SN 35.87 Channa

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel Sanctuary.48 Now on that occasion the Venerable Sāriputta, the Venerable Mahācunda, and the Venerable Channa were dwelling on Mount Vulture Peak, and the Venerable Channa was sick, afflicted, gravely ill. Then, in the evening, the Venerable Sāriputta [56] emerged from seclusion, approached the Venerable Mahācunda, and said to him: “Come, friend Cunda, let us approach the Venerable Channa and ask about his illness.”

“Yes, friend,” the Venerable Mahācunda replied.

Then the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Mahācunda approached the Venerable Channa and exchanged greetings with him, after which they sat down in the appointed seats. The Venerable Sāriputta then said to the Venerable Channa: “I hope you are bearing up, friend Channa, I hope you are getting better. I hope that your painful feelings are subsiding and not increasing, and that their subsiding, not their increase, is to be discerned.”

“Friend Sāriputta, I am not bearing up, I am not getting better. 49 Strong painful feelings are increasing in me, not subsiding, and their increase, not their subsiding, is to be discerned. Just as if a strong man were to split my head open with a sharp sword, so too violent winds cut through my head. I am not bearing up…. Just as if a strong man were to tighten a tough leather strap around my head as a headband, so too there are violent pains in my head. I am not bearing up…. Just as if a skilled butcher or his apprentice were to carve up an ox’s belly with a sharp butcher’s knife, so too violent winds are carving up my belly. I am not bearing up…. Just as if two strong men were to seize a weaker man by both arms and roast him over a pit of hot coals, [57] so too there is a violent burning in my body. I am not bearing up, I am not getting better. Strong painful feelings are increasing in me, not subsiding, and their increase, not their subsiding, is to be discerned. I will use the knife,50 friend Sāriputta, I have no desire to live.”

“Let the Venerable Channa not use the knife. Let the Venerable Channa live. We want the Venerable Channa to live. If the Venerable Channa lacks suitable food, I will go in search of suitable food for him; if he lacks suitable medicine, I will go in search of suitable medicine for him; if he lacks a proper attendant, I will attend on him. Let the Venerable Channa not use the knife. Let the Venerable Channa live. We want the Venerable Channa to live.”

“Friend Sāriputta, it is not that I lack suitable food; I have suitable food. It is not that I lack suitable medicine; I have suitable medicine. It is not that I lack proper attendants; I have proper attendants. Moreover, friend, for a long time the Teacher has been served by me in an agreeable way, not in a disagreeable way; for it is proper for a disciple to serve the Teacher in an agreeable way, not in a disagreeable way. Remember this, friend Sāriputta: the bhikkhu Channa will use the knife blamelessly.”51

51 Anupavajjaṃ Channo bhikkhu satthaṃ āharissati. By this he seems to be insinuating that he is an arahant. Spk glosses “blamelessly” (anupavajjạ) with “without continued existence, without rebirth (appavattikạ appạtisandhikaṃ).”

Spk: Channa replied to Sāriputta’s questions by ascribing arahantship to himself, but Sāriputta, while knowing that he was still a worldling, just kept quiet. Mahācunda, however, gave him an exhortation to convince him of this.


“We would ask the Venerable Channa about a certain point, if he would grant us the favour of answering our question.” [58]

“Ask, friend Sāriputta. When I have heard I shall know.”

“Friend Channa, do you regard the eye, eye-consciousness, and things cognizable with eye-consciousness thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’? Do you regard the ear, ear-consciousness, and things cognizable with ear-consciousness thus…? Do you regard the mind, mind-consciousness, and things cognizable with mind-consciousness thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?

“Friend Sāriputta, I regard the eye, eye-consciousness, and things cognizable with eye-consciousness thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ I regard the ear, ear-consciousness, and things cognizable with ear-consciousness thus…I regard the mind, mind-consciousness, and things cognizable with mind-consciousness thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’”

“Friend Channa, what have you seen and directly known in the eye, in eye-consciousness, and in things cognizable with eye-consciousness, that you regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’? What have you seen and directly known in the ear … in the mind, in mind-consciousness, and in things cognizable with mind-consciousness, that you regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’?”

“Friend Sāriputta, it is because I have seen and directly known cessation in the eye, in eye-consciousness, and in things cognizable with eye-consciousness, that I regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ It is because I have seen and directly known cessation in the ear … [59] … in the mind, in mind-consciousness, and in things cognizable with mind-consciousness, that I regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’”52

52 Spk: Channa replied to Sāriputta’s questions by ascribing arahantship to himself, but Sāriputta, while knowing that he was still a worldling, just kept quiet. Mahācunda, however, gave him an exhortation to convince him of this.

