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 Benares councillor.* 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).**
* This preservation of Bakkula was due to the power of the sanctity of his last life; it was a case of psychic power diffused by knowledge (ñānavipphārā iddhi), PS.ii.211; Vsm.379.
** Cp. the explanation of bakkula in J.P.T.S. 1886, pp. 95ff.
After a prosperous life, at the age of eighty, Bakkula heard the Buddha preach 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 (A.i.25; for a problem connected with this, see Mil.215ff.).
In the time of Anomadassī Buddha, he was a learned Brahmin who became a holy hermit. He heard the Buddha preach 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 Hamsavatī, 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 tinapupphakaroga (? hay fever).
In the time of Kassapa Buddha, he renovated an old vihāra and provided the monks with medicaments (AA.i.168 ff.; MA.ii.928 ff.; ThagA.i.434 ff.; Ap.i.328 ff.; PSA.491). Bakkula lived to a very old age* (AA.ii.596), and shortly before his death ordained Acela Kassapa, who had been his friend in his lay days.** Bakkula was one of the four who had great abhiññā (mahābhiññappattā) in the time of Gotama Buddha, the others being the two chief disciples and Bhaddā Kaccānā (AA.i.204). He is often mentioned (E.g., MA.i.348) as an example of a monk who practised asceticism without preaching it to others. Fifty five kappas ago he was a king named Anoma (v.l. Aranemī) (Ap.i.329).
* according to the Bakkula Sutta (M.iii.125), he was eighty years a monk. This is confirmed by DA.ii.413, where his age is given as 160.
** See Bakkula Sutta below. The Thag. contains three verses (225 7) which he spoke when about to pass away.