Chief of those who had left the world through faith. AN.i.24 He was born at Thullakoṭṭhita in the Kuru country as the son of a very wealthy councillor and was called by his family name of Raṭṭhapāla. When the Buddha visited Thullakoṭṭhita, Raṭṭhapāla went to hear him preach and decided to leave the world. His parents would not, however, give their consent till he threatened to starve himself to death. Realizing then that he was in earnest, they agreed to let him go on condition that he would visit them after his ordination. Raṭṭhapāla accompanied the Buddha to Sāvatthī, and there, dwelling alone, he attained arahantship within a short time. Then, with the Buddha’s permission, he returned to Thullakoṭṭhita and dwelt in the deer park of the Kuru king. The day after his arrival, while begging for alms, he came to his father’s house. His father was in the entrance hall having his hair combed, but, failing to recognize his son, he started to abuse him, taking him for an ordinary monk, one of those who had robbed him of his son. Just at that moment the slave girl of the house was about to throw away some stale rice, which Raṭṭhapāla begged of her. The girl recognized his voice, gave him the rice and told his parents who he was. When his father came to look for his son, he found him eating stale rice. Having already finished eating, when invited to enter the house, he would not do so, but on the next day he went again, and his father tried to tempt him by making a display of the immense wealth which would be his should he return to the lay life, while his former wives, beautifully clothed, asked him about the nymphs, for whose sake he led the homeless life. “For the sake of no nymphs, Sisters,” he said, and they fell fainting under the shock of being addressed as “Sisters.” Growing impatient at the conduct of his family, he asked for his meal, ate it, preached to them. MN.i.64f. Thag.769–775 on the impermanence of all things, the futility of wealth, the snare of beauty, etc., and returned to Migacīra.
There the Kuru king, who was feasting there, and had often heard of Raṭṭhapāla’s fame, visited him. Their conversation is recorded in the Raṭṭhapāla Sutta. MN.ii.54ff.
The Vinaya Vin.iii.148 contains a stanza quoted by the Buddha, in which Raṭṭhapāla’s father enquires of his son why the latter never asked him for anything. “Because begging is a degrading thing,” says Raṭṭhapāla.