Purna or Punna

Introduction

Purna(Sanskrit) and Punna(Pali) was one of the closest disciples of the Buddha. His full name was Purna Maitrayaniputra meaning boundless preaching and compassion. He was noted for ‘Preaching the law’ and was said to have made hundreds of people turn to Buddhist teachings and way of life.

Birth and Early Life

Punna was born to a rich Brahmin family near the Shakya Kingdom in Kapilavasthu. From a young age he felt that temporal possessions were ephemeral and wished to embrace ascetism. He took refuge in the Buddha and vowed to spread the truth to salvage sentient beings. After rigorous spiritual practices he became a Arahat.

 

Spreading Buddha Dharma

Punna was very enthusiastic in his preachings. Many Kings who were greatly influenced by Buddha and his compassion and teachings took refuge in the Buddha and tried to change their way of governance to lead a moral and principled life. They released many criminals on the condition that they would take refuge in the Buddha and follow his noble ideals. Purna always warned these monks not be in the Sangha for namesake only.  This would not only damage the religion but also cause harm to their characters. So saying, he exhorted them to give up their negativities and seriously practice the teachings. The monks were touched on hearing this and decided to make use of this opportunity to better their lives. He always preached Buddha’s message and guided the other monks to spread the message of their Great Master as the only way to show gratitude to him and made this the mission of his life. Wherever he went, however barren the area he made it a holy place and spread the teachings of the Buddha. The other monks were amazed at the power that he generated in his discourses but Punna always attributed his powers to the Master’s grace. He always prayed to the Buddha to give the other monks and the people he preached to, the confidence and strength to follow the teachings and to transform themselves.

Way of preaching

Punna’s only aim in life was sowing Buddha’s seeds everywhere. Knowing the diverse minds and temperaments of the people he used different methods to teach them. He would instil in the Doctors the idea that they could cure diseases of the body but never diseases of the mind like greed, anger, ignorance etc. He would tell lawyers and court officials that they could pass laws and punish crimes but could do nothing to prevent the fallacies of the human mind that caused the crimes. Only Buddha’s teachings could solve all these problems he would say and instil Buddha’s Dhamma in them. Even to farmers he would ask them to plough the soil with Buddha’s teachings to reap a rich harvest of Buddha’s Blessedness. He would go to remote and fearful areas fearlessly as he felt the Buddha’s grace and compassion would always protect him.

Punna’s transformation in Sudan

When Buddha saw Punna’s determination to spread Buddhism in Sudan, he cautioned him but Punna knew that with his Master’s grace everything could be achieved.

In poverty stricken areas like Sudan he realised that there was no use of Dhamma unless their standard of living improved. During the day he treated the sick and began to instruct them in steps to improve farming and healthy ways to keep house. In the night he would instruct them on Buddha’s teachings and the right code and conduct of life. In this way he transformed hundreds of people who took up the Buddhist way of life.

Past Lives

Punna was very close to the Buddha in most of his past lives and it is said that the Buddha predicted that in the future he too would become a Buddha.

Conclusion

Punna was the epitome of compassion and the ideal to help human beings transcend suffering was the goal of his life. Realising the greatness and the power of the Buddha and his teachings he wished to share this good fortune and awaken in everyone God consciousness. This was the motivating power behind his extensive preaching. The Buddha always praised him and he amazed everyone with his perseverance and determination in his Quest uncaring for his own physical needs.