I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. And at that time Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was living in Suppāraka by the seashore. He was worshipped, respected, honored, loved, and given dana — he was given robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicine. When he was alone in meditation, this thought arose in his mind: “Now, am I really one of those who in this world are arahants, or are on the path of arahantship?”
Then a devatā who had once been a blood relative of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth — in compassion and wishing him well, seeing this thought arise in his mind, went to him and told him, “You, Bahiya, are not an arahant and you are nowhere near the path for becoming arahant. You don’t even have the practice for becoming an arahant or entering the path for becoming arahant.”
“Then who, in this world with its devas, are arahants or have entered the path to become arahant?”
“Bāhiya, there is a city in the northern country named Sāvatthī. There the Blessed One — an arahant, rightly self-awakened — is living now. He truly is an arahant and teaches the Dhamma leading to arahantship.”
Then Bāhiya, deeply shamed and shocked by what the devatā had said, left Suppāraka right then and, in the space of one night, walked all the way to where the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. At the time of his arrival, a large number of monks were doing walking meditation in the open air. He went to them and asked, “Where, venerable sirs, is he staying – the Blessed One — the arahant, rightly self-awakened? We want to see that Blessed One — the arahant, rightly self-awakened.”
“The Blessed One has gone into town for alms.”
Then Bāhiya, leaving Jeta’s Grove and entering Sāvatthī in a great hurry, saw the Blessed One going for alms in Sāvatthī — beautiful to see, peaceful and giving a sense of peace and calm, with senses guarded and mind tamed, having attained the complete freedom and lightness, shining, a Great One. Seeing him, Bāhiya came towards the Blessed One and, reaching him, threw himself down with his head at the Blessed One’s feet, and said, “Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term good and happiness.”
The Blessed One answered, “This is not the time, Bāhiya. We have come into the town for alms.”
Bāhiya said to the Blessed One, “But I cannot know how long I will still be alive, how long you will still be alive! I don’t trust this life! Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term good and happiness.”
A second time, the Blessed One said to him, “This is not the time, Bāhiya. We have come into the town for alms.”
A third time, Bāhiya said to the Blessed One, “But I cannot know how long I will still be alive, how long you will still be alive! I don’t trust this life! Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term good and happiness.”
“Then, Bāhiya, you should train your mind in this way:
Don’t look at what you see. Observe only how seeing is formed.
Don’t look at what you hear. Observe only how hearing is formed.
Don’t look at what you smell, sense or taste. Observe only how sensation is formed.
Don’t look at what you think. Observe only how the thinking is formed.
That is how you should train your mind. When there is only this observation – how seeing is formed, how hearing is formed, how the sensation is formed, how the thinking is formed – then, you, Bhahaya, are not there in all of that.
When you, Bhayaha, are not there in all of that, then you, Bhahaya, are not here, nor there, nor anywhere in between.
This is the end of all suffering and pain.”
Through hearing this short teaching of the Dhamma from the Blessed One, the mind of Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth right then and there was released from all defects completely. Having given Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth this short teaching of the Dhamma, the Blessed One left.
Not long after the Blessed One’s had left, Bāhiya was attacked & killed by a cow with a young calf. Then the Blessed One, having gone for alms in Sāvatthī, after the meal, returning from his alms round with a large number of monks, saw that Bāhiya had died. On seeing him, he said to the monks, “Take Bāhiya’s body, monks, put it on a litter, carry it away, cremate it and build him a memorial. Your friend in the holy life has died.”
Answering, “As you say, Lord,” to the Blessed One, the monks did as he had told, taking away the body of Bahaya and burning it. Then they went to the Blessed One. On arrival, having bowed down to him, they sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to him, “Bāhiya’s body has been cremated, lord, and his memorial has been built. What is his destination? What is his future state?”
“Monks, Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth was wise. He followed the teaching exactly as it was given and brought no resistance to it. Bāhiya of the Bark-cloth, monks, is totally set free.”
Then, on understanding what that meant, the Blessed One spoke:
Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing:
There the stars don’t shine, the sun isn’t visible.
There the moon doesn’t appear. There we don’t have darkness.
And when a sage, a brahman,
through wisdom, has seen this for himself,
then, from body & mind,
from joy & pain,
he is set free.