He was born in the family of a councillor of Kosambī, and, while being bathed by his nurse in the waters of the Yamunā, he slipped into the river and was swallowed by a fish. The fish was caught by an angler and sold to the wife of a Bārāṇasī councillor.¹ When the fish was split open the child was discovered unhurt, and cherished by the councillor’s wife as her own son. On discovering his story, she asked permission of his parents to keep him. The king decided that the two families should have him in common, hence his name Bākula (two families = bi kin).² After a prosperous life, at the age of eighty, Bākula heard the Buddha teach and left the world. For seven days he remained unenlightened, but on the dawn of the eighth day he became an Arahant. Later, the Buddha declared him to be foremost in good health.³
In the time of Anomadassī Buddha, he was a learned Brahmin who became a holy hermit. He heard the Buddha teach and became his follower, and when the Buddha suffered from stomach trouble, he cured him and was reborn later in the Brahma world. In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, he was a householder of Haṃsavatī, and, hearing a monk acclaimed as most healthy, he wished for a similar honour in a future life. Before the appearance of Vipassī Buddha, he was born in Bandhumatī, where he became a hermit. Later, he saw the Buddha, acknowledged him as teacher, and cured a monk of tiṇapupphakaroga (? hay fever). In the time of Kassapa Buddha, he renovated an old vihāra and provided the monks with medicaments.⁴ Bakkula lived to a very old age,⁵ and shortly before his death ordained Acela Kassapa, who had been his friend in his lay days.⁶ Bākula was one of the four who had great higher knowledge (mahābhiññappattā) in the time of Gotama Buddha, the others being the two chief disciples and Bhaddā Kaccānā.⁷ He is often mentioned⁸ as an example of a monk who practised asceticism without teaching it to others. Fifty-
⁶ See the Bākula Sutta. The Thag. contains three verses (225‑7) which he spoke when about to pass away.