A robber who was converted by the Buddha in the twentieth year of his
ministry, and who, later, became an arahant. His story appears both in the
Majjhima Cy., 743ff., and in the Thag. Cy., ii.57ff. The two accounts differ in
certain details; I have summarised the two versions.
He was the son of the brahmin Bhaggava,
chaplain to the king of Kosala, his mother being
Mantānī. He was born under the thieves'
constellation, and on the night of his birth all the armour in the town shone,
including that belonging to the king. Because this omen did no harm to anyone
the babe was named Ahimsaka. The Thag. Cy. says he was first called Himsaka and
then Ahimsaka. See also Ps. of the Brethren, 323, n.3.
At Takkasilā he became a favourite at the
teacher's house, but his jealous fellow-students poisoned his teacher's mind,
and the latter, bent on his destruction, asked as his honorarium a thousand
human right-hand fingers. Thereupon Ahimsaka waylaid travellers in the
Jālinī forest in Kosala and killed them, taking
a finger from each. The finger-bones thus obtained he made into a garland to
hang round his neck, hence the name Angulimāla.
As a result of his deeds whole villages were deserted, and the king ordered a
detachment of men to seize the bandit, whose name nobody knew. But Angulimāla's
mother, guessing the truth, started off to warn him. By now he lacked but one
finger to complete his thousand, and seeing his mother coming he determined to
kill her. But the Buddha, seeing his upanissaya, went himself to the wood,
travelling thirty yojanas, (DA.i.240; J. iv.180) and intercepted Angulimāla on
his way to slay his mother. Angulimāla was converted by the Buddha's power and
received the "ehi bhikkhu pabbajjā" (Thag.868-70) while the populace were
yelling at the king's palace for the robber's life. Later, the Buddha presented
him before King Pasenadi when the latter came
to Jetavana, and Pasenadi, filled with wonder,
offered to provide the monk with all requisites. Angulimāla, however, had taken
on the dhutangas and refused the king's offer.
When he entered Sāvatthi for alms, he was
attacked by the mob, but on the admonition of the Buddha, endured their wrath as
penance for his former misdeeds.
According to the Dhammapadatthakatha
(iii.169) he appears to have died soon after he joined the Order.
There is a story of how he eased a woman's labour pains by an act of truth.
The words he used in this saccakiriyā (yato aham sabba˝˝utabuddhassa ariyassa
ariyāya jātiyā jāto) have come to be regarded as a paritta to ward off all
dangers and constitute the Angulimāla Paritta. The water that washed the stone
on which he sat in the woman's house came to be regarded as a panacea
In the Angulimāla Sutta he is addressed by
Pasenādi as Gagga Mantānīputta, his father being a Gagga. The story is
evidently a popular one and occurs also in the Avadāna Sataka (No.27).
At the Kosala king's Asadisadāna, an untamed
elephant, none other being available, was used to bear the parasol over
Angulimāla. The elephant remained perfectly still - such was Angulimāla's power
(DhA.iii.185; also DA.ii.654).
The conversion of Angulimāla is often referred to as a most compassionate and
wonderful act of the Buddha's, e.g. in the
Sutasoma Jātaka, (J.v.456f.; see
also J. iv.180; SnA.ii.440; DhA.i.124) which was preached concerning him. The
story of Angulimāla is quoted as that of a man in whose case a beneficent kamma
arose and destroyed former evil kamma (AA.i.369).
It was on his account that the rule not to ordain a captured robber was
For his identification with Kalmāsapāda see J.P.T.S., 1909, pp. 240ff.