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Sona-Kutikanna (Sona-Kotikanna) 1

Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Highest Self—Enlightened One!

Pali Kanon

Published: 2014-10-25

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A Thera, declared chief - of those possessing clear utterance (A.i.24). He was the son of Kali Kuraragharika, and was conceived before the Buddha appeared in the world. (According to ThagA.i.429, his father was a rich setthi; no mention is made there of his mother).

A little while before the birth of the child Kali went to her parents' house in Rajagaha, and one day, as she was cooling herself, she heard a conversation between two Yakkhas, Satagira and Hemavata. As she listened to their talk, her mind was filled with thoughts of the virtues of the Buddha, and she became a sotapanna. That same night the child was born and was called Sona. His mother later returned to Kuraraghara. At that time Maha Kaccana lived near by and often visited her home. Sona was very attached to him, and was later ordained by him. Three years later he received the upasampada, and, with Maha Kaccana’s leave, visited the, Buddha. Kali gave him a large carpet to spread in the Buddha's Gandhakuti.

When Sona arrived at the Gandhakuti, he worshipped the Buddha, who asked Ananda to find him a lodging. Ananda, reading the Buddha's thoughts, spread a rug in the Buddha's chamber. Late at night Sona went to bed, and, very early the next morning, the Buddha woke him and asked him to recite the Dhamma. Sona recited the whole of the Atthakavagga, which he had learnt from Maha Kaccana. At the end of the recital the Buddha applauded him and gave him a boon.

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Sona asked for the "Vinaya-dharapañcamaganena upasampada, which Kaccana had asked him to choose. (This means permission to admit a monk into the Order with a chapter of only five monks, one of whom was versed in the Vinaya. For details of Sona's visit to the Buddha, see Vin.i.194ff.; cf. Ud.v.6). Later he returned to Kuraraghara and visited his mother's house. She had heard of the Buddha's applause from the devas, and wished Sona to recite the Dhamma just as he had done before the Buddha, and this he did.

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha Sona had resolved to win this eminence. In the time of Vipassi Buddha he was a member of the Order and sewed a robe for a monk. Later he was a tailor of Benares and mended a Pacceka Buddha's robe (Thag.vss.365-9; AA.i.133f.; ThagA.i.429).

The Dhammapada Commentary says (DhA.iv.103f) that, on the day when Sona recited the Dhamma in Kuraraghara, Kali 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 Kali going to the monastery, and to kill her if she started homewards after the thieves entered her house.

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When they came her female servant ran to the monastery to tell her about it. But she would not be disturbed and sent her back. Again the servant went, and again she was sent back. When the thief, stationed near Kali, saw her extraordinary piety, he was filled with remorse, and, at the end of the sermon, begged her forgiveness. All the nine hundred thieves joined the Order under Sona Kutikanna, and on the day they became arahants the Buddha appeared before them in a ray of light to encourage them.

According to the Udana Commentary (UdA.307), Sona was called Kutikanna because he wore ear ornaments worth one crore (koti). 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 Sona. When he finally awoke, he ran along the road till he came to a large tree. There he saw an ugly man tearing off his own flesh and eating it. On enquiry, Sona learnt that he had been a wicked merchant of Bharukaccha, who had been born as a peta because he had deceived his patrons. This revelation filled Sona 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 Bharukaccha, who had found fault with their mother for feeding an arahant monk. When Sona returned from Ujjeni he consulted Maha Kaccana about these things, and resolved to enter the Order.

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The Vinaya says (Vin.i.195f) that when Kaccana wished to confer the higher ordination on Sona, it was three years before he could get together the necessary chapter of ten monks. This was because there were but few monks in Avanti and in the Southern Country; hence Sona's request to the Buddha that he should allow five monks to officiate in Avanti. Other boons asked for by Sona and allowed by the Buddha were:

Bo Leaf Permission to use, in Avanti, shoes with thick linings, because the soil of Avanti was black and always muddy;
Bo Leaf permission to bath constantly;
Bo Leaf to use skins for coverlets;
Bo Leaf to accept robes set apart for absent monks even after the lapse of ten days.

Sona is evidently identical with Patihirasaññaka of the Apadana (Ap.ii.392). Gosala Thera was a friend of Sona Kutikanna. ThagA.i.79.

May all be happy and well!


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