The Five Ascetics
The Buddha addressed his first teaching, or discourse, to his five former companions, who are commonly referred to as the five ascetics. In this discourse, the Buddha addresses the ascetics as bhikkhus, a term which is normally translated as a Buddhist monk. However, Ajahn Sucitto explains that in this context bhikkhus means “alms-mendicants,” those who live on the free-will offerings of others.
Ajahn Sucitto explains:
- The five bhikkhus at Deer Park were named Kondañña, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanāma, and Assaji. Kondañña was the eldest. Many years previously, as a novice brahmin, he had been invited to the palace of the raja Suddhodana along with seven of his peers to see the baby Siddhattha Gotama and give predictions as to his destiny. They all agreed that this baby would be either a great emperor or a Buddha; perhaps this was why he was named Siddhattha, which means “Accomplishes the Goal.” Interestingly, it was Kondañña alone who reckoned that Siddhattha was destined for Buddhahood. Four of the brahmins who had been present at the palace later told their sons to keep their eyes on Siddhattha, as he was destined for greatness. These sons grew up to become the other four of the Group of Five.