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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas


Mahā Cunda, Cunda the Great


Dictionary of Pāḷi Proper Names: The books appear to refer to two theras by the name of Cunda, the better known being Mahā-Cunda and the other Cūḷa-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-Samaṇuddesa whom, however, the Commentaries identify with Mahā-Cunda. Mahā-Cunda is, for instance, described in the Theragāthā Commentary as the younger brother of Sāriputta, under whom he joined the Order, winning arahantship after arduous and strenuous effort. In the time of Vipassī Buddha he had been a potter and had given to the Buddha a bowl made of clay. The Apadāna verses quoted in the Theragāthā Commentary are, in the Apadāna itself, ascribed to a monk named Ekapattadāyaka. They make no mention whatever of his relationship to Sāriputta. On the other hand, there are to be found elsewhere in the Apadāna certain verses ascribed to a Cunda Thera, which definitely state that he was the son of the brahmin Vaṅganta, and that his mother was Sārī. But in these verses he is called Cūḷa-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 sāmaṇera 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 Sāriputta. This would identify Cūḷa-Cunda with Conda Samaṇuddesa who, according to the Saṃyutta Nikāya, [S.v.161] attended Sāriputta in his last illness and, after his death, brought to the Buddha at Jetavana Sāriputta's bowl and outer robe and his relics wrapt in his water-strainer. Therefore if Buddhaghosa is correct in identifying Cunda Samaṇuddesa with Mahā-Cunda, then all three are one and the same.

Cunda Samaṇuddesa 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 Ānanda, and it was to Ānanda that he first brought thenews of Sāriputta's death.

Mahā-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, Mahā-Kassapa, Mahā Koṭṭhita, Mahā Kaccāna and other very eminent Elders.

The Piṭakas contain several discourses [A.iii.355; v. 41, 157] given to the monks by Mahā-Cunda while residing at Sahajātī 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 Kusinārā, and spread a bed for him in the Mangogrove by the Kakutthā River. Cunda is mentioned [S.iv.50; M.iii.263] as having accompanied Sīriputta when he went to see Channa at theKalandakanivāpa in Rājagaha, just before Channa's suicide. Once, when the Buddha lay ill in theKalandakanivāpa, Cunda visited him and they talked of the bojjhaṅgas. There and then the Buddha's sickness vanished.[S.v.81]




Dictionary of Pāḷi Proper Names, by G. P. Malalasekera, D.Litt., Ph.D., M.A. (Lond.), O.B.E., Pāḷi 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]