1. Soṇa Thera.– Leading disciple (aggasāvaka) of Vessabhū Buddha. He was the Buddha’s younger brother, and the Buddha’s first discourse was taught to him.¹
2. Soṇa Thera.– The enemy and rival of Piyadassī Buddha, corresponding to Devadatta. He conspired with Mahāpaduma to kill the Buddha, but was unsuccessful.²
3. Soṇa.– A fierce horse belonging to the king of Bārāṇasī; he was also called Mahāsoṇa. See the Suhanu Jātaka.
4. Soṇa-Kuṭikaṇṇa, Soṇa-Koṭikaṇṇa.– A Thera, declared chief of those possessing clear utterance.³ He was the son of Kāḷī Kulagharikā, and was conceived before the Buddha appeared in the world.⁴ A little while before the birth of the child Kāḷī went to her parents’ house in Rājagaha, and one day, as she was cooling herself, she heard a conversation between two yakkhas, Sātāgira and Hemavata. As she listened to their talk, her mind was filled with thoughts of the virtues of the Buddha, and she became a Stream-winner. That same night the child was born and was called Soṇa. His mother later returned to Kuraraghara. At that time Mahā-Kaccāna lived nearby and often visited her home. Soṇa was very attached to him, and was later ordained by him. Three years later he received the higher ordination (upasampadā), and, with Mahā-Kaccāna’s leave, visited the Buddha. Kāḷī gave him a large carpet to spread in the Buddha’s Gandhakuṭi.
When Soṇa arrived at the Gandhakuṭi, he worshipped the Buddha, who asked Ānanda to find him a lodging. Ānanda, reading the Buddha’s thoughts, spread a rug in the Buddha’s chamber. Late at night Soṇa went to bed, and, very early the next morning, the Buddha woke him and asked him to recite the Dhamma. Soṇa recited the whole of the Aṭṭhakavagga, which he had learnt from Mahā-Kaccāna. At the end of the recital the Buddha applauded him and gave him a boon. Soṇa asked for permission to ordain monks with a group of five, one of them being learned in the Vinaya (vinayadharapañcama-gaṇena upasampadā), which Kaccāna had asked him to choose.⁵ Later he returned to Kuraraghara and visited his mother’s house. She had heard of the Buddha’s applause from the devas, and wished Soṇa to recite the Dhamma just as he had done before the Buddha, and this he did.
In the time of Padumuttara Buddha Soṇa had resolved to win this eminence. In the time of Vipassī Buddha he was a member of the Order and sewed a robe for a monk. Later he was a tailor of Bārāṇasī and mended a Pacceka Buddha’s robe.⁶
The Dhammapada Commentary says that,⁷ on the day when Soṇa recited the Dhamma in Kuraraghara, Kāḷī went to listen to him, leaving only one female slave in the house. Her house had seven walls and fortified gates and savage dogs on leash. Molten lead flowed round the walls at night, and in the night it proved a slippery surface, difficult to walk on. Nine hundred thieves had been awaiting a chance of breaking into the house, and this day they saw their opportunity. They stationed one of their number to watch Kāḷī going to the monastery, and to kill her if she started homewards after the thieves entered her house. When they came her female servant ran to the monastery to tell her about it. However, she would not be disturbed and sent her back. Again the servant went, and again she was sent back. When the thief, stationed near Kāḷī, saw her extraordinary piety, he was filled with remorse, and, at the end of the discourse, begged her forgiveness. All the nine hundred thieves joined the Order under Soṇa-Kuṭikaṇṇa, and on the day they became Arahants the Buddha appeared before them in a ray of light to encourage them.
According to the Udāna Commentary,⁸ Soṇa was called Kuṭikaṇṇa because he wore ear ornaments worth ten million. It is said that he once went with a caravan to Ujjeni, and when the caravan stopped for the night he slept away from the rest of its members. The caravan started very early and nobody waked Soṇa. When he finally awoke, he ran along the road until he came to a large tree. There he saw an ugly man tearing off his own flesh and eating it. On enquiry, Soṇa learnt that he had been a wicked merchant of Bhārukaccha, who had been born as a hungry ghost (peta) because he had deceived his patrons. This revelation filled Soṇa with great misgivings, which were increased by the sight of two peta boys with blood pouring out of their lips. They had been youths, also of Bhārukaccha, who had found fault with their mother for feeding an Arahant monk. When Soṇa returned from Ujjeni he consulted Mahā-Kaccāna about these things, and resolved to enter the Order.
The Vinaya says ⁹ that when Kaccāna wished to confer the higher ordination on Soṇa, it was three years before he could get together the necessary chapter of ten monks. This was because there were few monks in Avanti and in the Southern Country; hence Soṇa’s request to the Buddha that he should allow five monks to officiate in Avanti. Other boons asked for by Soṇa and allowed by the Buddha were:
- Permission to use, in Avanti, shoes with thick linings, because the soil of Avanti was black and always muddy;
- permission to bath constantly;
- to use skins for coverlets;
- to accept robes set apart for absent monks even after the lapse of ten days.
Soṇa is evidently identical with Pāṭihīrasaññaka of the Apadāna.¹⁰ Gosāla Thera was a friend of Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa.¹¹
5. Soṇa-Koḷivisa Thera.– Also called Sukhumāla Soṇa.¹² He was born in Campā, his father being Usabhaseṭṭhi. From the time of his conception his father’s wealth continued to increase, and, on the day of his birth, the whole town kept festival. Because in a previous birth he had given a ring, worth one hundred thousand, to a Pacceka Buddha, his body was like burnished gold — hence his name.¹³ His hands and feet were soft like bandhujīvaka-flowers, and a fine down grew on them.¹⁴ He lived in great luxury in three palaces, each having its own season.
King Bimbisāra, hearing of him, sent for him and Soṇa went with eighty thousand fellow townsmen.¹⁵ In Rājagaha he heard the Buddha teach, and, winning faith, entered the Order with his parents’ consent. The Buddha gave him a subject for meditation, and he went to Sītavana, but many people visited him and he was unable to concentrate. He strove hard, and, through pacing up and down in meditation, painful sores developed on his feet. However, he won no attainment and was filled with despair. The Buddha saw this and visited him, and by teaching him the Discourse on the Simile of the Lute (Vīnūpamovāda Sutta) (see Soṇa Sutta), taught him how to temper energy with calm. Thus corrected, he put forth fresh effort and attained Arahantship.¹⁶
In the time of Anomadassī Buddha he was a multi-millionaire, and, having gone with others to the vihāra and heard the Buddha teach, he decorated a walking path (caṅkamana) for the Buddha and a long hall (dīghasālā) for the monks. On the walking path he scattered various flowers, and, above it, he hung canopies. In the time of Padumuttara Buddha he was a millionaire of Haṃsavatī named Sirivaḍḍha. It was then that he resolved to win eminence as foremost of those who strove energetically (aggaṃ āraddhaviriyānaṃ), and in this he was successful.¹⁷ After the death of Kassapa Buddha, Soṇa was a householder in Bārāṇasī, and built a hut by the river for a Pacceka Buddha, whom he looked after during the rainy season. He was king of the gods for twenty-five world-cycles, and seventy-seven times king among men under the name of Yasodhara.¹⁸ The Apadāna mentions ¹⁹ a Thera, called Soṇa Koṭivīsa, evidently identical with the above, the reason given for the name being that he gave away wealth equal in value to two hundred million (vīsa koṭi). His eminence is ascribed to the fact that, in the time of Vipassī Buddha, he made a cave (leṇa) for the Buddha and his monks and spread it with rugs.
Buddhaghosa ²⁰ gives a variant of his name, calling him Koṭivessa, and explains this by saying that he belonged to a merchant (vessa) family worth ten million.
The Soṇa Sutta,²¹ mentions that Soṇa was a clever player of the lute (vīnā) before he joined the Order. It was the example of Soṇa Koḷivisa that urged Nandaka and his brother, Bharata, to leave the world.²²
6. Soṇa.– An Arahant monk who was sent with Uttara to convert Suvaṇṇabhūmi.²³
7. Soṇa.– A minister of Mahāsena and a follower of the heretic monk, Saṅghamitta. He helped Saṅghamitta in the despoliation of the Lohapāsāda and other buildings. He was killed in an attempt to destroy the Thūpārāma.²⁴ In the Dīpavaṃsa ²⁵ he is called Pāpasoṇa (Soṇa the wicked).
8. Soṇa.– See Mahāsoṇa.
9. Soṇa-Potirīyaputta.– Also known as Seṭṭhiputta Thera. He was born in Kapilavatthu as the son of the Zamindar Potirīya (Selissariya), and became chief of the forces of the Sakyan Bhaddiya. When Bhaddiya left the world, Soṇa followed his example and entered the Order. However, he was lazy and not given to meditation. The Buddha saw this from the Ambavana at Anupiyā and, sending forth a ray of glory, spurred him on. Soṇa became agitated, and putting forth effort became an Arahant.
