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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas


Maha Cunda, Cunda the Great


Dictionary of Pali Proper Names: The books appear to refer to two theras by the name of Cunda, the better known being Maha-Cunda and the other Cula-Cunda. But the legends connected with them are so confused that it is not possible to differentiate clearly one from the other. Mention is also made of a Cunda-Samanuddesa whom, however, the Commentaries identify with Maha-Cunda. Maha-Cunda is, for instance, described in the Theragatha Commentary as the younger brother of Sariputta, under whom he joined the Order, winning arahantship after arduous and strenuous effort. In the time of Vipassi Buddha he had been a potter and had given to the Buddha a bowl made of clay. The Apadana verses quoted in the Theragatha Commentary are, in the Apadana itself, ascribed to a monk named Ekapattadayaka. They make no mention whatever of his relationship to Sariputta. On the other hand, there are to be found elsewhere in the Apadana certain verses ascribed to a Cunda Thera, which definitely state that he was the son of the brahmin Vanganta, and that his mother was Sari. But in these verses he is called Cula-Cunda, and mention is made of his previous birth in the time of Siddhattha Buddha, to whom he gave a bouquet of jasmine flowers. As a result he became king of the devas seventy-seven times and was once king of men, by name Dujjaya. It is further stated that he became arahant while yet a samanera and that waited upon the Buddha and his own brother and other virtuous monks. This account goes on to say that after his brother's death, Cunda brought his relics in a bowl and presented them to the Buddha, who uttered praises of Sariputta. This would identify Cula-Cunda with Conda Samanuddesa who, according to the Samyutta Nikaya, [S.v.161] attended Sariputta in his last illness and, after his death, brought to the Buddha at Jetavana Sariputta's bowl and outer robe and his relics wrapt in his water-strainer. Therefore if Buddhaghosa is correct in identifying Cunda Samanuddesa with Maha-Cunda, then all three are one and the same.

Cunda Samanuddesa was, for some time, the personal attendant of the Buddha, and when the Buddha prepared to perform the Twin Miracle, offered to perform a miracle himself and so save the Buddha trouble and exertion. Cunda's teacher was Ananda, and it was to Ananda that he first brought thenews of Sariputta's death.

Maha-Cunda was evidently a disciple of great eminence, and is mentioned by the Buddha [A.iii.299, M.iii.78] in company with the Two Chief Disciples, Maha-Kassapa, Maha Kotthita, Maha Kaccana and other very eminent Elders.

The Pitakas contain several discourses [A.iii.355; v. 41, 157] given to the monks by Maha-Cunda while residing at Sahajati among the Cetis, probably after the Buddha's death. Cunda (or Cundaka as he is called in this context) was with the Buddha in his last journey to Kusinara, and spread a bed for him in the Mangogrove by the Kakuttha River. Cunda is mentioned [S.iv.50; M.iii.263] as having accompanied Siriputta when he went to see Channa at theKalandakanivapa in Rajagaha, just before Channa's suicide. Once, when the Buddha lay ill in theKalandakanivapa, Cunda visited him and they talked of the bojjhangas. There and then the Buddha's sickness vanished.[S.v.81]




Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, by G. P. Malalasekera, D.Litt., Ph.D., M.A. (Lond.), O.B.E., Pali Text Society, 1974
see also M. i, 40; [MN 8]
M. iii, 78; [MN 118]
Brethren 119;
K.S. iv, 30;
S. v, 81
S. v. 161
A. iii. 299 [AN 6.17]