Rahula, the First Samanera in this Sasana
By Lin Htain
(First Published in 'The Light of Dhamma', Vol. III, No. 1, Department of Religious Affairs, 1983)
In this Buddha Sasana full-time devoted novices are known as "Samaneras." According to Vinaya Rules young boys, ranging from the tender age of seven to nineteen, can enter the religious life as novices. To do so they are required to possess certain standard and ability. In the initiation ceremony they must be able to correctly pronounce and understand the sacred undertaking of "Buddham Saranam Gacchami" - I go to the Buddha for refuge; "Dhammam Saranam Gacchami" - I go to the Dhamma (Teaching) for refuge; "Sangham Saranam Gacchami" - "I go to the Sangha (the Holy Order) for refuge. They must say these affirmations three times. The candidates, after shaving their heads and donning the yellow robes, perform acts of declaration before their bhikkhu teachers. All Samaneras must observe ten precepts.
Thus the attainment of Samaneraship is a first step to achieve a full ordination known as upasampadda bhikkhuship if one attains the age of twenty. All novices must obey 75 sekhiya rules. in Burma, some mahatheras employed the method of preliminary entrance. This first stage, before the Samaneraship, was known as Pothudaw, meaning good layman. Pothudaws used to wear white clothes with their heads shaved, and they observed five precepts only; their duties and responsibilities were to attend to the business of bhikkhus and samaneras and to recite the sacred Pali words correctly. Moreover they were taught elementary education in order to be acquainted with the rules and regulations of the monastic order. Hence, this Pothudaw stage promotes sound, basic preparation and training for the follow-up of the higher orders in the Sasana.
In this Buddha Sasana the first Samanera was the famous only son of the Lord Buddha, who, by his unique example, showed how Samanera should observe their precepts. There are Six Rahulovada Suttas, in the Pali Canon admonishing the following virtues which every Samanera should possess in order to be true to their calling: obedience, humility, service, honesty, truthfulness, perseverance, mindfulness, Dhamma training and Dhammapractice.
Samanera Initiation (Shinbyu Ceremony)
On the seventh day of Buddha's arrival at the Kapilavatthu City, His young son Prince Rahula was duly adorned with rich, costly clothes and ornaments by his mother Yasodhara, to mark the unique occasion. Princess Yasodhara, knowing the seven great treasures possessed by the Prince Siddhattha, entertained the idea of asking inheritance by sending Rahula to the Buddha.
When he followed the footsteps of the Buddha while He was making alms-collecting rounds in the streets, he was in his ninth year of age. At that time, following the advice of his mother, he asked only for the heritage of mundane wealth. The young boy was sent to the Lord with certain instructions: 'Dear Son, look at this wandering bhikkhu, who is accompanied by twenty thousand bhikkhus. Although clean shaven, He has golden and excellent complexion like that of the great god Brahma. His face is shining with nobleness and compassion. He is your father who has abundant hidden treasures which we have not seen since He renounced worldly life and performed the great act of Abhinikkhamana - the Great Renunciation. Now go and ask for your rightful inheritance."
The young boy was instructed also to repeat these words "Dear father, I am the Sakyan Prince who would become a paramount sovereign after my royal consecration. I need wealth. Please give it to me. Indeed, father, the son is the rightful owner of the father's possessions." Even while the Lord was walking in the street for alms, the boy was at His back asking for wealth, power and fame. When the young, tender Prince came close to the Bhagava he instantly felt filial affection for his father. He also received the pure, holy vibrations from the Lord. With joy at heart he said: "Monk, pleasant is the shade cast by you."
After His meal the Bhagava uttered words of blessing leading to mental peace and happiness, he rose up from his appointed seat and departed. As he was eager to inherit the seven golden vessels, and as he was also obedient, the prince followed Him again, saying: "O Monk, give me my inheritance; Give me my inheritance Monk." Knowing the exact nature of his future destiny, the Bhagava did not send the prince back. Even the attendants were not able to make him turn back from following the Bhagava who did not feel any kind of annoyance. Perfect peace and compassion prevailed in His heart. So Rahulawas able to go straight to the monastery together with the Lord.
Thereupon the Bhagava thought: "The usual paternal property, which deluded people greatly wish for, will surely lead to the rounds of birth and death. Property promotes longings and disputes. So I will give him the seven sacred treasures which I have acquired at the foot of the Bodhi Tree. I shall make him the owner of the spiritual or supramundane inheritance." He decided to make him a Samanera. Then, He said to the Venerable Sariputta, "Well, then, Sariputta! do please initiate this young prince Rahula." So the great Arahat Sariputta asked the prince to leave behind all kinds of worldly dress and ornaments. Then Rahula was donned with the unique robe which all noble Sons of the Lord, in preparation to Ariyahood, must wear.
The first Samanera in this unique, noble Sasana was Rahula. After his noble example all samaneras must follow the path of humility and obedience.
The precept for Samanera
All Samaneras, because of their full-time ethical endeavour, proceed to take Ten Precepts. For them they are to be observed in a strict manner. The Samanera code of conduct is as follows
1. To abstain from killing all living beings.
2. To abstain from stealing.
3. To abstain from sexual indulgence.
4. To abstain from telling lie.
5. To abstain from liquor and intoxicants.
6. To abstain from eating in the afternoon.
7. To abstain from dancing, singing, watching musical performance.
8. To abstain from using garlands, unguents, or ornaments.
9. To abstain from sitting and sleeping on a big or broad bed.
10. To abstain from receiving gold and silver.
For all who seek purity and liberation, the Samaneraship is conducive to peace and happiness. The ten precepts fulfil the need to purify the mind and win higher and deeper knowledge. Truths can be realized by higher morality and insight. Thus the ten precepts and 227 Vinaya rules of bhikkhus are basic requirements to maintain the Sasana pure. The true Sasana needs good Samaneras who will become great bhikkhus in due course.
NOVICEHOOD: Initiation of Novicehood in Myanmar( Shinpyu Ceremony in Burma)
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