Bāhiya Sutta

Bāhiya (Ud 1.10)

Translated by Christopher J. Ash

Thus have I heard. Once, the flourishing one was staying at Sāvatthi, at Jeta’s Grove, Anathapindika’s Park. At that time, Bark-clothed Bāhiya was dwelling at Supparika on the coast. He was respected there, held in reverence, honoured and esteemed, and received the requisites of a mendicant – robes, lodging, medicine (if he needed it), and alms.

Now, while he was in seclusion, Bark-clothed Bāhiya had this thought: “Among those who are awakened, or who have entered the way of awakening, I am one of them.”

Now a certain deva, a former blood-relation of Bark-clothed Bāhiya, who felt compassion on for and wished him well, having read this thought of Bāhiya’s mind, went to where he was, and drawing near to him, said, “Bāhiya, you are neither awakened, nor have you entered the path of awakening.”

“Then who, these days, in this world with its gods, is an awakened one, or has entered the path of awakening?”

“In the north, Bāhiya, there is the city of Sāvatthi. At present, a flourishing one, a fully awakened one, is staying there. That flourishing one, that awakened one, he gives the teaching of awakening.”

And, Bāhiya, inspired by this deva, departed Supparika, and eventually arrived at Anathapindika’s Park, where the flourishing one was staying. Many mendicants were doing walking meditation in the open there, so Bāhiya went up to them, and having approached them, he said, “Sirs, where is the Blessed One now – the awakened one, the fully awakened one? I am longing to see an awakened one, a fully awakened one.”

“The enlightened one has gone into the main city for alms-round,” they told him.

Bāhiya hurriedly left Jeta’s Grove, and went into the main city, and there he saw the master walking on alms-round – lovely to behold, inspiring confidence, senses calmed and mind tranquil; one accomplished, restrained, with his senses guarded – a great one (nāga). And when Bāhiya saw him, he went forward, approached him, and prostrating himself with his head at the feet of the flourishing one, said: “Teach me, Blessed One. Teach me the dhamma, Well-Gone One – such as will be to my benefit and happiness for a long time.”

When Bāhiya had finished saying this, the flourishing one said to him, “It’s not the right time, Bāhiya. I am here for alms-round.”

For a second time, Bark-clothed Bāhiya spoke to the flourishing one, saying, “It is difficult to know, Sir, to whom death will come first – to the Blessed One or me. Teach me, Blessed One. Teach me the dhamma, Well-Gone One – such as will be to my benefit and happiness for a long time.”

A second time, the flourishing one said, “It’s not the right time, Bāhiya. I am here for alms-round.”

A third time, Bark-clothed Bāhiya spoke to the flourishing one, saying again: “It is difficult to know, Sir, to whom death will come first – to the Blessed One or me. Teach me, Blessed One. Teach me the dhamma, Well-Gone One –  such as will be to my benefit and happiness for a long time.”

“Okay, Bāhiya, here’s how you should practice: “In the seen, just the seen occurs; in the heard, just the heard occurs; in what is sensed in other ways, just the sensed occurs; and in the recognised, just the recognised occurs. Just practice this way, Bāhiya.

“When, for you, there is: In the seen, just the seen occurring; in the heard, just the heard occurring; in the sensed, just the sensed occurring; and in the recognised, just the recognised occurring, then, Bāhiya, you will not be (organized) via it, and when you are not (organized) via it, you will not be ‘locatable.’ And then, Bāhiya, when you are not ‘locatable,’ you are neither here, nor there, nor in between both. Just this is the end of dukkha.”

Instantly, in response to this concise instruction on the part of the flourishing one, Bāhiya’s mind was without support, freed from the mental-emotional biases.

After the flourishing one had made this known so concisely to him, Bark-clothed Bāhiya went away. Then, immediately after he left the flourishing one, Bāhiya was knocked down by a cow and killed.

The flourishing one completed his alms-round, then finished his meal for the day, and left the city with a large company of mendicants. It was then that they found Bark-clothed Bāhiya lying dead.

So, the flourishing one told the mendicants “Take the body of Bark-clothed Bāhiya place it on a stretcher, and carry it away from here. Cremate it, and afterward raise a memorial over the remains. For, this is a fellow practitioner of the holy life who has died.”

“We’ll do that, Sir,” they assented. So, they took the body of Bark-clothed Bāhiya, put it on a stretcher, carried it away, and cremated it. Then, they erected a memorial over the remains. Afterward, they went to the flourishing one, approached him, and after greeting him, sat down respectfully to the side. At a timely moment they reported, “The body of Bāhiya has been cremated, Sir; and a memorial has been erected. Where has he gone, Sir? What will be his future state?”

“Practitioners, Bāhiya was a sage. He practiced dhamma according to dhamma; he didn’t vex me about the dhamma. Bark-clothed Bāhiya was fully quelled at heart.”

Then, for that occasion, the fortunate one uttered this inspired verse:

“Where water, earth,
fire and air don’t stand firm;
where no star, nor sun shines,
and the moon doesn’t glow –
no darkness is found there.
When, by their own experience,
in silence, the subtle person knows this,
then from form and formlessness,
from joy and pain, they are released.