A Licchavi prince of Vesāli. He was, at one time, a member of the Order and the personal attendant of the Buddha (anibaddhaupatthāka), but was later converted to the views of Korakkhattiya and went about defaming the Buddha, saying that he had nothing superhuman and was not distinguished from other men by preaching a saving faith: that the doctrine preached 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 preached the Mahāsīhanāda Sutta (M.i.68ff.; the Buddha was, at this time, eighty years old, M.i.82) and the Lomahamsa Jātaka (J.i.389f.; see also J.iv.95). The Sunakkhatta Sutta (M.ii.252ff) was evidently preached to Sunakkhatta before he joined the Order, while the Pātika Sutta (D.iii.1ff) 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 Kālakañjaka Asuras within seven days. It happened as the Buddha prophesied, and the dead body of Kora declared that he was right. But even so, Sunakkhatta was not convinced.
Later he transferred his allegiance to Kandaramasaka, who died, as the Buddha had prophesied, fallen from grace and fame. The next teacher to win the admiration of Sunakkhatta was Pātikaputta, and Sunakkhatta wished the Buddha to pay honour to him. But the Buddha quoted to Sunakkhatta the words of Ajita, the Licchavi general who had been born in Tāvatimsa, to the effect that Pātikaputta was "a liar and a cheat," and was later able to prove that these words were true. But 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 Otthaddha 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 Kānāritha of the Bhūridatta Jātaka. J.vi.219.