144 Advice to Channa

Channovāda Sutta

§ 1. THUS HAVE I HEARD.
On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Rājagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels’ Sanctuary.

§ 2. Now on that occasion the venerable Sāriputta, the venerable Mahā Cunda, and the venerable Channa were living on the mountain Vulture Peak.

On that occasion the venerable Channa was afflicted, suffering, and gravely ill.
Then, when it was evening, the venerable Sāriputta rose from meditation, went to the venerable Mahā Cunda, and said to him:
“Friend Cunda, let us go to the venerable Channa and ask about his illness.”—
“Yes, friend,” the venerable Mahā Cunda replied.

Then the venerable Sāriputta and the venerable Mahā Cunda went to the venerable Channa and exchanged greetings with him. When [264] this courteous and amiable talk was finished, they sat down at one side and the venerable Sāriputta said to the venerable Channa:

“I hope you are getting well, friend Channa, I hope you are comfortable. I hope your painful feelings are subsiding and not increasing, and that their subsiding, not their increase, is apparent.”
“Friend Sāriputta, I am not getting well, I am not comfortable. My painful feelings are increasing, not subsiding; their increase and not their subsiding is apparent. Just as if a strong man were splitting my head open with a sharp sword, so too, violent winds cut through my head. I am not getting well…
Just as if a strong man were tightening a tough leather strap around my head as a headband, so too, there are violent pains in my head. I am not getting well…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 getting well…Just as if two strong men were to seize a weaker man by both arms and roast him over a pit of hot coals, so too, there is a violent burning in my body. I am not getting well, I am not comfortable. My painful feelings are increasing, not subsiding; their increase and not their subsiding is apparent. I shall use the knife,1307 friend Sāriputta; I have no desire to live.”

[1307:- This is an elliptical expression for committing suicide.]

“Let the venerable Channa not use the knife.
Let the venerable Channa live.
We want the venerable Channa to live.
If he 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 have no suitable food and medicine or no proper attendant. But rather, friend Sāriputta, the Teacher has long been worshipped by me in an agreeable way , not with a disagreeable way; for it is proper for the disciple to worship the Teacher in an agreeable way , not in a disagreeable way..
Friend Sāriputta, remember this: the bhikkhu Channa will use the knife blamelessly.”1308

[1308 :- By making this statement he is implicitly claiming arahantship, as will be made clear at §13. Whether his claim at this point was valid or not is uncertain, the commentary regarding it as a case of self-overestimation. ]


“We would ask the venerable Channa certain questions, if the venerable Channa finds it opportune to reply.”
“Ask, friend Sāriputta. When I have heard, I shall know.”

“Friend Channa, do you regard the eye, eye-consciousness, and things cognizable [by the mind] through eye-consciousness thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, [265] this is my self’?

Do you regard the ear…
the nose…
the tongue…
the body…
the mind,
mind-consciousness, and things cognizable [by the mind] through mind-consciousness thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’?”
“Friend Sāriputta, I regard the eye, eye-consciousness, and things cognizable [by the mind] through eye-consciousness thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’

I regard the ear…
the nose…
the tongue…
the body…
the mind, mind-consciousness, and things cognizable [by the mind] through 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 [by the mind] through 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 nose…
in the tongue…
in the body…
in the mind, in mind-consciousness, and in things cognizable [by the mind] through mind-consciousness, that you regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self’?”

“Friend Sāriputta, it is through seeing and directly knowing cessation in the eye, in eye-consciousness, and in things cognizable [by the mind] through eye-consciousness, that I regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ It is through seeing and directly knowing cessation in the ear…in the nose…in the tongue…in the body…in the mind, in mind-consciousness, and in things cognizable [by the mind] through mind-consciousness, [266] that I regard them thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’”

When this was said, the venerable Mahā Cunda said to the venerable Channa:1309

[1309 :- MA says that Ven. Mahā Cunda gave him this instruction thinking that he must still be an ordinary person, since he could not endure the deadly pains and wanted to commit suicide ]

“Therefore, friend Channa, this instruction of the Blessed One’s is to be constantly given attention:

‘There is wavering in one who is dependent, (nissitassa)
there is no wavering in one who is independent;
when there is no wavering, there is tranquillity;
when there is tranquillity, there is no bias;
when there is no bias, there is no coming and going;
when there is no coming and going,
there is no passing away and reappearing;
when there is no passing away and reappearing,
there is no here nor beyond nor in between. This is the end of suffering.’”1310

[1310 The sense of this instruction might be explained with the help of MA thus:
One is dependent because of craving and views and becomes independent by abandoning them with the attainment of arahantship. Bias (nati, lit. bending) comes about through craving, and its absence means there is no inclination or desire for existence. There is no coming and going by the ending of rebirth and death, no here nor beyond nor in between by the transcendence of this world, the world beyond, and the passage between one and the other. This is the end of the suffering of defilements and the suffering of the round.]

§ Then when the venerable Sāriputta and the venerable Mahā Cunda had advised the venerable Channa thus, they rose from their seats and went away. Then, soon after they had gone, the venerable Channa used the knife.1311

[1311 MA: He cut his throat, and just at that moment the fear of death descended on him and the sign of future rebirth appeared. Recognising that he was still an ordinary person, he was aroused and developed insight. Comprehending the formations, he attained arahantship just before he expired.]

§ Then the venerable Sāriputta went to the Blessed One, and after paying homage to him, he sat down at one side and said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, the venerable Channa has used the knife. What is his destination, what is his future course?”

“Sāriputta, didn’t the bhikkhu Channa declare to you his blamelessness?”1312

[1312 :- MA: 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 recognise 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 called Pubbajira. There the venerable Channa had friendly families, intimate families, approachable families [as his supporters].”1313

[1313:- The terms used to describe the lay families which supported the Venerable Channa—mittakulāni suhajjakulāni upavajjakulāni—are obviously synonymous. The third term gives the opportunity for a word play. MA glosses it upasankamitabbakulāni, “families to be approached” (that is, for his requisites).
According to CPD, upavajja here represents Skt upavrajya; the word in this sense is not in PED, though this may be the only instance where it bears such a meaning. The word is homonymous with another word meaning “blameworthy,” representing Skt upavadya, thus linking up with Channa’s earlier avowal that he would kill himself blamelessly (anupavajja). See the following note.

“Indeed, Sāriputta, the bhikkhu Channa had friendly families, intimate families, approachable families [as his supporters]; but I do not say that to this extent he was blameworthy. Sāriputta, when one lays down this body and takes up a new 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.”1314

[1314 This statement seems to imply that Channa was an arahant at the time he committed suicide, though the commentary explains otherwise.
When the Buddha speaks about the conditions under which one is blameworthy (sa-upavajja), upavajja represents upavadya. Though earlier MA
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 (kulasaṁsaggadosa) 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.”

That is what the Blessed One said. The venerable Sāriputta was satisfied and delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s