Now, after so great a number of disciples as the five hundred had received their predictions, Rahula, Shakyamuni's only son, and Ananda, his cousin, both of whom were numbered among the ten great disciples, felt outcast and began to wonder why they, among so many, should not also be directly designated. But when they went before the Buddha and asked to be included, the Buddha then and there gave them their prediction and at the same time predicted buddhahood for a great number of the training and the trained, by which is meant those who as practitioners were still engaged in study or as shravakas had completed their study. This, in brief, is the content of this short chapter, but there are two important lessons to be learned from this simple material.
The first lesson lies in the prediction given to those who still were training, those practitioners who were learning by doing under guidance. Though this may seem strange, careful reflection makes it plain that there is nothing at all strange in this, for since all people alike are endowed with the buddha-nature, if that buddha-nature is manifest and fully recognized, then all who perceive their buddha-nature may become buddhas.
The second lesson involves the question of why prediction for Rahula and Ananda among the ten great disciples was deferred and was then delivered with the prediction for shravakas still engaged in study.
Here we need to try to see into the thinking of Shakyamuni. Rahula was the son of his flesh, and Ananda was his own cousin. For twenty years or more both had been constantly at his side and had served him, and so both were closest to Shakyamuni in his person, a fact that in itself may have been a hindrance to their practice. So we may think that on this account Shakyamuni purposely delayed in order to make this point clear to all.
In the case of Ananda, he was always at hand, preparing Shakyamuni's food, assisting him at his bath, and seeing to his person, and so his perception of Shakyamuni's greatness as the Buddha and of the loftiness of his teaching was mingled with that of Shakyamuni as a human being in the flesh. His devotion thus lacked the purity characteristic of that of the other disciples.
In the case of Rahula, we may have the combination of a son's incapacity to find in a father, however great, the cause for respect that people at greater distance feel, mingled with a certain readiness to take advantage of being the son of such a person.
Seeing all this from our own point of view, we may know how very difficult it is to influence those closest to us - our wives or husbands, our children or parents. We may seek to lead with words, but mere words will never work. It is through our daily actions as they are that we may have some influence. However exemplary our conduct may be at times, if we are ordinarily selfish and hateful in our dealings, we may hardly expect much effect for good. Only if we are good examples through the twenty-four hours of the day, may we expect to bring to our way the people who live and work around us.
We are told that Ananda and Rahula were slower than the other high-ranking disciples to gain enlightenment, but it is inconceivable that they should have been slower than the five hundred who had received their predictions. We can only suppose from all this that we are seeing Shakyamuni's deep consideration. We may feel sure that this view is the right attitude for later followers of the Buddha.
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