When this was said, the Venerable Mahācunda said to the Venerable Channa: “Therefore, friend Channa, this teaching of the Blessed One is to be constantly given close attention: ‘For one who is dependent there is wavering; for one who is independent there is no wavering. When there is no wavering, there is tranquillity; when there is tranquillity, there is no inclination; when there is no inclination, there is no coming and going; when there is no coming and going, there is no passing away and being reborn; when there is no passing away and being reborn, there is neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. This itself is the end of suffering.’”53

53 This “teaching of the Blessed One” is at Ud 81,6–10. Spk explains the connection between the teaching and the present situation thus: For one who is dependent (nissitassa): “dependent” on account of craving, conceit, and views; there is wavering (calitạ): palpitation. As Channa is unable to endure the arisen pain, there is now the palpitation of one who isn’t free from the grip of such thoughts as “I am in pain, the pain is mine.” By this, he is telling him, “You’re still a worldling.” No inclination (nati): no inclination of craving. No coming by way of rebirth, no going by way of death. This itself is the end of suffering: this itself is the end, the termination, the limit, of the suffering of defilements and of the suffering of the round. As to those who argue that the phrase “in between the two” (ubhayamantarena) implies an intermediate state (antar̄bhava), their statement is nonsense, for the existence of an intermediate state is rejected in the Abhidhamma. Therefore the meaning is: “Neither here, nor there, nor both—the other alternative.”
Though the Theravāda Abhidhamma (see Kvu 362–66) and the commentaries argue against the existence of an antarābhava, a number of canonical texts seem to support this notion. See below n. 382, and V, n. 65.


Then, when the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Mahācunda had given the Venerable Channa this exhortation, they rose from their seats and departed. Then, soon after they had left, the Venerable Channa used the knife.54

54 Spk: He cut his jugular vein and just then the fear of death entered him. As the sign of his rebirth destiny appeared, he realized he was still a worldling and his mind became agitated. He set up insight, discerned the formations, and reaching arahantship, he attained final Nibbāna as a “same-header” (saması̄sı̄; see I, n. 312).


Then the Venerable Sāriputta approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Venerable sir, the Venerable Channa has used the knife. What is his destination, what is his future bourn?”

“Sāriputta, didn’t the bhikkhu Channa declare his blameless-ness right in your presence?”55

55 Spk: Although this declaration (of blamelessness) was made while Channa was still a worldling, as his attainment of final Nibbāna followed immediately, the Buddha answered by referring to that very declaration.

It should be noted that this commentarial interpretation is imposed on the text from the outside, as it were. If one sticks to the actual wording of the text it seems that Channa was already an arahant when he made his declaration, the dramatic punch being delivered by the failure of his two brother-monks to recognize this. The implication, of course, is that excruciating pain might motivate even an arahant to take his own life—not from aversion but simply from a wish to be free from unbearable pain.


“Venerable sir, there is a Vajjian village named Pubbavijjhana. There the Venerable Channa had friendly families, intimate families, hospitable families.”56

“The Venerable Channa did indeed have these friendly families, Sāriputta, intimate families, hospitable families; but I do not [60] say that to this extent one is blameworthy. Sāriputta, when one lays down this body and takes up another body, then I say one is blameworthy. This did not happen in the case of the bhikkhu Channa. The bhikkhu Channa used the knife blamelessly. Thus, Sāriputta, should you remember it.”57

57 When the Buddha speaks about the conditions under which one is blameworthy (sa-upavajja), upavajja represents upavadya. Though earlier Spk explained the correct sense of upavajjakulāni, here the commentator seems oblivious to the pun and comments as if Channa had actually been at fault for associating too closely with lay people: “The Elder Sāriputta, showing the fault of intimacy with families (kulasạsaggadosa) in the preliminary stage of practice, asks: ‘When that bhikkhu had such supporters, could he have attained final Nibbāna?’ The Blessed One answers showing that he was not intimate with families.” For intimacy with families as a fault in monks, see 9:7, 16:3, 16:4, 20:9, 20:10.

Also at MN No. 145, entitled Puṇṇovāda Sutta; the opening and closing paragraphs of the two versions are slightly different. According to Spk, Puṇṇa had been a merchant from the Sunāparanta country who came to Sāvatthı̄ on business. Hearing the Buddha preach, he decided to become a bhikkhu. After his ordination he found the area around Sāvatthı̄ uncongenial to his meditation and wished to return to his home country to continue his practice. He approached the Buddha to obtain guidance before departing. For biographical details, see DPPN 2:220–21. Sunāparanta was on the west coast of India. Its capital was Suppāraka, modern Sopāra in the district of Thāna near modern Mumbai.

