MN144 and suffering in awakened beings

Hello everyone,

I know that MN144 was discussed before, but from what I’ve seen there was a different topic of discussion in comparison with my question, so I decided to create a new topic instead of stirring up old topics.

So my main question is: why was Channa suffering at all? I don’t mean the pain and bad bodily feelings themselves, I mean why did he want to end his life, or, more explicitly, why was he suffering on account of pain? He says he directly knows the anatta, that none of that belongs to him, etc, but still he can’t bear the pain. I can’t reconcile it with the arahantship, I mean, I though an awakened one would not suffer on account of unpleasant feeling because there’s no clinging in him, no aversion. How come Buddha confirms his arahatship while there seems to be aversion?


The sutta accounts of Channa’s awakening are strenuously aimed at propagating the doctrine that the influence of teachers is a necessity. But the different description in the Vinaya shows that he attained arahantship independently through his own efforts:

Translator’s note: Passages in the Vinaya show that Ven. Channa — apparently, Prince Siddhattha’s horseman on the night of his Great Renunciation — was proud and obdurate. After becoming a monk, he was unwilling to accept instruction from any of the other monks. (See the origin stories to Sanghadisesa 12 and Pacittiya 12 in [ Buddhist Monastic Code (The Buddhist Monastic Code I: The Patimokkha Training Rules Translated and Explained).) DN 16 tells of how the Buddha, on the night of his parinibbana, imposed the brahma-punishment on him: he was to be left to his own ways without anyone to teach or correct him. According to Cv.XI, news of this punishment so shocked Ven. Channa that he fainted. He then went off into seclusion and practiced diligently to the point of attaining arahantship. As Ven. Ananda later told him, his attainment nullified the punishment. This sutta tells a different version of Channa’s change of heart."—Thanissaro, SN 22.90

The reference to suicide could be an elaboration on Channa’s reaction when he heard he had been ostracized:
“Shall I not be even a slain man (effectively dead), friend Ananda, so long as I am neither spoken to nor exhorted nor admonished by the bikkhus? And he fainted and fell.”—Vinaya Cv. XI

Arahantship does not negate experiencing physically painful feelings (ie the nerve endings still send pain signals). The suffering that is ended is all the conditioned suffering and psychological suffering ( oh woe is me, why should I suffer so, it’s not fair, the fear that comes from it etc etc)… So one abides knowing this is not me or mine, just experiencing the feeling with nothing added.

There has been discussion that it may be possible to remove oneself from the experience of physical pain, by remaining in a Jhana state, but this state may not always be possible in these circumstances even for Arahants. And in the circumstances where the pain will continue unremittingly until death… it becomes another matter.

Because Channa had done what needed to be done in the spiritual life and had attained Arahantship, there could no longer be a loss of opportunity to advance on the spiritual path. In other threads on the forum, suicide has been discussed, and basically the ONLY circumstance in which one can commit suicide 'blamelessly, is when one is an Arahant and in these circumstances.

I hope this answers your question.

1 Like

I read this together with Salla Sutta (arrow discourse) where Buddha talks about two arrows - one of physical pain and another mental; While an arahant or a noble disciple can overcome the mental pain, there is no indication that physical pain would disappear, in that sutta;
And if the physical pain is incurable/unbearable, slitting of wrist was perhaps the form of euthanasia in vogue at that time.
I suppose MN144 tries to clarify that, mentally, Channa was free of attachment that would cause a rebirth.



In other threads on the forum, suicide has been discussed, and basically the ONLY circumstance in which one can commit suicide 'blamelessly, is when one is an Arahant and in these circumstances.

I will have to go through those threads and so maybe this comment in unwarranted here; But MN144 seems to indicate “blamelessness” refers to any form of dying and not just suicide;
Anyone dying anyway, including by suicide, but takes up another body is blameworthy whereas anyone dying anyway, including by suicide, but is an arahant is blameless;
That’s how I understand the sutta.

In other words, suicide, in this sutta at least, doesn’t seem to be specifically condemned.

@Ravi This exchange from another topic may clarify the situation :slight_smile:

“The mendicant Channa did indeed have such families. But this is not enough for me to call someone ‘blameworthy’. When someone lays down this body and takes up another body, I call them ‘blameworthy’. But the mendicant Channa did no such thing.

You should remember this: ‘The mendicant Channa slit his wrists blamelessly.’”

1 Like