The First Five Monks With Buddha – Introduction

It is said that when the Buddha as Siddhartha Gautama left home to become an ascetic, five others too left with him to renounce the world. They were Anna Kondanna, Bhadiya, Vappa, Mahanama and Assaji and they also wished to give up worldly life and seek the true meaning of life. They went to an area called Uruvela and for six years while Gautama deepened his spiritual practices, his five friends looked after and supported him. His austerities through fasting, holding his breath and other severe measures caused only pain and suffering to him and did not yield the desired results. Gautama then realised that these were not the way to enlightenment. He began to beg for alms for food. When the five friends noticed this they felt disappointed. They misjudged him thinking that he was reverting back to his earlier easy way of life. Hence they left him and went to Benares to stay in the deer sanctuary. This in fact was a great help to the Buddha. The food that he begged sustained him and with the solitude and total peace that he could gain on the departure of his friends he very soon attained enlightenment.

Sitting under the Bodhi tree he realised that it was the Middle Path and not extremities which help in the Spiritual Path. He gained insight into the newly found system of law (Dhamma) and was pondering on whom to teach and who had the patience, forbearance and other virtues to comprehend the Dhamma. He then remembered his friends, the five Bhikshus and set out to Benares.

The five monks saw him approaching and were struck by the grandeur of his countenance. Unconsciously they moved towards him in reverence, one offering him a seat, the other washing his feet, the other greeting and receiving his bowl, another taking his robe and the last arranging his footstool. Buddha in his illustrious glory impressed upon them that he had indeed realised the deathless state and had become fully enlightened. He then proceeded to give the First Sermon and thus set in motion the Wheel of Dhamma. It is said that along with the five monks many Devas too came to partake off this Divine message. Buddha spoke on the way to avoid extremities and take the Middle Path also known as the Eight Fold Path. The five monks joyously glorified and acclaimed him.

  

The first discourse gave them an insight into the impermanence of anything which had a conditioned origin and the five aggregates which were material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. Then Buddha gave them the second discourse on the three characteristics of existence namely impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non self. It is said that at the end of all the explanations which form the doctrines of Buddhism the Five Monks were overjoyed and their minds were free from defilements like attachment and desires and they were set free.