Pūrṇa Maitrāyaniputra (Sk.) or Puṇṇa Mantānīputta (Pl.). He was also called Purna for short. He was the greatest teacher of the Law out of all the disciples. He was the top master of preaching.
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.
When asked by the Buddha what he would think if people were to assault or kill him, each time Puṇṇa explained how he would find himself fortunate. As a result, the Buddha commended Puṇṇa on his self-control and peacefulness. Puṇṇa went on to establish a thousand lay followers in the Buddha’s teaching. Upon Puṇṇa’s death, the Buddha discerned that Puṇṇa had attained final Nibbana.
According to the Punna Sutta:
“Setting his dwelling in order and taking his robe and bowl, he set out for the Sunaparanta country and, after wandering stage by stage, he arrived there. There he lived. During that Rains retreat he established 500 male and 500 female lay followers in the practice, while he realized the three knowledges and then attained total (final) Unbinding.
Then a large number of monks went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to him, “Lord, the clansman named Punna, whom the Blessed One instructed with a brief instruction, has died. What is his destination? What is his future state?”
“Monks, the clansman Punna was wise. He practiced the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma and did not pester me with issues related to the Dhamma. The clansman Punna is totally unbound.”
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.
Punna Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, chapter 35
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