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1. Puṇṇa, Puṇṇaka Thera.– He was born in the family of a householder of Suppāraka in Sunāparanta. When he was grown up, he went with a great caravan of merchandise to Sāvatthi where, having heard the Buddha teach, he left the world and joined the Order. He won favour by attention to his duties. One day he asked the Buddha for a short lesson so that, having learnt it, he might go back to dwell in Sunāparanta. The Buddha taught him the Puṇṇovāda Sutta (q.v.) So Puṇṇa departed, and, in Sunāparanta, he became an Arahant. There he won over many disciples, both male and female, and having built for the Buddha a cell out of red sandalwood (candanāsālā), he sent him a flower by way of invitation. The Buddha came with five hundred Arahants, spent a night in the cell, and went away before dawn.

Ninety-one world-cycles ago, when there was no Buddha alive, Puṇṇa was a learned brahmin, and later became a hermit in Himavā. Near his abode a Pacceka Buddha died, and at the moment of his death there appeared a great radiance. The ascetic cremated the body and sprinkled scented water on the pyre to extinguish the flames. A deva, witnessing the event, prophesied his future greatness. His name throughout his many lives was Puṇṇa or Puṇṇaka

In Sunāparanta he first lived at Ambahattha-pabbata, but, on being recognised by his brother, he went to Samuddagiri-vihāra, where was a magnetised walk that none could use. The waves of the sea breaking made great noise, and, in order to help him to concentration, Puṇṇa caused the sea to be quiet. From there he went to Mātulagiri, where the incessant cries of birds disturbed him; he finally went to Makulakagāma. While he was there, his brother Cūḷa Puṇṇa, with five hundred others, sailed in a trading ship, and, before embarking, he visited Puṇṇa, took the precepts from him, and asked for his protection during the voyage. The ship reached an island where red sandalwood grew; with this the merchants filled the ship, and the spirits of the island, angered by this, raised a great storm and appeared before the sailors in fearful forms. Each merchant thought of his guardian deity and Cūḷa Puṇṇa of his brother. Puṇṇa, sensing his brother’s need, travelled through the air to the ship, and, at sight of him, the spirits disappeared. In gratitude for their deliverance, the merchants gave to the elder a share of their sandalwood. It was with this material that the Candanasālā, above referred to, was built.

Kuṇḍadhāna was the first among the Arahants to be chosen to accompany the Buddha to Sunāparanta. Sakka provided five hundred palanquins for the journey, one of which was empty. This was subsequently taken by the ascetic Saccabaddha, whom the Buddha converted and ordained on the way. On his return journey, the Buddha stopped at the river Nammadā, and was entertained there by the Nāga king

2. Puṇṇa, Puṇṇaka.– A millionaire (seṭṭhi) of Rājagaha,³ father of Uttarā Nandamātā. He had been a poor man and had worked for the millionaire Sumana. One feast day, though his master offered him a holiday, he went to work in the field, because he was too poor to be able to enjoy himself. While he was in the field Sāriputta came to him, and Puṇṇa gave him a tooth stick and water. Puṇṇa’s wife, coming with her husband’s food, met Sāriputta as he was coming away, and offered him the food she carried. She cooked fresh rice and took it to her husband, who was overjoyed to hear of her gift to Sāriputta. After the meal, he rested his head for a while on his wife’s lap, and, on awaking, he found that the field he had ploughed had turned into gold. He reported the matter to the king, who sent carts to fetch the gold; but as soon as his men touched it, saying that it was for the king, it turned again into earth. The gold was, therefore, gathered in Puṇṇa’s name, and the king conferred on him the rank of Bahudhana­seṭṭhi. He built a new house, and, at the feast of inauguration, held a great almsgiving to the Buddha and the monks. When the Buddha thanked him, he and his wife and his daughter Uttarā (q.v.) became Stream-winners.⁴ In the Aṅguttara Commenatry ⁵ the man’s name is given as Puṇṇasīha, of which Puṇṇa is the shortened form.

It is this Puṇṇa, described as a hired servant (bhataka), who is mentioned in the Milindapañha ⁶ among the seven people whose acts of devotion brought reward in this very life.

3. Puṇṇa.– Slave of Meṇḍaka (q.v.) He was one of the five persons of Great Merit (pañca-mahāpuññā).⁷ When he ploughed the field with a single plough he made fourteen furrows, seven on each side.⁸

4. Puṇṇa.– A priest (dabbigāhaka = spoon-holder) who held the oblation ladles for the seven sages, mentioned in the Assalāyana Sutta; they were rebuked by Asita Devala for their pretensions regarding the superiority of brahmins.

5. Puṇṇa Koliyaputta.– A naked ascetic (Acela) who visited the Buddha at Haliddavasana, together with Seniya Kukkuravatika. Puṇṇa questioned the Buddha regarding the practices of Seniya, while Seniya did likewise regarding those of Puṇṇa. The discussion is recorded in the Kukkuravatika Sutta (q.v.) At the end of the discussion, Puṇṇa declared himself a follower of the Buddha. He is called Govatika (one who behaved like a cow).¹⁰ Buddhaghosa says ¹¹ that, in order to support his bovine character, he wore horns and a tail and browsed on the grass in the company of cattle.

