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Posts Tagged ‘Angulimala’


Posted by myanmarpedia on September 27, 2007

I. Immediate family of the Buddha
1.King Suddhodana(father)

2.Queen Maha Maya(mother)
3.Maha Pajapati Gotami(aunt and foster mother)
4.Yasodhara(cousin and wife)

II. Male Disciples
6.Sariputta (first chief male disciple)
7.Moggallana (second chief male disciple)
8.Ananda(cousin and personal attendant)
9.Maha Kassapa(preserver of the Dhamma)
10.Anuruddha (cousin and foremost in divine eye)
11.Maha kaccana (foremost in explaining deep and complex sayings )
12.Bakkula (foremost in good health and longevity)
13.Sivali (foremost in obtaining monastic requisites)
14.Angulimala(murderer turned saint)
16.Devadatta(cousin and brother-in-law)

III. Female Disciples
17.khema (first chief female disciple)
18.Uppalavanna (second chief female disciple)
19.Bhadda Kundalakesa(debating nun, foremost in quick understanding)
20.Patacara(foremost in discipline)
21.Sundari Nand (stepsister)
22.Bhadda Kapilani (foremost in recollecting past births)
23.Kisa Gotami (foremost in wearing coarse rag-robes)
25.Sona(foremost in effort)

IV. Royal Patrons
26.king Bimbisara
27.Queen mallika
28.King Pasenadi
29.Queen Samavati

V. Lay Disciples
30.Anathapindika(chief male lay disciple)
31.Visakha (chief female lay disciple)
32.Citta (foremost lay disciple in teaching the Dhamma)
33.Rohini(cousin of the Buddha)


One of King Pasenadi Kosala’s subjects was a learned Brahmin by the name of Bhaggava Gagga, who served as his royal chaplain. Bhaggava and his wife Mantani had a baby son. In keeping with the custom of the times his father cast a horoscope for the new-born babe. To his horror, he found that the baby was born under the “robber constellation”, which would result in tendencies of a life of crime.

That morning when the chaplain visited the king and asked him how he had slept, the king informed him that he had had a night of terror. “I woke up in the night”, said the king, “and saw my weapons which were lying at the side of my bed sparkling brightly. Could this”, he asked, “mean danger to my kingdom or myself?”

Bhaggava then informed the king that the same strange phenomena had occurred throughout the city and informed the king that the cause was his newborn son who had a robber’s horoscope. The king then asked Bhaggava if the stars foretold that the boy was to be a lone robber. Bhaggava informed the king that indeed the stars foretold that his son would lead a life of solitary crime. Bhaggava then asked the king if they should kill the baby now to prevent the crimes that would be unleashed in the future if this baby lived. King Pasenadi, reflecting on the fact that the child would grow up to be a lone robber, asked his chaplain to bring him up carefully and to educate him well so that this prediction could be avoided.

Bhaggava and Mantani decided to name the baby Ahimsaka, or “harmless”, in the hope that his name and a good upbringing and education would change the latent tendencies that were dormant in him. Ahimsaka grew up to be physically strong, intelligent and well-behaved. As he excelled in his studies his father sent him to Takkasila, the famous ancient university of India, for his higher education. Ahimsaka, who was a good student, soon surpassed all the other students and excelled. Before long he was the favourite of his teacher. His teacher treated him as his son and often invited Ahimsaka to share meals with him in his home. Ahimsaka’s academic excellence and his obvious friendship with the teacher made him many enemies. His fellow students, jealous of his success, decided to poison the teacher’s mind in order to destroy the friendship.

They began systematically to poison the mind of the teacher by making false accusations against Ahimsaka. At first the teacher disregarded their slander and rebuked them, but when more and more students independently came to him with the same story his confidence wavered. Slowly a seed of doubt entered his heart. Was Ahimsaka plotting against him? Was he planning to take over his pupils and surpass him? His teacher decided that he would have to kill Ahimsaka before he himself was killed. But Ahimsaka was big and strong. Killing him would not be easy. Besides, his reputation as a teacher would be ruined if he were in any way connected with Ahimsaka’s death. The teacher reflected on a plan to get rid of Ahimsaka, whom he now perceived as a threat, in a manner that would not incriminate him.

Ahimsaka had just completed his course of studies. It was the custom at that time for the pupils to give a gift to honour the teacher who had taught them. Reminding Ahimsaka of this honoured custom, he requested a necklace of one thousand fingers, each of which was to be obtained from a different person’s body. The teacher most probably had secretly cast Ahimsaka’s horoscope himself, for this science was well-known at that time, and had seen that Ahimsaka had within him criminal tendencies. He also expected that before long Ahimsaka would be caught by the king’s men and executed for his crimes. Thus, thinking that he had come up with a foolproof plan to kill Ahimsaka, he insisted on his gift when Ahimsaka hesitated.

Ahimsaka came from a family who believed in non-violence. Remembering his parental and family values, Ahimsaka refused to provide this gift. But the teacher insisted by telling him that this was expected of him and that not giving the requested gift would totally nullify the value of all he had learned, as he would not have met the honoured teacher’s wish. Ahimsaka therefore felt compelled to agree.

At this point Ahimsaka’s latent tendencies for violence arose and exploded within him. In previous births he had been strong and violent. He had, in fact, eaten human flesh and relished killing. His dark past and lack of compassion resurfaced and the good influence of his parents and upbringing were forgotten. His love for danger, adventure and killing took over. Instead of collecting the thousand fingers from dead bodies, which could have been found in the burial grounds, he took to a life of crime in the Jalini forest in his home state of Kosala.

