Saturday, November 20, 2010

The First Community of Sangha: Pancavaggi

The first community of Sangha had five members. The leader was Kondanna and the rests of them were Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji.

The leader Kondanna

Kondanna was the son of a wealthy Brahmin. They lived in Brahmin village of Donavatthu near Kapilavatthu city. He was educated in three vedas and became a great Brahmin.

King Suddhodana selected Kondanna together with other seven wise Brahmins to attend the naming day of his son Siddhattha. Kondanna, the youngest Brahmin among eight, foretold that the prince would surely become a Buddha.

All these Brahmins told their sons to take up an ascetic life and follow the prince when he became one. But seven of the Brahmins died in their old age before Siddhattha renounce the world. Only Kondanna was left in perfect health.

When Kondanna heard about the Bodhisatta's renunciation, he persuaded the late seven Brahmins' sons to follow the Bodhisatta. Four agreed to go forth. They became ascetics and chose Kondanna as their leader. From then on, they were called "Pancavaggi" meaning "A Group of Five".

Pancavaggi attended the Bodhisatta who was practising Dukkaracariya in Uruvela forest for six years. Then Bodhisatta changed his mind to perform the middle-way (Majjimapatipada) instead of the wrong extreme practice. So, he took the alms food to keep himself strong. But Pancavaggi misunderstood him of material accumulation. They abandoned the Bodhisatta and moved to the Deer Park (Migadaya).

Buddha went to the Deer Park soon after his enlightenment. At first, Pancavaggi intended to neglect the Buddha, but spontaneously, they all attended to the Buddha with due respect. The Buddha delivered his first Dhamma, "Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta" to them. Kondanna attained Sotapatti Fruition upon hearing the discourse. He requested the Buddha to ordained him as a monk. The Buddha called 'Ehi Bhikkhu' and Kondanna became a monk with neatly shaven head, wearing the yellow rope in proper manner and carrying monk's bowl. Thus, he was the earliest monk who realized the 'Four Noble Truths' and started the community of Sangha whence the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha were first introduced as 'Three Refuges'.

Thera Kondanna again won Arahatship at the end of the Buddha's discourse "Anatta lakkhana Sutta". All these achievements of Arahat Kondanna were the effects of his great meritorious deeds and aspiration in his past existences. During the periods of Padumuttara and Vipassi Buddha, he aspired to become a monk and realized the 'Four Noble Truths' before all others do in the dispensation of a future Buddha.The Buddhas gave definite prophecy that his aspiration would be fulfil.

He got a new name 'Annasi Kondanna' when the Buddha uttered, 'Annasi vata bho Kondanna' which means 'Kondanna has penetrated the Four Noble Truths'. Also, Gotama Buddha conferred on Arahat Kondanna, 'the foremost among monks in long standing', the 'Rattannu Etadagga' title.

However, Arahat Kondanna liked to stay blissfully only in the attainment of Phalasamapatti. So he asked the Buddha to permit him to live in the 'Chaddanta' forest. He succeeded his plan.

In Chaddanta forest, he resided near the Mandakini lake. Eight thousand elephants living around the region took turns to serve the Arahat Kondanna respectfully without fail.

After twelve years of peaceful life, Arahat Kondanna found out that his life span was coming to an end. He then went to the Buddha and requested permission to attain Parinibbana. When the Buddha granted his request by keeping silent, he paid his final obeisance to the Buddha and returned to the Chaddanta forest. There, he was engaged in Phalasamapatti meditation. On the third watches of that night Arahat Kondanna entered Parinibbana.

Cremation ceremony of Arahat Kondanna was a tremendous one. Brahmas and Devas of all realms, five hundred monks led by Anuruddha and elephants participated in the occasion. It is said that when the Buddha stretched out his hands holding the Arahat Kondanna's relics towards the earth, a cetiya emerged and the Buddha enshrined them in it.

Posted by Aye Sat

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