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Verse 173: The Story of Thera Angulimala

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (173) of this book,
with reference to Thera Angulimala.

Angulimala was the son of the Head Priest in the court of King Pasenadi of Kosala. His
original name was Ahimsaka. When he was of age, he was sent to Taxila, a renowned
university town. Ahimsaka was intelligent and was also obedient to his teacher. So he was
liked by the teacher and his wife; as a result, other pupils were jealous on him. So they went
to the teacher and falsely reported, that Ahimsaka was having an affair with the teacher's
wife. At first, the teacher did not believe them, but after being told a number of times he
believed them; and so he vowed to take revenge over the boy. To kill the boy would reflect
badly on him; so he thought of a plan, which was worse than murder. He told Ahimsaka to kill
one thousand men or women, and in return he promised to give the boy priceless knowledge.
The boy wanted to have this knowledge, but was very reluctant to take life. However, he
agreed to do as he was told.

Thus, he kept on killing people, and not to lose count, he threaded a finger each of everyone
he killed and wore them like a garland round his neck. In this way, he was known as
Angulimala, and became the terror of the countryside. The king himself heard about the
exploits of Angulimala, and he made preparations to capture him. When Mantani, the mother
of Angulimala, heard about the king's intention, out of love for her son, she went into the
forest in a desperate bid to save her son. By this time, the chain round the neck of
Angulimala had nine hundred and ninety-nine fingers in it, just one finger short of one
thousand.

Early in the morning on that day, the Buddha saw Angulimala in his vision, and reflected that
if he did not intervene, Angulimala who was on the look out for the last person to make up
the one thousand, would see his mother and might kill her. In that case, Angulimala would
have to suffer in niraya long. So out of compassion, the Buddha left for the forest where
Angulimala was roaming.

Angulimala, after many sleepless days and nights, was very tired and near exhaustion. At the
same time, he was very anxious to kill the last person to make up his full quota of one
thousand and so complete his task. He made up his mind to kill the first person he met.
Suddenly, as he looked out he saw the Buddha and ran after him with his knife raised. But
the Buddha could not be reached, while he himself was completely exhausted. Then, looking
at the Buddha, he cried out, "O Bhikkhu, stop! stop !" and the Buddha replied, "I have
stopped, only you have not stopped." Angulimala did not get the significance of the words of
the Buddha, so he asked, "O Bhikkhu! Why do you say that you have stopped and I have not
stopped?"

The Buddha then said to him, "I say that I have stopped, because I have given up killing all
beings, I have given up ill-treating all beings, and because I have established myself in
universal love, patience, and knowledge through reflection. But, you have not given up killing
or ill-treating others and you are not yet established in universal love and patience. Hence,
you are the one who has not stopped." On hearing these words from the mouth of the
Buddha, Angulimala reflected, "These are the words of a wise man. This Bhikkhu is so very
wise and so very brave ; he must be the ruler of the Bhikkhus. Indeed, he must be the
Buddha himself! He must have come here specially to make me see the light." So thinking, he
threw away his weapon and asked the Buddha to admit him to the Order of the Bhikkhus.
Then and there, the Buddha made him a Bhikkhu.

Angulimala's mother looked for her son everywhere in the forest shouting out his name, but
failing to find him she returned home. When the king and his men came to capture Angulimala,
they found him at the monastery of the Buddha. Finding that Angulimala had given up his evil
ways and had become a Bhikkhu, the king and his men went home. During his stay at the
monastery, Angulimala ardently and diligently practised meditation, and within a short time
he attained Arahatship .

Then, one day, while he was on an alms-round, he came to a place where some people were
quarrelling among themselves. As they were throwing stones at one another, some stray
stones hit Thera Angulimala on the head and he was seriously injured. Yet, he managed to
come back to the Buddha, and the Buddha said to him, "My son Angulimala! You have done
away with evil. Have patience. You are paying in this existence for the deeds you have done.
These deeds would have made you suffer for innumerable years in niraya." Soon afterwards,
Angulimala passed away peacefully; he had realized pari-Nibbana.

Other Bhikkhus asked the Buddha where Angulimala was reborn, and when the Buddha
replied "My son has realized pari-Nibbana", they could hardly believe it. So they asked him,
whether it was possible, that a man who had killed so many people could have realized
pari-Nibbana. To this question, the Buddha replied, "Bhikkhus! Angulimala had done much evil,
because he did not have good friends. But later, he found good friends and through their
help and good advice, he had been steadfast and mindful in his practice of the dhamma.
Therefore, his evil deeds have been overwhelmed by good (i e., Arahatta Magga).

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows.

Verse 173: He who overwhelms with good the evil that he has done lights up this world
(with the light of Magga Insight), as does the moon freed from clouds.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.


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