Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas
DPPN: He was born in Campa, his father being Usabhasetthi. From the time of his conception his father's wealth continued to increase, and, on the day of his birth, the whole town kept festival. Because in a pervious birth he had given a ring, worth one hundred thousand [pieces of gold], to a Pacceka Buddha, his body was like burnished gold - hence his name [sona = golden]. His hands and feet were soft like bandhujivaka-flowers, and a fine down grew on them curved "like ear-ornaments." He lived in great luxury in three palaces, each having its own season.
King Bimbisara, hearing of him, sent for him, and Sona went with eighty thousand fellow townsmen. In Rajagaha he heard the Buddha preach, and, winning faith, entered the Order with his parents' consent. The Buddha gave him a subject for meditation, and he went to Sitavana, but many people visited him and he was unable to concentrate. He strove hard, and, through pacing up and sown in meditation, painful sores developed on his feet. But he won no attainment and was filled with despair. The Buddha saw this and visited him, and by preaching to him the Vinupamovada Sutta, taught him how to temper energy with calm. Thus corrected, he put forth fresh effort and attained arahantship.
A footnote says: The Vinaya (i.179 ff) gives details of Sona's visit to Bimbisara. The king, being curious to see Sona's feet, sent for him. He and his eighty thousand companions went to see the Buddha, and there they were greatly impressed by the iddhi power of Sagata [a beggar of great Magic Power who was the personal attendant of the Buddha before Ananda]. Sona then sought the Buddha alone and joined the Order. After ordination he walked about meditating, his feet bled, and his cankamana [place to pace] was covered with blood. "like a slaughter-house for oxen." After Sona attained arahantship, the Buddha gave him permission to wear shoes with one lining. Sona said he had abandoned eighty cartloads of gold and a retinue of seven elephants. He did not wish, as a monk, to have any luxuries which his colleagues did not share. The Buddha then gave permission to all monks to wear shoes with one lining.
From the Psalms [brackets are translator's]:
Who once in Anga's realm was passing rich,
A squire to Anga's king, lo! He today
Is of fair wealth in spiritual things.
Yea, past all ill hath Sona won his way.
Five cut thou off; Five leave behind, and Five
Beyond these cultivate!
He who the Fivefold Bond transcends - a Brother
Flood-crossed is he called.
Seest thou a Brother with a rush-like mind,
[Stuck-up and empty] trifler, keen to taste
External things? Never will he attain
Fullness of growth within the moral code,
In mental training, or in insight's grasp.
For such neglect that which they have to do,
But what should not be done they bring to pass.
In these conceited, desultory minds
Grow [the rank weeds of] the intoxicants.
In whom the constant governance of sense
Is well and earnestly begun, the things
That should be left undone they practice not;
Ever what should be done they bring to pass.
For them who live mindful and self-possessed,
The intoxicants wane utterly away.
In the straight Path, the Path that is declared,
See that ye walk, nor turn to right or left.
Let each himself admonish and incite;
Let each himself unto Nibbana bring!
When overtaxed and strained my energies,
The Master - can the world reveal his peer? --
Made me the parable about the lute,
And thus the Man who Sees taught me the Norm
And I who heard his blessed word abide
Fain only and always to do his will.
Calm I evolved and practiced, equipoise,
That so to highest Good I might attain.
And now the Threefold Wisdom have I won,
And all the Buddha's ordinance is done.
He who hath compassed yielding up the world,
And hath attained detachment of the mind,
Who hath achieved conquest of enmity,
And grasping rooted out that bringeth birth,
And death of craving hath attained and all
That doth bewilder and obscure the mind,
And of sensations marked the genesis: --
His heart is set at perfect liberty.
For such a Brother rightly freed, whose heart
Hath peace, there is no mounting up of deeds,
Nor yet remaineth aught for him to do.
Like to a rock that is a monolith,
And trembleth never in the windy blast,
So all the world of sights and tastes and sounds,
Odors and tangibles, yea, things desired,
And undesirable can ne'er excite
A man like him. His mind stands firm, detached,
And of all that he notes the passing hence.
PTS, Mrs. Rhys Davids, trans.; The Book of the Sixes, The Great Chapter, #55: Sona pp 266: