The Buddha's driver: Channa

G. P. Malalasekera, Buddhist Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (palikanon.com) edited by Dhr. Seven, Ananda (Dharma Buddhist Meditation), Wisdom Quarterly
Kanthaka, Scythian Siddhartha's white pony
Channa was Prince Siddhartha Gautama's charioteer and companion, born on the same day as the future Buddha, as was his wife and pony and bodhi tree (J.i.54; Mtu.ii.156, 164, 189, 233; iii.91, 262; BuA.233; SA.ii.231; DhsA.34).
The Theragatha (ThagA. i.155) says he was the son of a servant woman of the Buddha's Scythian/Shakyian father, King Suddhodana). When Siddhartha renounced the household life, Channa rode with him on the prince's horse, Kanthaka, as far as the river Anomā.
There the prince gave Channa his royal ornaments and asked him to take Kanthaka back to his father's palace. (A sacred burial mound or stūpa was later erected on the spot where Channa turned back (Dvy.391).
The white pony Kanthaka died of a broken heart. But Channa's grief was also great, for he suffered a double loss. It is said that he begged for leave to join Siddhartha as a wandering ascetic and recluse, but this leave was refused (J.i.64f).
Channa therefore returned to Shakya Land (Scythia, Bactria, Gandhara, Afghanistan, called Kapilavatthu), but when the Buddha visited his Sākiyan kinsfolk seven years later, Channa renounced the world and joined the Buddhist Monastic Order.
Because of his great affection for the Buddha, however, egotistical pride in "our Buddha, our Dharma" arose in him and he could not conquer this fondness nor fulfil his duties as a recluse (ThagA.i.155). His verse, No. 69, quoted in the Theragatha does not, however, refer to any such remissness on his part).
Once, when in the Ghositā's park in Kosambī, Channa committed a fault but was not willing to acknowledge it.
When the matter was reported to the Buddha, he decreed that he be suspended or boycotted (ukkhepaniya-kamma) bso that everyone turned against him. Channa was forbidden to eat or dwell with the Monastic Community (Sangha).
He, therefore, changed his residence, but he was everywhere "boycotted," "shunned," and returned to Kosambī subdued and asking for a reprieve, which was granted to him (Vin.ii.23ff).
His obstinacy and perversity are again mentioned elsewhere, for example, Vin.iv.35, 113, 141. A patron of his once erected a monastery (vihāra) for him, but he so thatched and decked it that it fell down.
In trying to repair it he damaged a Brahmin's barley field (Vin.iii.47). See also Vin.iii.155f., 177.
Later, in a dispute between the monks and the nuns, Channa deliberately sided with the nuns. This was considered so perverse and so lacking in proper comradery (esprit de corps) that the Buddha decreed on him the carrying out of the "higher punishment" (brahmadanda), whereby all monks were forbidden to have anything whatsoever to do with him.
This was the last disciplinary act of the Buddha, and the carrying out of it was entrusted to the Buddha's personal attendant Ananda (D.ii.154).
It would, however, appear from DhA.ii.110 that the "supreme goad" or "ultimate staff" (brahmadanda) was inflicted on Channa for having repeatedly reviled the Buddha's two chief male disciples, Ven. Sāriputta and Ven. Maha Moggallāna in spite of the Buddha's repeated warnings. In this version other details also vary.
When Ananda visited Channa at Ghositā's park and pronounced on him the heavy penalty, even his proud and independent spirit was tamed. Channa became humble, his eyes were opened, and dwelling apart, earnest and zealous, he became one of the fully enlightened ones (arahants). At this moment of attainment, the penalty automatically lapsed (Vin.ii.292).
I'm supposed to be driving you! Don't go!
In the distant past Channa met the Buddha Siddhattha (a previous supremely enlightened buddha) going towards a tree, and being pleased with him, spread for him a soft carpet of leaves around which he spread flowers.
Five aeons (kalpas) ago he became king seven times, under the name of Tinasanthāraka (ThagA.i.155).
He is probably identical with Senāsanadāyaka of the Apadāna (i.137).
Channa is identified with the hunter in the rebirth-stories (jatakasSuvannamiga (III.187), the Gijjha (III.332), the Rohantamiga (IV.423), the Cūlahamsa (V.354), and the Mahāhamsa (V.382), with the wrestler in the Sālikedāra Jātaka (IV.282) and with Cetaputta in the Vessantara Jātaka (VI.593).
See also Channa Sutra (1). More


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