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Verse 78: The Story of Thera Channa

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (78) of this book, with
reference to Thera Channa.

Channa was the attendant who accompanied Prince Siddhattha, when he renounced the world
and left the palace on horseback. When the prince attained Buddhahood, Channa also became a
Bhikkhu. As a Bhikkhu, he was very arrogant and overbearing because of his close connection
to the Buddha. Channa used to say, "I came along with my Master, when he left the palace for
the forest. At that time, I was the only companion of my Master and there was no one else. But
now, Thera Sariputta and Moggallana are saying, 'we are the Chief Disciples,' and are strutting
about the place."

When the Buddha sent for him and admonished him for his behaviour, he kept silent, but
continued to abuse and taunt the two Chief Disciples. Thus the Buddha sent for him and
admonished him three times; still, he did not change. And again, the Buddha sent for Channa
and said, "Channa, these two noble Bhikkhus are good friends to you; you should associate with
them and be on good terms with them."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 78. One should not associate with bad friends, nor with the vile. One should associate with
good friends, and with those who are noble.

In spite of repeated admonitions and advice given by the Buddha, Channa did as he pleased and
continued to scold and abuse the Bhikkhus. The Buddha, knowing this, said that Channa would
not change during the Buddha's lifetime but after his demise (parinibbana) Channa would
surely change. On the eve of his parinibbana, the Buddha called Thera Ananda to his bedside
and instructed him to impose the Brahma-punishment (Brahmadanda) to Channa; i.e., for the
Bhikkhus to simply ignore him and to have nothing to do with him.

After the parinibbana of the Buddha, Channa, learning about the punishment from Thera
Ananda, felt a deep and bitter remorse for having done wrong and he fainted three times.
Then, he owned up his guilt to the Bhikkhus and asked for pardon. From that moment, he
changed his ways and outlook. He also obeyed their instructions in his meditation practice and
soon attained Arahatship.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.

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