SN 9.7 Nāgadatta

On one occasion the Venerable Nāgadatta was dwelling among the Kosalans in a certain woodland thicket.545 Now on that occasion the Venerable Nāgadatta had been entering the village too early and returning too late in the day. Then the devatā that inhabited that woodland thicket, having compassion for the Venerable Nāgadatta, desiring his good, desiring to stir up a sense of urgency in him, [201] approached him and addressed him in verses:

778 “Entering the village early,
Returning late in the day,
Nāgadatta associates too closely with lay folk,
Sharing their happiness and suffering.546

779 “I am afraid for Nāgadatta,
So impudent, bound to families.
Do not come under the End-maker’s control, <433>
[In the grip] of the powerful King of Death.”

Then the Venerable Nāgadatta, stirred up by that deity, acquired a sense of urgency.

SN 16.3 Like the Moon

At Sāvatthı̄. “Bhikkhus, you should approach families like the moon—[198] drawing back the body and mind, always acting like newcomers, without impudence towards families.272 Just as a man looking down an old well, a precipice, or a steep riverbank would draw back the body and mind, so too, bhikkhus, should you approach families.

“Bhikkhus, Kassapa approaches families like the moon—drawing back the body and mind, always acting like a newcomer, without impudence towards families. What do you think, bhikkhus, what kind of bhikkhu is worthy to approach families?”

“Venerable sir, our teachings are rooted in the Blessed One, guided by the Blessed One, take recourse in the Blessed One. It would be good if the Blessed One would clear up the meaning of this statement. Having heard it from him, the bhikkhus will remember it.”

Then the Blessed One waved his hand in space273 and said: “Bhikkhus, just as this hand does not get caught in space, is not held fast by it, is not bound by it, so when a bhikkhu approaches families his mind does not get caught, held fast, and bound amidst families, thinking: ‘May those desiring gains acquire gains, may those desiring merits make merits!’274 He is as elated and happy over the gains of others as he is over his own gains. Such a bhikkhu is worthy to approach families.

“Bhikkhus, when Kassapa approaches families his mind does not get caught, held fast, or bound amidst families, thinking: ‘May those desiring gains acquire gains, may those desiring merits make merits!’ He is as elated and happy over the gains of others as he is over his own gains. [199]

“What do you think, bhikkhus, how is a bhikkhu’s teaching of the Dhamma impure, and how is his teaching of the Dhamma pure?”

“Venerable sir, our teachings are rooted in the Blessed One….”

“Then listen and attend closely, bhikkhus, I will speak.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” those bhikkhus replied. The Blessed One said this:

“A bhikkhu teaches the Dhamma to others with the thought: ‘Oh, may they listen to the Dhamma from me! Having listened, may they gain confidence in the Dhamma! Being confident, may they show their confidence to me!’275 Such a bhikkhu’s teaching of the Dhamma is impure.

“But a bhikkhu teaches the Dhamma to others with the thought: ‘The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise. Oh, may they listen to the Dhamma from me! Having listened, may they understand the Dhamma! Having understood, may they practise accordingly!’ Thus he teaches the Dhamma to others because of the intrinsic excellence of the Dhamma; he teaches the Dhamma to others from compassion and sympathy, out of tender concern. 276 Such a bhikkhu’s teaching of the Dhamma is pure.

“Bhikkhus, Kassapa teaches the Dhamma to others with the thought: ‘The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One…. Oh, [200] may they listen to the Dhamma from me! Having listened, may they understand the Dhamma! Having understood, may they practise accordingly!’ He teaches the Dhamma to others because of the intrinsic excellence of the Dhamma; he teaches the Dhamma to others from compassion and sympathy, out of tender concern.

“Bhikkhus, I will exhort you by the example of Kassapa or one who is similar to Kassapa. Being exhorted, you should practise accordingly.”

SN 16.4 A Visitor of Families

At Sāvatthı̄. “Bhikkhus, what do you think, what kind of bhikkhu is worthy to be a visitor of families,277 and what kind of bhikkhu is not worthy to be a visitor of families?”

“Venerable sir, our teachings are rooted in the Blessed One….”

The Blessed One said this: “Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might approach families with the thought: ‘May they give to me, not hold back! May they give me much, not a little! May they give me fine things, not shabby things! May they give me promptly, not slowly! May they give me considerately, not casually!’ When a bhikkhu approaches families with such a thought, if they do not give, he thereby becomes hurt; on that account he experiences pain and displeasure. If they give little rather than much … If they give shabby things rather than fine things … If they give slowly rather than promptly … If they give casually rather than considerately, he thereby becomes hurt; [201] on that account he experiences pain and displeasure. Such a bhikkhu is not worthy to be a visitor of families.

“Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might approach families with the thought: ‘When among others’ families, how could I possibly think: “May they give to me, not hold back!… May they give me respectfully, not casually!”?’ When a bhikkhu approaches families with such a thought, if they do not give … if they give casually rather than considerately, he does not thereby become hurt; he does not on that account experience pain and displeasure. Such a bhikkhu is worthy to be a visitor of families.

“Bhikkhus, Kassapa approaches families with such a thought…. Thus if they do not give … if they give casually rather than considerately, he does not thereby become hurt; [202] he does not on that account experience pain and displeasure.

“Bhikkhus, I will exhort you by the example of Kassapa or one who is similar to Kassapa. Being exhorted, you should practise accordingly.”

SN 20.9 The Bull Elephant

Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Park. Now on that occasion a certain newly ordained bhikkhu was approaching families excessively. The other bhikkhus told him: “The venerable one should not approach families excessively,” but when he was being admonished by them he said: “These elder bhikkhus think they can approach families, so why can’t I?”

Then a number of bhikkhus approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, [269] and reported this matter to the Blessed One. [The Blessed One said:]

“Bhikkhus, once in the past there was a great lake in a forest, with bull elephants dwelling in its vicinity.371 Those elephants would plunge into the lake, pull up lotus stalks with their trunks, and, having washed them thoroughly, would chew them and swallow them free from mud. This increased their beauty and strength, and on that account they did not meet death or deadly suffering.

“Their young offspring, emulating those great bull elephants, would plunge into the lake and pull up lotus stalks with their trunks, but without washing them thoroughly, without chewing them, they would swallow them along with the mud. This did not increase their beauty and strength, and on that account they met death or deadly suffering.

“So too, bhikkhus, here the elder bhikkhus dress in the morning and, taking bowl and robe, enter a village or town for alms. There they speak on the Dhamma, and the laypeople show their confidence to them.372 They use their gains without being tied to them, uninfatuated with them, not blindly absorbed in them, seeing the danger in them and understanding the escape. This increases their beauty and strength, and on that account they do not meet death or deadly suffering.

“The newly ordained bhikkhus, emulating the elder bhikkhus, dress in the morning and, taking bowl and robe, enter a village or town for alms. There they speak on the Dhamma, and the laypeople show their confidence to them. [270] They use their gains while being tied to them, infatuated with them, blindly absorbed in them, not seeing the danger in them and not understanding the escape. This does not increase their beauty and strength, and on that account they meet death or deadly suffering. 373

“Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will use our gains without being tied to them, uninfatuated with them, not blindly absorbed in them, seeing the danger in them and understanding the escape.’ Thus should you train yourselves.”

SN 20.10 The Cat

At Sāvatthī. Now on that occasion a certain bhikkhu was socializing with families excessively. The other bhikkhus told him: “The venerable one should not socialize with families excessively,” but though he was admonished by them he did not desist.

Then a number of bhikkhus approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and reported this matter to the Blessed One. [The Blessed One said:]

“Bhikkhus, once in the past a cat stood by an alley or a drain or a rubbish bin374 watching for a little mouse, thinking: ‘When this little mouse comes out for food, right there I will grab it and eat it.’ Then that mouse came out for food, and the cat grabbed it and swallowed it hastily, without chewing it. Then that little mouse ate the cat’s intestines and mesentery, [271] and on that account the cat met with death and deadly suffering.

“So too, bhikkhus, here some bhikkhu dresses in the morning and, taking bowl and robe, enters a village or town for alms with body, speech, and mind unguarded, without setting up mindfulness, unrestrained in his sense faculties. He sees women there lightly clad or lightly attired and lust invades his mind. With his mind invaded by lust he meets death or deadly suffering. For this, bhikkhus, is death in the Noble One’s Discipline: that one gives up the training and returns to the lower life. This is deadly suffering: that one commits a certain defiled offence of a kind that allows for rehabilitation.375

“Therefore, bhikkhus, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will enter a village or town for alms with body, speech, and mind guarded, with mindfulness set up, restrained in our sense faculties. ’ Thus should you train yourselves.”

Published by Vimutta Fellowship Toronto

The Vimutta community is a group of Theravādan supporters in Canada, who share a focus on the practices based on the Buddha's teachings on the path toward liberation. The Pāli term“Vimutta” literally means “liberated, freed” from the cycle of death and rebirth (samsāra). If you share the vision and are interested and want to contribute, please feel free to contact us.