Puõõa was born in the Sunàparanta country in the town of Suppàraka, now identified with Sopara on the coast north of Mumbai. He travelled with a caravan of merchants all the way to Sàvatthi, heard the Buddha teach and became a monk. He proved himself to be intelligent and conscientious and after finishing his training told the Buddha he wished to return to his homeland to spread the Dhamma. The Buddha said to him: `The people of Sunàparanta are fierce and rough. What will you do if they abuse or threaten you?' Puõõa replied: `I will think how kind they are in that they do not hit me.' `What if they do hit you?' `I will think how kind they are in that they do not throw stones at me.' `What if they do throw stones at you?' `I will think how kind they are that they do not beat me with sticks.' `And if they do beat you with sticks?' `I will think how kind they are that they do not stab me.' `And if they do stab you?' `I will think how kind they are that they do not kill me?' `What will you think if the people of Sunàparanta do kill you?' `If I am killed I will recall that some of the Lord's disciples, disgusted with their bodies, killed themselves and here am I about to be killed without wanting it.' `Excellent Puõõa, excellent! With such self-discipline and calm you will be able to live amongst the people of Sunàparanta. Go and do what you think is best'(M.III,267-9).
In the Divyàvadàna's retelling of this story it has the Buddha say; `Go Puõõa! Become free and then free others! Cross over and then help others cross! Be inspired and then inspire others! Attain nirvàõa and then help others attain nirvàõa!' Puõõa eventually made his way back to his homeland and within a few months had converted a thousand people and become enlightened himself.
Puõõa stands as an excellent example of a missionary monk with a desire to serve others. He had self-discipline and calm (damåpasama), courage (dhiti) and determination (adhiññhàna) and most of all, a passion for the Dhamma (dhammakàma). The Buddha said that those who succeed do so because of their passion for the Dhamma (dhammakàmo bhavaü hoti, Sn.92). In later centuries, inspired by Puõõa's example, Indian monks risked danger and hardship to spread the Dhamma to the furthermost reaches of Asia.