He was born in the family of a householder of Suppáraka in the Sunáparanta country. When he was grown up, he went with a great caravan of merchandise to Sávatthi where, having heard the Buddha preach, 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 Sunáparanta. The Buddha preached to him the Punnováda Sutta (q.v.). So Punna departed, and, in Sunáparanta, 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 (Candanásálá), 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 kappas ago, when there was no Buddha alive, Punna was a learned brahmin, and later became a hermit in Himavá. 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 Punna or Punnaka. Thag. vs. 70; ThagA.i.156 ff.; Ap.ii.341.
In Sunáparanta he first lived at Ambahatthapabbata, but, on being recognised by his brother, he went to Samuddagiri vihára, where was a magnetised walk which none could use. The waves of the sea breaking made great noise, and, in order to help him to concentration, Punna caused the sea to be quiet. From there he went to Mátulagiri, where the incessant cries of birds disturbed him; he finally went to Makulakagáma. While he was there, his brother Cúla Punna, with five hundred others, sailed in a trading ship, and, before embarking, he visited Punna, 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 Cúla Punna of his brother. Punna, 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 Candanasálá, above referred to, was built.
Kundadhána was the first among the arahants to be chosen to accompany the Buddha to Sunáparanta. Sakka provided five hundred palanquins for the journey, one of which was empty. This was subsequently taken by the ascetic Saccabandha, whom the Buddha converted and ordained on the way. On his return journey, the Buddha stopped at the river Nammadá, and was entertained there by the Nága king. MA.ii.1014 ff.; SA.iii.14ff.; KhA.149.
A setthi of Rájagaha (DhA.i.385; iii.104), father of Uttará Nanda-Mátá. He had been a poor man and had worked for the setthi 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 Sáriputta came to him, and Punna gave him a tooth stick and water. Punna's wife, coming with her husband's food, met Sáriputta 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 Sáriputta. 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 Punna's name, and the king conferred on him the rank of Bahudhanasetthi. 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 Uttará (q.v.) became sotápannas. MA.ii.812; DhA.iii.302 ff.; also VvA.62ff., where Punnaka's wife is called Uttará. In the Anguttara, Commentary (i. 240 ff.) the man's name is given as Punnasíha, of which Punna is the shortened form.
It is this Punna, described as bhataka, that is mentioned in the Milindapańha (pp. 115, 291; see also MA.ii.812) among the seven people whose acts of devotion brought reward in this very life.
Slave of Mendaka (q.v.). He was one of the five persons of Great Merit (Pańca Mahápuńńá) (AA.i.219; DhA.i.385). When he ploughed the field with a single plough he made fourteen furrows, seven on each side. Vsm.383.
A servitor (dabbigáhaka) who held the oblation ladles for the seven sages, mentioned in the Assaláyana Sutta (M.ii.157; MA.ii.785); they were rebuked by Asita Devala for their pretensions regarding the superiority of brahmins.
A naked ascetic (Acela) who visited the Buddha at Haliddavasana, together with Seniya Kukkuravatika. Punna questioned the Buddha regarding the practices of Seniya, while Seniya did likewise regarding those of Punna. The discussion is recorded in the Kukkuravatika Sutta (q.v.). At the end of the discussion, Punna declared himself a follower of the Buddha. He is called Govatika (one who behaved like a cow) (M.i.387 ff). Buddhaghosa says (MA.ii.624) that, in order to support his bovine character, he wore horns and a tail and browsed on the grass in the company of cattle.
He belonged to a brahmin family of Donavatthu near Kapilavatthu. His mother was Mantání, sister of Ańńákondańńa. While the Buddha was at Rájagaha, whither he had gone after preaching the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, Ańńákondańńa went to Kapilavatthu and ordained Punna. Kondańńa then returned to Rájagaha, whence, having taken leave of the Buddha, he retired to live on the banks of the Chaddantadaha. But Punna 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 kathávatthúni), which he himself had learnt, and they became arahants. When they wished to visit the Buddha, Punna sent them on in advance to Rájagaha, asking them to pay homage to the Buddha in his name. Later, when the Buddha came from Rájagaha to Sávatthi, Punna visited him and was taught the Dhamma in the Buddha's own Gandhakuti. Sáriputta, hearing of the fame of Punna, wished to meet him, and went to Andhavana, where Punna was spending his siesta. Sáriputta questioned him on the seven acts of purity, and Punna answered him. The two monks found great joy in each other's words. The interview with Sáriputta is given in the Rathaviníta Sutta (M.i.146 ff.). Buddhaghosa, says (MA.i.362) that the two Elders had many things in common.
Later, the Buddha declared Punna to be pre-eminent among those who preached the Dhamma. (A.i.23; S.ii.156)
In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, Punna was born in a rich brahmin family of Hamsavatí, 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 preach, the Buddha declared one of his monks pre eminent among preachers, and Punna, wishing for a like honour under a future Buddha, paid great homage to Padumuttara. (ThagA.i.37 ff )
In the Anguttara Commentary (AA.i.113 ff), however, we are told that in the time of Padumuttara Buddha, Punna was named Gotama and was expert in the Vedas. But he found no solace in the teaching of the Vedas and became an ascetic with a following of eighteen thousand Jatilas, all of whom, under his guidance, developed great iddhi powers. Punna 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 Mahádeva 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 preacher to render thanks. At the conclusion of the sermon, all except Gotama became arahants. Gotama wished to gain pre eminence in preaching under a future Buddha, and Padumuttara proclaimed that his wish would find fulfilment. The Apadána (Ap.i.38, quoted at ThagA.i.362) contains yet another version, according to which Punna's name in the time of Padumuttara was Sunanda.
Besides the Rathaviníta Sutta mentioned above (n. 1), which bears testimony to Punna's skill as a preacher, another Sutta, of the Samyutta Nikáya (S.iii.105f.; according to ThagA.ii.124, Ananda became a sotápanna after hearing a sermon by Punna), represents Ananda as saying to the assembled monks that Punna was of great help to himself and others when they were yet novices; Punna had preached to them on causation, and they were able to understand the Doctrine because of his skilful exposition.
It is, perhaps, this Punna who is identified with the gate keeper (dovárika) of the Kurudhamma Játaka (J.ii.381) and with one of the seven brothers of the Bhisa Játaka (J.iv.314).
The Mahávastu (iii.382) contains twenty verses attributed to Púrna Maitrayáníputra.
7. Punna. See also s.v. Punnaka.
Punna Sutta. Another name for the Punnováda Sutta (q.v.).