As the rainy season approached, Shakyamuni's disciples returned to their home districts to reflect quietly on what they had heard and done in the previous season, to repent of shortcomings, to be diligent in meditation, and to renew their will to attain enlightenment. After the rainy season, when they returned to their master, he looked fondly at each and then said :
“You all look well and seem to have made excellent use of your retreat. I think all of you have advanced through discipline and training. Still there is something I should Like to ask of you.. Is there anyone among you who is esteemed for the following qualities by those who devotedly pursue the same course of discipline?
Is there anyone among you who lives wanting little and knowing that little is enough and who praises lack of desire and realization of sufficiency as wonderful and precious? Is there anyone among you who diligently strives in solitude and praises the accomplishment of not being misled either by solitude or worldliness, saying that such an accomplishment is wonderful and precious? Is there anyone among you who strives and extols the wonder and value of striving?
Is there anyone among you who, observing the precepts, being diligent in meditation, and having attained wisdom praises the value and magnificence of the precepts, meditation, and wisdom?
Is there anyone among you who, having attained the liberation of enlightenment and the Eye of Wisdom, praises the wonder and value of enlightenment and the attainment of the Eye of Wisdom through it? Is there anyone among you whose words and acts agree so splendidly that they encourage his fellow monks, awaken in them the desire to pursue the Way, and give them joy?”
The monks replied in unison, “World-honored One, there is one person of the kind you describe. He is none other than Punna-Mantaniputta.”
On hearing this, Sariputta, who was sitting beside Shakyamuni, thought that Punna must be a wonderful and happy man if his fellow monks were in such agreement about him before their teacher.
Eventually Saripurta met Punna. Punna's speech was so lucid and cogent, each word so well chosen, that Saripurta imagined he was hearing Shakyamuni speak. He realized that none of Shakyamuni's other disciples could expound the master's teachings as correctly. Sariputta praised Punna, saying that a disciple like him was a source of supreme joy to all who heard him teach. Punna, in return, praised Sariputta's discourse.
Punna's eloquence made him known as foremost in teaching the Dharma. But he had not always been such a fine person. His father was a wealthy landed Brahman in the village of Donavatthu, in the Kingdom of Kosala. His mother, Mantani, was the Younger sister of Kondanna, one of Shakyamuni's earliest disciples. Mantani reared Punna with the greatest care and affection.
Blessed with superior qualities and a fine environment, Punna grew into a brilliant youth. But everyone has faults, and Punna's greatest fault was pride, probably because he had been so indulged. Even marriage to a beautiful woman who made him the envy of all did not satisfy him.
When he realized that people praised his mother and wife but not him, he became jealous and wondered why this should be, since he was so much more outstanding. His jealousy kept him constantly on edge. Finally, one day he realized that praising his mother and wife was the same as praising him. He felt ashamed of the conceit that had made him angry when people failed to praise him.
Overwhelmed by his shortcomings, Punna decided to make a fresh start. Leaving home, wife and children, for the next twenty years he devoted himself completely to Brahman discipline. He achieved great success and attracted a large following.
Punna firmly believed in the correctness of his own philosophy. When he heard that Shakyamuni was teaching in Rajagaha, he immediately went there with twenty-nine disciples to challenge him to a debate, confident that he, Punna would win. Shakyamuni greeted Punna quietly and persuaded him of the futility of debate, explaining that instead of engaging in debate people should seek liberation through dialogue.
Punna realized the importance of Shakyamuni's teachings and asked Shakyamuni to accept him as a disciple. His followers did the same. The solemnity of their ordination deeply moved all the beholders.