Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Backstory: Bahiya's sudden enlightenment

G.P. Malalasekera, encyclopedia entry in Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (and PTS) derived from the Commentaries; Dhr. Seven, Pat Macpherson, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

But, Bahiya, this is the time for gathering alms.
Bāhiya Dārucīriya or "Bahiya of the Barkcloth" suddenly reached full enlightenment. How? The Commentaries (tika) give the backstory.

Bahiya was born in a householder's family Bāhiya (identified as Bhārukaccha in AP.ii.476), which led to his name.

He engaged in trade, voyaging by ship. Seven times he sailed down the Indus River and across the sea, and seven time returned home safely.

On his eighth trip, however, while on his way to the "Golden Land," Suvannabhūmi, he was shipwrecked. He saved his life by floating ashore on a plank of wood, reaching what he thought was an island which was in fact peninsular Suppāraka.

Having lost all his clothes, he made himself a bark garment (daruciriya), and went about, alms bowl in hand, in Suppāraka.

People, seeing his austere garment and struck by his ascetic demeanor, paid him great honor. They offered him costly robes and many other luxuries, and when he refused them his fame increased. Because of his bark garment, he was known as Dārucīriya.

He came to believe that he had attained full enlightenment, but a devata (a "shining one," said to be a brahma from the Pure Abodes or Suddhāvāsa, who had been a celibate companion in the supreme life during the time of Kassapa Buddha, according to the Commentary, MA.i.340), reading his thoughts and wishing him well, pointed out to him his error.

What is the road to nirvana? (NG)
The devata advised him to go see the Buddha in Sāvatthi. By the power of that devatā, Bāhiya reached Sāvatthi in one night, a distance of 120 leagues. But he was told that the Buddha was in the city on alms round.

Bāhiya followed him and pleaded to be taught something for gaining enlightenment. Twice he asked, and twice the Buddha refused, saying that it was not the time for teaching. But Bāhiya insisted, saying that life is uncertain and that the Buddha or he might pass away before it was time for teaching.

The Commentaries say that Bāhiya was too excited by his meeting with the Buddha and that the Buddha wished to give him time to regain his composure, hence his refusal.

But then the Buddha came to know of Bahiya's impending death and also of his potential (upanissaya) for full enlightenment. He was to attain in this very life due to his past karma (a pacchimabhavika).

Map showing ancient western trade routes serviced by this historical ancient Indian port. The gateway city of Bharakuccha is named on the map as Barigaza on the Gulf of Khambhat. The inhospitable mountains and deserts to the north of the Erythraean Sea suggests its importance in trade with ancient Axum, Egypt, Arabia, and the sea-land trade routes via the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and Ancient Rome. More
Oh yeah, first to reach...eat my dust, ladies!
The Buddha then taught him the optimal method of regarding all sen
se experiences -- namely, as mere (impersonal, disappointing, impermanent) experiences and nothing more.

Even as he listened, Bāhiya became an arhat, and the Buddha seeing this went on his way. Shortly after, Bāhiya was gored to death by a cow with a calf (like the story of Pukkusāti and the others*).

The Buddha on his way back, seeing Bahiya's body lying on the dung heap, directed the monastics to prepare it, cremate it, and erect a sacred burial mound (tope, thūpa, stupa) over the relics.

In the assembly he declared Bāhiya to be "foremost among those who instantly comprehend the truth" (khippābhiññānam) (A.i.24; Ud.i.10).

Let's climb this rock to practice or die trying.
Bāhiya's resolution to attain to this eminence was made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha when he heard the Buddha declare a wandering ascetic foremost in instantaneous comprehension.

In the time of Kassapa Buddha, when the Buddha's teachings were fading from the minds of humans, Bāhiya was one of seven wandering ascetics who climbed a massive rock and determined not to leave it until they had attained their goal of spiritual liberation.

Their leader became an arhat, and the second a non-returner (anāgāmī) -- passing away to rebirth in the Pure Abodes (Suddhāvāsa). The rest were reborn in this age as Pukkusāti, Kumāra Kassapa, Dabba-Mallaputta, Sabhiya, and Bāhiya.

Although Bāhiya had kept the precepts in previous rebirths, he had never given a bowl or a robe to a monk. For this reason the Buddha did not, at the end of his instruction, ordain Bahiya by saying "ehi bhikkhu pabbajā" to him.

The Buddha knew that Bāhiya had insufficient merit to obtain divine robes (from devas). Some say that he was once a brigand and had shot a non-teaching fully self-enlightened one (pacceka buddha) with an arrow and had taken possession of that pacceka buddha's alms bowl and robe.

Bāhiya was killed while searching for a proper robe to receive ordination (UdA.77ff.; AA.i.156ff.; DhA.ii.209ff.; Ap.ii.475ff).

*The violent cow that gored Bāhiya was the same one that murdered Pukkusāti, Tambadāthika the Public Executioner, and Suppabuddha (2). (It is said that the cow was possessed by a yakkhini or yakshi, a female-ogre or inimical spirit; see her story at DhA.ii.35f). Source

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