6. Puṇṇa Mantāṇiputta Thera.– He belonged to a brahmin family of Donavatthu near Kapilavatthu. His mother was Mantāṇī, sister of Aññāta-Koṇḍañña. While the Buddha was at Rājagaha, to where he had gone after teaching the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, Aññāta-Koṇḍañña went to Kapilavatthu and ordained Puṇṇa. Koṇḍañña then returned to Rājagaha, whence, having taken leave of the Buddha, he retired to live on the banks of the Chaddantadaha. However, Puṇṇa remained in Kapilavatthu, intent on his practices, and soon after became an Arahant. He gathered round him five hundred clansmen who all became monks, and he taught them the ten bases of discourse (dasa kathāvatthūni), which he himself had learnt, and they became Arahants. When they wished to visit the Buddha, Puṇṇa sent them on in advance to Rājagaha, asking them to pay homage to the Buddha in his name. Later, when the Buddha came from Rājagaha to Sāvatthi, Puṇṇa visited him and was taught the Dhamma in the Buddha’s own Gandhakuṭi. Sāriputta, hearing of the fame of Puṇṇa, wished to meet him, and went to Andhavana, where Puṇṇa was spending his siesta. Sāriputta questioned him on the seven acts of purity, and Puṇṇa answered him. The two monks found great joy in each other’s words. The interview with Sāriputta is given in the Rathavinīta Sutta.¹² Buddhaghosa says ¹³ that the two Elders had many things in common.

Later, the Buddha declared Puṇṇa to be pre-eminent among those who taught the Dhamma.¹⁴

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, Puṇṇa was born in a rich brahmin family of Haṃsavatī, before the birth of the Buddha. When grown up, he one day visited the Buddha, and as he sat on the edge of a large crowd, hearing him teach, the Buddha declared one of his monks pre-eminent among teachers, and Puṇṇa, wishing for a like honour under a future Buddha, paid great homage to Padumuttara.¹⁵

In the Aṅguttaranikāya Commentary,¹⁶ however, we are told that in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, Puṇṇa was named Gotama and was expert in the Vedas. However, he found no solace in the teaching of the Vedas and became an ascetic with a following of eighteen thousand Jaṭilas, all of whom, under his guidance, developed great psychic powers. Puṇṇa was already old when Padumuttara attained Enlightenment. One day the Buddha visited Gotama’s hermitage, and Gotama and his disciples entertained him to a meal. Afterwards the Buddha wished his chief disciple Mahādeva to come to the hermitage with one hundred thousand monks; this he did, and the ascetics provided flowers for their seats. For seven days the Buddha and his monks remained in trance on their seats, at the end of which period the Buddha asked the most pre-eminent teacher to render thanks. At the conclusion of the discourse, all except Gotama became Arahants. Gotama wished to gain pre-eminence in teaching under a future Buddha, and Padumuttara proclaimed that his wish would find fulfilment. The Apadāna ¹⁷ contains yet another version, according to which Puṇṇa’s name in the time of Padumuttara was Sunanda.

Besides the Rathavinīta Sutta mentioned above, which bears testimony to Puṇṇa’s skill as a teacher, another Sutta, of the Saṃyuttanikāya,¹⁸ represents Ānanda as saying to the assembled monks that Puṇṇa was of great help to himself and others when they were yet novices; Puṇṇa had taught them on causation, and they were able to understand the Doctrine because of his skilful exposition.

It is, perhaps, this Puṇṇa who is identified with the gate-keeper (dovārika) of the Kurudhamma Jātaka,¹⁹ and with one of the seven brothers of the Bhisa Jātaka.²⁰

The Mahāvastu ²¹ contains twenty verses attributed to Pūṇṇa Maitrayānīputra.

7. Puṇṇa.– See also s.v. Puṇṇaka.

Puṇṇa Sutta.– Another name for the Puṇṇovāda Sutta (q.v.)


¹ Thag. vs. 70; ThagA.i.156 ff; Ap.ii.341.

² MA.ii.1014 ff; SA.iii.14 ff; KhA.149. ³ DhA.i.385; iii.104.

MA.ii.812; DhA.iii.302 ff; also VvA.62 ff., where Puṇṇaka’s wife is called Uttarā.

AA.i.240 ff. pp.115, 291; see also MA.ii.812. AA.i.219; DhA.i.385.

Vism.383. M.ii.157; MA.ii.785. ¹⁰ M.i.387 ff. ¹¹ MA.ii.624.

¹² M.i.146 ff. ¹³ MA.i.362. ¹⁴ A.i.23; S.ii.156. ¹⁵ ThagA.i.37 ff.

¹⁶ AA.i.113 ff. ¹⁷ Ap.i.38, quoted at ThagA.i.362.

¹⁸ S.iii.105 f; according to ThagA.ii.124, Ānanda became a Stream-winner (sotāpanna) after hearing a discourse by Puṇṇa.

¹⁹ J.ii.381. ²⁰ J.iv.314. ²¹ Mtu.iii.382.

Finding Footnote References

Rathavinīta Sutta: Majjhimanikāya, M.i.146

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 i 146 in the spine or [146] 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.