Don’t go around with evil friends,
with rogues do not resort.
Spend your time with noble friends,
and worthy ones consort.
Explanation: Do not associate with people who have evil ways. Avoid the company of wicked, evil people who are mean and bad. Associate with worthy friends. Keep the company of noble persons who are superior in quality and virtue and who will be able to elevate you.
The Story of Venerable Channa (Verse 78)
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Venerable 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 monk. As a monk, he was very arrogant and overbearing because of his close connection with 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, 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 monks are good friends to you; you should associate with them and be on good terms with them.”
In spite of repeated admonitions and advice given by the Buddha, Channa did as he pleased and continued to scold and abuse the monks. 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 Venerable Ananda to his bedside and instructed him to impose the brahma-punishment (Brahmadanda) to Channa; i.e., for the monks to simply ignore him and to have nothing to do with him. After the parinibbana of the Buddha, Channa learning about the punishment from monks, felt a deep and bitter remorse for having done wrong and he fainted three times. Then he owned up his guilt to the monks 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.