Bāhiya was an Arahant who lived during the time of the Buddha. He was born in the family of a householder of Bāhiya hence his name and engaged himself in trade, voyaging in a ship. Seven times he sailed down the Indus and across the sea and returned safely home. On the eighth occasion, while on his way to Suvaṇṇabhūmi, his ship was wrecked, and he floated ashore on a plank, reaching land near Suppāraka. Having lost all his clothes, he made himself a bark garment, and went about, bowl in hand, for alms in Suppāraka. Men, seeing his garment and struck with his demeanor, paid him great honor. Though they offered him costly robes and many other luxuries, he refused them all and his fame increased. Because of his bark garment he was known as Dārucīriya. In due course he came himself to believe that he had attained Arahantship, but a devatā, reading his thoughts and wishing him well, pointed out to him his error and advised him to seek the Buddha at Sāvatthi. By the power of the devatā, Bāhiya reached Sāvatthi in one night, a distance of one hundred and twenty leagues, and was told that the Buddha was in the city begging alms. Bāhiya followed him there and begged to be taught something for his salvation. Twice he asked and twice the Buddha refused, saying that it was not the right time for teaching.
The Buddha then taught him the proper method of regarding all sense experiences namely, as experiences and no more. Even as he listened, Bāhiya became an Arahant and the Buddha left him. Shortly after, Bāhiya was gored to death by a cow with calf. The Buddha, seeing his body lying on the dung heap, asked the monks to remove it and to have it burnt, erecting a thūpa over the remains. In the assembly he declared Bāhiya to be foremost among those who instantly comprehended the Truth (khippābhiññānaṃ).
Bāhiya's resolve to attain to this eminence was made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha when he heard the Buddha declare a monk foremost in instantaneous comprehension. In the time of Kassapa Buddha, when the Buddha’s teachings were fading from the minds of men, Bāhiya was one of seven monks who climbed a rock, determined not to leave it until they had attained their goal. Their leader became an Arahant and the second a Non-returner passing into the Suddhāvāsa world; the rest were reborn in this age as Pukkusāti, Kumāra Kassapa, DabbaMallaputta, Sabhiya, and Bāhiya. Although Bāhiya had kept the precepts in previous births, he had never given a bowl or a robe to a monk. For this reason the Buddha did not, at the end of his discourse, ordain him by the “Come bhikkhu” ordination (ehi bhikkhu pabbajā). The Buddha knew that Bāhiya had not sufficient merit to obtain divine robes. Some say that he was once a brigand and had shot a Pacceka Buddha with an arrow and had taken possession of the Pacceka Buddha’s begging bowl and robe.
Bāhiya met his death while searching for a robe in which to be ordained. The cow that killed Bāhiya was identical with the one that killed Pukkusāti, Tambadāṭhika and Suppabuddha.
- Udana 1.10