In the time of Sikhī Buddha he was a forester and gave the Buddha a kuruñjiya-fruit.²⁶ He is probably identical with Kuruñjiyaphaladāyaka of the Apadāna.²⁷
10. Soṇa.– A householder’s son of Rājagaha. He is mentioned as having had two conversations with the Buddha at Veḷuvana: one on the impermanence of the body, feelings, etc., their origin and their cessation;²⁸ and, on another occasion, as to why some beings achieve complete cessation in this life and others do not.²⁹
11. Soṇa.– A gifted teacher, who lived in the Pipphali-vihāra at the foot of Soṇagiri. His father was a hunter, and all Soṇa’s efforts to lead him away from sin failed, until he was very old, when Soṇa ordained him just before his death. The old man saw the hell (niraya) and dogs coming to devour him. He shouted in his fright, and Soṇa took him on his bed to the vihāra and made him worship the cetiya, the Bodhi-tree, etc., and offered various things in his father’s name. He then saw the devaloka before him.³⁰
12. Soṇa.– A Thera of the Mahāvihāra, at whose request the Kaṅkhāvitaraṇī was written.³¹
See also Sona and its compounds.
¹ J.i.42; Bu.xxii.23; BuA.205; D.ii.4. ² BuA.174 f; for details see Piyadassī.
⁴ According to ThagA.i.429, his father was a millionaire. No mention is made there of his mother.
⁵ For details of Soṇa’s visit to the Buddha, see Vin.i.194 ﬀ; cf. Ud.v.6.
⁶ Thag.vss.365‑9; AA.i.133 f; ThagA.i.429. ⁷ DhA.iv.103 f.
⁸ UdA.307. ⁹ Vin.i.195 f. ¹⁰ Ap.ii.392. ¹¹ ThagA.i.79.¹² AA.ii.679.
¹³ He was evidently called Koḷivisa because he was a Koḷiyan, Ap.i.95, 21.
¹⁴ Four inches long on his feet, Ap.i.298, curved “like ear ornaments.”
¹⁵ The Vinaya (Vin.i.179 ﬀ) gives details of Soṇa’s visit to Bimbisāra. The king, being curious to see Soṇa’s feet, sent for him. He and his eighty-thousand companions went to see the Buddha, and there they were greatly impressed by the psychic powers of Sāgata. Soṇa then sought the Buddha alone and joined the Order. After ordination he walked about meditating, his feet bled, and his walking path (caṅkamana) was covered with blood “like a slaughter-house for oxen.” After Soṇa attained Arahantship, the Buddha gave him permission to wear shoes with one lining. Soṇa said he had abandoned eighty cartloads of gold and a retinue of seven elephants. He did not wish, as a monk, to have any luxuries which his colleagues did not share, The Buddha then gave permission to all monks to wear shoes with one lining.
¹⁶ Thag.vss.632. ¹⁷ A.i.24.
¹⁸ ThagA.i.544 f; cf. Ap.i.93 f., where he is called Koḷiyavessa. The ApA. confused his story with that of Kuṭikaṇṇa; see also AA.i.130 f., where the details are different, especially regarding the honour paid by Soṇa to the Pacceka Buddha. Once, on visiting the Pacceka Buddha’s cell, he noticed that the ground outside it was muddy; so he spread on the ground a rug worth one hundred thousand, so that the Pacceka Buddha’s feet might not be soiled.
¹⁹ Ap.i.298. ²⁰ AA.i.130. ²¹ Cf. AA.ii.680. ²² ThagA.i.299.
²³ Dpv.viii.12; Sp.i.68, 69; Mhv.xii.6, 44 ﬀ; for details see Suvaṇṇabhūmi.
²⁴ Mhv.xxxvii.10, 13, 28. ²⁵ Dpv.xxii.70, 71.
²⁶ Thag.vss.193, 194; ThagA.i.316 f. ²⁷ Ap.ii.448 f. ²⁸ S.iii.48 f. ²⁹ S.iv.113.
³⁰ VibhA.439; cf. AA.i.255, where the vihāra is called Pañcala-vihāra, and MA.ii.887, where it is called Paceli-vihāra.
³¹ Knv., p.1.
Finding Footnote References
References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, or in square brackets in the body of the text, thus it would be III 374 in the spine or  in the text. References to the Commentaries are usually suffixed with A for Aṭṭhakathā (DA, MA, SNA, etc.) but references to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.