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Sunakkhatta (Sutta)

A Licchavi prince of Vesāli. He was, at one time, a member of the Order and the personal attendant of the Buddha (anibaddha-upaṭṭhāka), but was later converted to the views of Korakkhattiya and went about defaming the Buddha, saying that he had no superhuman powers and was not distinguished from other men by teaching a saving faith: that the doctrine taught by him did not lead to the destruction of sorrow, etc. Sāriputta, on his alms rounds in Vesāli, heard all this and reported it to the Buddha, who thereupon taught the Mahāsīhanāda Sutta (M.i.68 ff; the Buddha was, at this time, eighty years old, M.i.82) and the Lomahaṃsa Jātaka (J.i.389 f; see also J.iv.95). The Sunakkhatta Sutta (M.ii.252 ff) was evidently taught Sunakkhatta before he joined the Order, while the Pāthika Sutta (D.iii.1 ff) gives an account of his dissatisfaction.

His grievance was that the Buddha showed no mystic superhuman wonders, that he had not shown him the beginning of things. The Buddha reminded him that he had not promised to do any of these things, and that, at one time, Sunakkhatta had been loud in his praise of the Buddha and the Dhamma. The Buddha warned him that people would say he had left the Order because its discipline had proved too hard for him. The Buddha had told him that Korakkhattiya, whom he so much admired, would be born after death among the Kālakañcikā Asurā within seven days. It happened as the Buddha prophesied, and the dead body of Korakkhattiya declared that he was right. However, even so, Sunakkhatta was not convinced.

Later he transferred his allegiance to Kaḷāramatthuka, who died, as the Buddha had prophesied, fallen from grace and fame. The next teacher to win the admiration of Sunakkhatta was Pāthikaputta, and Sunakkhatta wished the Buddha to pay honour to him. However, the Buddha quoted to Sunakkhatta the words of Ajita, the Licchavi general who had been born in Tāvatiṃsa, to the effect that Pāthikaputta was “a liar and a cheat,” and was later able to prove that these words were true. However, Sunakkhatta did not return to the Order. He had probably remained in it for several years before actually leaving it. For we find in the Mahāli Sutta (D.i.152) the Licchavi Oṭṭhaddha relating to the Buddha how Sunakkhatta had come to him three years after joining the Order, claiming that he could see divine forms but could not hear heavenly sounds.

Buddhaghosa explains (DA.i.311) that he could not acquire the power of hearing divine sounds because in a previous birth he had ruptured the ear drum of a holy monk and made him deaf. The Sutta itself gives (D.i.153) as the reason that he had only developed one-sided concentration of mind.

Sunakkhatta is identified with Kānāriṭṭha of the Bhūridatta Jātaka. J.vi.219.

Sunakkhatta Sutta.– Taught at Vesāli to Sunakkhatta, before he joined the Order.

He asks the Buddha if the monks have really won all they profess or if some of them are extravagant in their professions. The Buddha explains that some of the monks are worldly, their hearts set on material things; others are free from worldly bondage, their hearts set on permanence; yet others on various jhānas; while the last have their hearts set on nibbāna; all these will act according to their beliefs.

The Buddha then explains further, using the simile of a surgeon: a patient is wounded by a poisoned arrow, even when the surgeon has removed the poison the patient must go slowly until the wound is healed. Craving is the arrow; the wound represents the six sense organs within; ignorance is the poison; mindfulness is the surgeon’s probing; Noble Understanding is the surgeon’s knife; and the Tathāgata the surgeon. M.ii.252‑61.