, and who, at the break­ing up of the body and af­ter their death, have gone to hell (naraka); that, on the other hand, there are be­ings who bod­ily, vo­cally and men­tally be­haved well, did not in­sult the Noble Ones, al­ways held right views, per­formed ac­tions de­ter­mined by right views and who, at the break­ing up of the body and af­ter death, have gone to a good, a heav­enly world (sugati, di­vyam). This [su­per­knowl­edge (ab­hi­jnā) of his] is called the pu­ri­fied and im­mac­u­late ‘di­vine eye’ [thanks to which he] saw [many] kinds of be­ings …. [and thanks to which he] un­der­stood in ac­cor­dance with fact that [be­ings] are good-looking … de­pend­ing re­spec­tively on their good and bad be­hav­iour and deeds.

Moreover, he di­rected his mind to ef­fect the de­struc­tion (kṣaya) of the mind’s ma­lign in­flu­ences (ās­rava). He re­alised and knew in ac­cor­dance with fact: This is un­sat­is­fac­tori­ness (duḥkha); he re­alised and knew in ac­cor­dance with fact the ori­gin (samu­daya)16 of un­sat­is­fac­tori­ness, its fi­nal ces­sa­tion (duḥkhanirodha) and what has nec­es­sar­ily to be done (avaśyakārya) in or­der to over­come un­sat­is­fac­tori­ness.17

By dint of such pen­e­trat­ing in­sight (vipaśyanā), his mind was freed from the ma­lign in­flu­ences of de­sire (kāmās­rava), of be­com­ing (bhava) and of ig­no­rance (avidyā). Having re­alised [ul­ti­mate] free­dom (vimukti), he gained the [insight-]knowledge of this free­dom and knew in ac­cor­dance with fact: Birth and death have come to an end, the holy life (brah­macarya) has been lived, what had to be done has been done, and there will be no more com­ing into ex­is­tence.

At that time Venerable Rāhula be­came an Arhat18 and, af­ter his re­al­i­sa­tion of arhat­ship, he rose from his seat, ad­justed his robes and went to the Exalted One’s where­abouts. [There] he bowed down his head at [the Exalted One’s] feet, stood to one side and said to the Exalted One: ‘[My] as­pi­ra­tions have come true: the erad­i­ca­tion of all ma­lign in­flu­ences.’

Then the Exalted One said to all the bhikṣus [present]: ‘Among all those who re­alised arhat­ship, none is like Rāhula. For what rea­son? As far as the erad­i­ca­tion of ma­lign in­flu­ences is con­cerned, there is the bhikṣu Rāhula [who achieved it] and in re­spect of ob­serv­ing rules and of be­ing given to train­ing (śikṣā), there is again Rāhula [who ex­cels]. All pre­vi­ous Tathāgatas and Perfectly Enlightened Ones, too, had this bhikṣu Rāhula [as their so,19 and it was the bhikṣu Rāhula who was anx­ious that he should be called “son of the Buddha” who him­self, fol­low­ing the Buddha, reached the ul­ti­mate goal (dharma). Amongst my dis­ci­ples,’ the Exalted One went on say­ing to the bhikṣus, ‘the fore­most among those ca­pa­ble of ob­serv­ing the rules of train­ing is the bhikṣu Rāhula.’20

Then the Exalted One ut­tered these verses:

[If one] con­sci­en­tiously [ob­serves] the rules of moral train­ing
One will per­fect all one’s spir­i­tual fac­ul­ties (in­driya).
One has to [de­velop them] step by step un­til one reaches [the ul­ti­mate goal
Completely rid­ding one­self of all fet­ters.’

Having lis­tened to the Exalted One’s words, all the bhikṣus were pleased and re­spect­fully ap­plied them­selves to prac­tice.


1 See T 2, 581b29ff., and its Japanese trans­la­tion at Hayashi, p. 124ff.; cf. M I, 420ff. (Mahā-Rāhulovādasutta); I.B. Horner, The Middle Length Sayings II, 91ff. This trans­la­tion orig­i­nally pub­lished as Ekottaragama XV, Buddhist Studies Review 10. 2, 1993, pp. 213–222. Translated from the Chinese ver­sion by Thích Huyên-Vi in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Sara Boin-Webb and Bhikkhu Pāsādika.

2 After Hackman, p. 67.

3 Lit. kumārga.

4 Lit. the Chinese cor­re­sponds to ārakṣācitta, ‘a mind given to pro­tec­tion’.

5 Cf. for in­stance, Mahāvyut, 6215.

6 I. e. āśvāsa-praśvāsa which, ac­cord­ing to the Chinese EĀ means ‘ex­ha­la­tion and in­hala­tion’; also the St Petersburg Sanskrit dic­tio­nary and Monier Williams take praśvāsa to mean ‘in­hala­tion’. In gen­eral, Pali schol­ars trans­late the dvanda com­pound as ‘in­hala­tion and ex­ha­la­tion’, whilst pun­dits in Thailand un­der­stand it the other way round. In the Index to the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya by A. Hirakawa (Tokyo 1973), how­ever, the Tibetan and Chinese ver­sions of the Sanskrit com­pound cor­rob­o­rate the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the ma­jor­ity of schol­ars: ‘in­hala­tion and ex­ha­la­tion’. See F. Edgerton’s in­ter­est­ing en­try in his BHSD, p. 110.

7 Here, con­trary to the fore­go­ing, the suc­ces­sion of the res­pi­ra­tory process is re­versed. Cf. n. 6.

8 I. e. pradakṣiṇā, see Soothill, p. 169a: ‘turn­ing or pro­cess­ing with the right shoul­der to­wards an ob­ject of rev­er­ence’.

9 Cf. DPPN I, 111f.

10 See Mahāvyut. 1478.

11 Ibid., 1479.

12 Ibid., 1480.

13 Cf. n. 4.

14 See Mahāvyut. 1481.

15 Cf. ibid., 207: pūrva-nivāsānusmṛti-jñāna.

16 After Hayashi’s read­ing.

17 I. e. duḥkhanirod­hagāminī prati­pad: the path lead­ing to the fi­nal ces­sa­tion of un­sat­is­fac­tori­ness.

18 Ekottaragama XV, Buddhist Studies Review 10. 2, 1993, pp. 213–222. According to the Pāli tra­di­tion, at the end of the Cūla-Rāhulovādasutta (M III, 277–80; S IV, 105–7), Rāhula’s be­com­ing an Arhat is men­tioned (see Malalasekera II, 737–40); an ac­count of his re­al­i­sa­tion of three kinds of su­per­knowl­edge (ab­hi­jñā), viz. re­mem­brance of for­mer ex­is­tences, the ‘di­vine eye’ and erad­i­ca­tion of all ma­lign in­flu­ences, is not, how­ever, given ei­ther at M I, 420ff., or at the above places. For a par­al­lel to Rāhula’s ab­hi­jñās, cf. for in­stance, M I, 22f. (Bhayabheravasutta), I. B. Horner, op. cit. I, 28f.; cf. also Nyanaponika, Buddhist Dictionary (re­vised ed.), Colombo 1956, p. 2f.

19 As for Rāhula’s be­ing men­tioned, not as hav­ing been the son of ‘all pre­vi­ous Tathāgatas’, but the son of the Bodhisatta re­ferred to in nu­mer­ous Jātakas, see DPPN II, 739f.

20 Cf. A 1. 24: Etad ag­gaṁ bhikkhave mama sā­vakā­naṁ bhikkhū­naṁ sikkhākāmā­naṁ ya­di­daṁ Rāhulo.

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