Rahula, The Buddha’s son followed Buddha’s footsteps and became a novice monk. Rahula was a teenager when he became a novice monk. Living in a rather strict environment, he was bored, so he often came up with distractions and amusements on his own.
One of his favorite games to pass time, was whenever people asked Rahula where the Buddha was, he would always take the chance to trick them by lying to them. If the Buddha was in the forest practicing, he would always say the Buddha was meditating by the river. If the Buddha was at the monastery instructing disciples, Rahula would point in the opposite direction, usually somewhere far away, and tell people that the Buddha had gone out to propagate the Dharma. He took joy in seeing people going everywhere looking for the Buddha. Of course, looking in all the wrong places, they would never find the Buddha. Rahula would then laugh at them, thinking they were so silly. This was how he kept himself entertained.
After the Buddha heard about Rahula’s mischief, he thought of a way to teach him a lesson. One day, the Buddha asked Rahula to fill a basin with water so that he could wash his feet.
After washing his feet, the Buddha said to him, “Rahula, take this water and drink it.”
Rahula replied, “This water is dirty now after it was used to wash your feet, it’s undrinkable.”
The Buddha then said, “Rahula, your words are as dirty as this water, no one can bear to hear them.”
Rahula was now afraid and quickly took the basin outside and threw out the dirty water.
When he returned, the Buddha said to him, “Now, take this basin and put rice in it.”
Rahula frowned and replied, “The basin was just used to wash feet, it’s still dirty, we cannot put food in it.”
The Buddha said, “Rahula, your mind is just like this dirty basin. No matter how good the Dharma is, none of it can enter your mind.” Rahula began to feel ashamed.
The Buddha looked at the basin and suddenly kicked it. The basin struck the wall and broke into pieces. The Buddha then asked, “Rahula, would you treasure a broken basin?”
Rahula said, “Buddha, a basin used to wash feet is worthless and is of little value. Even if it’s broken, it doesn’t really matter.”
The Buddha replied, “Your attitude is just like this basin. Your words and lies are not valued and appreciated by people. No one will respect you, and no one will care for you.”
Upon hearing the Buddha’s teaching, Rahula burst into tears and said, “I am sorry, I promise, I will never lie again. From now on, I will focus on my practice.” After that day, Rahula diligently practiced and eventually became awakened. He was then known as the foremost amongst all disciples for his eagerness for learning.
The Buddha used the analogy of the basin to teach Rahula. He was able to skillfully lead Rahula to recognize his bad habits and inspire him to transform himself and realize his true nature.
This story reminds us not to under-estimate our “bad habits”, as they are hindrances to the generation of wholesome Dharmas.