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What the Buddha taught to Bahiya of the Bark Garment
By Bhikkhu T. Seelananda

Bahiya was a Master lived in 6th Century B. C. in India. He had many followers and highly honoured ,esteemed and worshipped by the many. He lived at the Place called Supparaka on the West coast of India. (At present it is the Sopara in the Thana district, just North of Bombay). According to the Chronicle Mahavamsa Supparaka was the place where Prince Vijaya landed before he embarked again and landed Lanka (see.P.54.Geiger Trans).

Once the Master Bahiya got plenty of robes, alms-food, beds and seats, comforts and medicines from his followers. Having received all these a thought arose in him, as followers." I wonder whether I am one of those who are Arahants in the world or have attained the Arahants' Path." Then a certain deity who was formerly a blood relation of Bahiya, out of compassion and desire for his welfare, knowing Bahiya's mental desire, approached him and said" Bahiaya neither are you Arahant nor have you reached the Arahants' Path. Yours is not that course by which you could be an Arahant or reach the Arahants' Path." Then Bahiya asked " Who in the world with its devas are Arahants or have reached the Arahants'Path?"

Replying, the deity stated thus" There is a town in the far–off district named Savatthi . There now dwells the Buddha who is Arahanat, a rightly awakened One. He indeed ,Bahiya is Arahanat and teaches Dhamma for reaching Arahants' Path." Being stirred by that deity, Bahiya left Supparaka on the same day and the following day approached Savatthi in order to meet the Buddha. He went to the Jeta's Grove to see the Buddha .On this occasion a great number of monks were walking about in the open air. Then he went up to them and asked whether he could meet the Buddha. " The Buddha, Bahiya, has gone among the houses in quest of alms-food. " they said. Thereupon Bahiya turned about hastily and entered the route seeking the assistance of the Buddha.

Seeing the Buddha, senses calmed, tranquil of mind, in full attainment of composure by masterly control, tamed, alert, like a perfectly trained elephant, going from house to house for his alms, Bahiya went up to him and fell with his head at the feet of the Buddha and said " Sir ,let the Buddha teach me the Dhamma !,Let the Buddha teach me the Dhamma such as may be to my profit and happiness for a long time !" On hearing his words the Buddha said " You come unseasonably , Bahiya. We have entered in quest of alms-food" But Bahiya repeatedly asked thrice the Buddha to teach him the Dhamma on the way. He further said " Sir ,this thing is hard to know, the danger to the span of the life of the Buddha and myself. Therefore let the Buddha teach me the Dhamma! Let the Well-farer teach me the Dhamma such as may be to my profit and happiness for a long time !".

Then, addressing Bahiya on the way to his alms, the Buddha said in brief" Bahiya, thus must you train yourself: "In the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard there will be just the heard, in the imagined just the imagined, in the cognized just the cognized"(Ditthe ditthamattam sute sutamattam mute muta mattam vinnate vinnata mattam). After listening to this concise teaching of the Buddha attentively and vigilantly, Bahiya ,by not clinging ,not grasping to any, released his mind from defilements.

Then the Buddha continued his alms-round . But, not long after the departure of the Buddha, a young calf attacked Bahiya and caused his death. Later on the Buddha came to know this and he asked the monks to take up his body ,burn it and pile a cairn thereon. They did so and when the Buddha was asked about Bahiya's bourn, his future destiny, by the monks, the Buddha said" A sage monks, was Bahiya of the Bark Garment. He went in accordance with the Dhamma and he has won utter freedom."

This lesson of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha to Bahiya is very significant to all of us. Today most of our people do not think of life and its brevity. They attach to things and say "this is mine", "that is mine" or tenaciously grasp and say "I" "my" and so on. They never try to give others or give up things even after their sixties and seventies. We must not forget that the Buddha gave this admonition on the way to his alms. It is very brief and comprehensive. What he said was to be vigilant and mindful enough to understand things as they are. He advised "Ditthe ditthamattam". That is to see things as they are but not as they appear to be. "Sute suta mattam" That is to hear things as they are but not as they appear to be and so on. When one sees things as they are one does not want to cling to it or take it as if it were his or her own .

Things are there in the world not to grasp as ours or mine but to use them in wise manner for our survival and the co-existence. If we grasp things in the world as ours or mine, then certainly, we fall into suffer because whatever thing we grasp to is in the nature of changing. Things are ever-changing. If we are wise enough to understand this properly, we are then free from grasping, becoming, birth, decay, death, lamentation, weeping etc.

Usually when we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or cognize things through our six senses what happen is that there arises the false notion of "I". Once this idea of "I" has arisen, it inevitably follows the idea "I am such-and-such". For instance, "I am a doctor" , "I am a good typist" or "I am a good journalist "or such thing of the sort. When this idea of "I am such-and such" has arisen ,there follows the idea of comparison:" I am better than so-and-so" "I am not as good as so and-so" "I am equal to so-and-so" like that. All these ideas are part of the false notion "I am". When no such idea arises ,there is no birth, and this freedom from birth is a state of coolness (sitibhuta).

If we engage in some practise of the Dhamma in our daily life, we can develop our mind, little by little, so that the idea of "I" "mine" cannot arise. Mindfulness is the most important thing to be practised to understand all these. Therefore let us strive to understand this concise teaching of the Buddha which he taught to Bahiya and practise it in our daily life. Let us practise the Dhamma, while we are in the bus ,in the office, kitchen, on road or at home.

May you be able to practise the Dhamma in daily life!
May all your right efforts be successful !
Paramita International Buddhist Centre
Kadugannawa. SL


Updated: 24-8-2000

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