Kaundinya - First Disciple and Arahant
Kaundinya was the first disciple of Lord Buddha. Kaundinya was the royal Shakyan scholar who predicted that Siddhartha would become Lord Buddha and Kaundinya was the first disciple of Buddha to become arahant.
Kaundinya was the first disciple of Lord Buddha and the first to become an arahant. Kaundinya was a Brahmin who lived and worked as a royal court scholar at Kapilvastu (now in Lumbini of Nepal ) under King Suddhodhana of the Shakyas. Kaundinya was also known as Ajnata Kaundinya. Kaundinya is one of the important figures in the life of Lord Buddha. He was the main reason King Suddhodhana decided to make intricate arrangements for the young prince Siddhartha . He is one of the senior Buddhist monks of the order of the Sangha during the lifetime of Lord Buddha.
Kaundinya along with four other scholars decided to follow the young prince Siddhartha on the order of King Suddhodhana. Ajnata Kaundinya was considered foremost among five initial disciples of Lord Buddha. The other four disciples were Bharika , Baspa, Mahanama, and Asvajit . Together they were known as Pancavaggiya ( The Group of Five ) or Pancaka Bhadravargiya ( The Group of Five Fortunate Ones ).
Kaundinya was born in a reputed Brahmin family of Donavatthu which was near to Kapilvastu. He was very talented and mastered the three Vedas at a young age and also mastered the science of physiognomy. Science of Physiognomy was also called Lakhana Manta. He even became the royal Brahmin scholar in the Shakya Kingdom of Kapilvastu under King Suddhodhana.
When prince Siddhartha was born, many talented scholars were summoned and Kaundinya was one of them. They were summoned to predict the fate of the young prince Siddhartha. All the other scholars offered a twofold prediction. Either Prince Siddhartha will either choose royal life and become supreme king “ Chakravarti ” or would become a supreme religious leader. But Kaundinya was the only scholar who predicts that Prince Siddhartha will become the supreme religious leader and he will be called Buddha.
After predicting young Prince Siddhartha fate, Kaundinya took a vow to follow young Prince when he became ascetic. On the other hand, King Suddhodhana wanted Prince Siddhartha to become supreme king and expand his empire. He made various arrangements so that the prince would be far away from all worldly suffering. But one day Prince Siddhartha persuaded king Suddhodhana to go out of his palace. But King Suddhodhana made such arrangements that prince would not see any beggars, old people, and sick people. Despite King’s great effort, Siddhartha saw four sights that later turned his mind and he chose ascetic life over royal life.
Arahanthood of Kaundinya
After Prince Siddhartha left royal palace and chose ascetic life, five scholars including Kaundinya followed Prince Siddhartha , after getting permission from King Suddhodhana since he was scared about his son’s safety. Kaundinya and other four scholars were hoping prince Siddhartha would attain Enlightenment after he mastered the teachings of Arada Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra and practiced self-mortification. After six years of practicing self-mortification, prince Siddhartha experienced near-death situation. And later Prince Siddhartha decided not to practice such practices, Pancavaggiya thought he would not attain enlightenment and moved away from the prince and went to Isipatana which was near to Varanasi so that they could continue their practices.
After Siddhartha achieved Nirvana and became Buddha, he seeks his two master Arada and Udraka so that he could teach them the way of Dharma. Realizing that both of them were dead, Gautama Buddha continued his journey to find the Pancavaggiya and teach them. At first, the five scholars including Kaundinya denied his knowledge but they offered him a seat with them. But they could notice that Buddha had changed from when they left him and accepted to hear his knowledge. Then Buddha preached Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta which includes the Four Noble Truths, and Noble Eightfold Path and Kaundinya became the first disciple and other four also became the disciple of Buddha . After five days, upon hearing subsequent Anattalakkhana Sutta which was about no-self or soullessness Kaundinya attained full arahants.
After attaining enlightenment and becoming the member of the order of Sangha, Buddha and five disciples went on a journey to spread the Dharma in the Gangetic Plains of India. After a period of time spending his time in Sangha, Kaundinya retired from the Order. According to the history of Buddhist tradition, there were two reasons that Kaundinya retired from the order. The first was the inconvenience with two chief disciples of Buddha, Sariputra and Moggallana. Being the senior monks of the Sangha, he had to sit behind Lord Buddha whereas both disciples sat at the side of Lord Buddha. Since the two chief disciples were not feeling uncomfortable but couldn’t question Lord Buddha’s decision, he left the Sangha so that no problem would arise. The other reason was Kaundinya wanted to continue his religious practice in a quieter place. Before Kaundinya died, he went to Lord Buddha for the last farewell and kissed the feet of Buddha and stroked the feet with his hand. Kaundinya was cremated on a sandalwood pyre and the ceremony was performed by Anuradha , one of the ten chief disciples of Lord Buddha and five hundred other monks attended the ceremony.