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Academic Sutta Name Notes PSA Plae Vagga Nikaya PTS Keywords
DhA.

VIII:2 The fastest way to attain Arahanthood (Bahiya)

A group of merchants went out to sea in a boat; their boat was wrecked at sea and all except one died. The only survivor got hold of a plank and eventually came to land at the port of Supparaka. As he was naked, he tied a piece of bark to his body, and sat in a place where people could see him. Passers-by gave him food; some thought that he was a holy man and paid respects to him. Some brought clothes for him to wear but he refused, fearing that by wearing clothes, people would give him less respect. Besides, because some said that he was an Arahant, he mistakenly came to think that he really was one. Thus, because he was a man of wrong views who was wearing a piece of bark as his clothing, he came to be known as Bahiya Daruciriya.

At about this time, Maha Brahma, who had been his friend in one of his previous existences, saw him going astray and felt that it was his duty to put Bahiya on the right path. So, Maha Brahma came to him in the night and said to him, 'Bahiya, you are not an Arahant yet, and what is more, you do not have the qualities that make one an Arahant.' Faced with the truth, Bahiya looked up at Maha Brahma and said, 'Yes, I must admit that I am not an Arahant, as you have said. I now realise that I have done a great mistake. But is there anyone in this world now who is an Arahant?' Maha Brahma then advised him to go and seek help from the Buddha who was staying in Savatthi.

Bahiya, realising the enormity of his guilt, felt very much distressed and travelled all the way to Savatthi to see the Buddha. Bahiya found the Buddha going on an almsround with other bhikkhus and respectfully followed him. He pleaded with the Buddha to teach him the Dhamma, but the Buddha replied that since they were on an almsround it was not yet time for a religious discourse. And again, Bahiya pleaded, 'Venerable Sir, one cannot know the danger to your life or to my life, so please teach me the Dhamma.' The Buddha knew that Bahiya's mental faculties were not yet ready to completely realize the Dhamma. The Buddha also knew that Bahiya's mind was not receptive at that time because he had just made the long journey and also because he was overwhelmed with joy at seeing him. The Enlightened One did not want to expound the Dhamma immediately but wanted him to calm down to enable him to absorb the Dhamma properly. Still, Bahiya persistently pleaded. So, while standing on the road, the Buddha said to him, 'Bahiya, when you see an object, be conscious of just the visible object; when you hear a sound, be conscious of just the sound; when you smell or taste or touch something, be conscious of just the smell, the taste or the touch; and when you think of anything, be conscious of just that mind-object.'

Bahiya did as he was told and because of his deep concentration, the accumulated kammic force of his past good deeds became dominant and he attained Arahanthood. He asked permission from the Buddha to join the Order. The Buddha told him to first collect the robes, the bowl and other requisites of a bhikkhu. On his way to get them, he was attacked by an animal and died. When the Buddha and the other bhikkhus came out after having had their meal, they found Bahiya lying dead on the road. As instructed by the Buddha, the bhikkhus cremated the body of Bahiya and his ashes were enshrined in a stupa.

Back at the Jetava monastery, the Buddha told the bhikkhus that Bahiya had attained Nibbana. He also told them that as far as the time factor was concerned in attaining Insight (abhinna) Bahiya was the fastest, the best. The bhikkhus were puzzled by the statement made by the Buddha and they asked him how and when Bahiya had become an Arahant. To this, the Buddha replied, 'Bahiya attained Arahanthood while he was listening to my instructions given to him on the road when we were on the almsround.' The bhikkhus wondered how one could attain Arahanthood after listening to just a few words of the Dhamma. So, the Buddha told them that the number of words or the length of a speech does not matter if it was beneficial to someone.

55/170 Dhammapada & Commentary Khuddhaka J.i.106ff. despair


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Last modified on: Sunday, 13 August 2000.