Among all His disciples, the Buddha trusted Sariputra the most. When His son, Rahula, joined the Sangha, Buddha asked Sariputra to be Rahula’s teacher.
One day, Rahula followed Sariputra to beg for food and returned to the monastery with a sulky look. When the Buddha asked him why he was unhappy, the young Rahula replied resentfully, “Buddha! When we are out to beg for food, the devotees always give food to the elder monks and to the younger monks like us, they usually offer food with no nutritious value. But everyone needs food to maintain his health. And our elders never take care of us when they receive the good food.”
The Buddha knew very well that nutritious food was necessary to maintain health, and a healthy body was very important to monks for if they were weak, they would not be able to concentrate on their meditation practice. However, Buddha lectured Rahula for being too concerned about food when he should pay his attention to his practice. After Rahula had left, Sariputra was called to see the Buddha. “Sariputra, do you know that you have eaten “unclean” food today?” asked the Buddha.
Sariputra quickly threw up the food taken on that day and said: “Lord Buddha, ever since I became you disciple, I have always been following the rules of going for alms food set by you and never dare to accept any “unclean” food.”
The Buddha then explained, “Sariputra, I know you have been observing the rules accordingly but one cannot just mind his own business in the Sangha. Rules should be fair to everyone and benefits should be equally distributed. It is the responsibility of the elders to take good care of the younger monks, even when begging for food.”
Sariputra was not angry at all after hearing that. Instead, he gratefully accepted the teachings of the Buddha.