There he lived on a high cliff, observing travellers upon whom he swooped down and killed. Slaying them, he took one finger from each victim. First he hung the finger on a tree so that birds and other creatures would eat the rotting flesh and then he threaded the bones into a garland which he wore round his neck. Before long he came to be known as Angulimala, or “garland of fingers”.

The whole city was in terror. Angulimala’s power and strength were unconquerable. Many had tried to capture the dreaded serial killer but had fallen victim to his vicious strength and inhuman cruelty. Angulimala began to enjoy his cruel life and was completely overtaken by his past dark life of killing and cruelty. No one dared to approach the forest for fear of death. Angulimala started to venture into the outskirts of the city to find his victims. He even started breaking into homes and raiding the city in the night to kill and obtain the fingers. The villagers, who were petrified, left their homes and fled to the capital of Savatthi. They camped outside the palace walls and complained to the king that more and more of the townspeople were being killed mercilessly by Angulimala. The king therefore prepared the army to capture him.

At this time Angulimala had collected 999 of the thousand fingers required for his gift to the teacher. Angulimala’s true name and descent were not known, as his appearance had changed. His beard and hair were matted and he was covered in stale, dried blood. The stench of death and raw meat surrounded him. He looked like a wild, fearsome killer. The mild-mannered Ahimsaka was unrecognizable.

News of the terror wrought by Angulimala had finally reached his parents. Suspecting that Angulimala was their son who had never come back from the Takkasila University, his mother pleaded with her husband to bring their son back. But Bhaggava had no use for such a son. He refused, saying, “Let him be captured, let him be executed by the king’s men”. Mantani decided to venture into the forest alone to save her son. With the unconditional love that a mother has for her child she hoped to persuade Angulimala to mend his ways, as the king was preparing his army to capture and execute him.

Angulimala was searching desperately for his last victim. He was tiring of his life of crime and had become eager to reach his goal. In the distance he saw a woman approaching his hide-out in the Jalini forest. Swooping down the mountain, he began chasing the old woman whom he soon realized was his mother.

At this time the Buddha, with his compassionate eye, was observing the world, looking for those with wisdom and in need to help. He saw Angulimala running after his mother for his final kill. He also saw that Angulimala had within him the goodness to attain emancipation. This was not His first encounter with Angulimala. In many past lives they had met and the Buddha had conquered Angulimala’s strength of body with His strength of mind. Once Angulimala had even been the Bodhisatta’s uncle (Jataka 513). He walked toward the Jalini forest to prevent the grave, hideous crime of matricide. Townsfolk tried to prevent the Buddha from continuing by telling Him of the murderous serial killer.

The Buddha, disregarding their plea, ventured into the deep forest. Projecting himself between Angulimala and his mother, the Buddha attracted his attention. Seeing the calm and serene Buddha, Angulimala swerved. “Why should I kill my mother,” thought Angulimala, “my last victim will instead be this ascetic who stands calmly in my way”.

Swerving, he started after the Buddha. Angulimala brandished his sword as he thrashed amongst the foliage, intent on catching up with the Buddha. But despite his superhuman strength and fast pace he could not keep up with the Buddha. The Buddha did not seem to be running and yet, despite Angulimala’s efforts, He remained a few paces ahead. Exhausted, Angulimala called out to the Buddha, “Stop, recluse! Stop, recluse!” The Buddha calmly replied, “I have stopped, Angulimala. You too should stop.”

Angulimala was perplexed by the Buddha’s words. Stopping, he questioned the Buddha as to what He meant. The Buddha then explained:

“Angulimala, I have stopped forever,
I abstain from violence towards all living beings
But you have no restraint towards things that breathe
So that is why I have stopped and you have not.”

When Angulimala heard these words a miraculous change occurred. His former good deeds and purity surfaced. He knew that the Compassionate One had come to the Jalini Forest solely on his behalf. Moved to the very core of his being, Angulimala threw down his sword, knelt before the Buddha with bowed head, and pledged to change.

Oh at long last this Recluse, a Venerated Sage,
Has come to this forest for my sake.
Having heard your stanza, teaching me the Truth (Dhamma)
I will indeed renounce evil forever.”

The Buddha ordained Angulimala and took him back to the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi. The villagers, unaware of the transformation that had taken place, continued to complain to the king, who, together with his best soldiers, set off to the Jalini forest to capture Angulimala. On the way they passed the Jetavana Monastery. Being an ardent follower of the Enlightened One, King Pasenadi Kosala stopped at the monastery to pay respect to the Buddha. The Buddha, seeing the king in his battle gear with his best soldiers, asked him if he was going to war with a neighbouring kingdom. King Pasenadi replied that it was not a kingdom that he was trying to overthrow, but Angulimala, the dreaded murderer. He then added that even though he had selected his best soldiers to accompany him, he did not think that he would be successful in capturing the fierce murderer.

The Buddha then asked the king how he would treat Angulimala if he had given up his murderous ways and taken to the Noble Order. The king replied that he would then honour and worship him as befitting the Noble Ones. The Buddha then asked Angulimala to come forward. A calm and serene, shaven monk walked towards the king. At the sight of Angulimala the king shook with fear. His being with the Buddha and wearing saffron robes did not alter the fact that he was a fearsome killer. The king backed away in terror.

The Buddha then told the king that he had nothing to be afraid of, as Angulimala had given up killing to follow His path. The king then questioned Angulimala about his family and origin. Angulimala answered that he was the son of Bhaggava Gagga and Mantani. The king immediately recalled the day that Angulimala was born and the unusual happening in the night. But confident in the Buddha’s acceptance of the former murderer, the king addressed him as Gagga Mantaniputta so that his association with the past should be forgotten. King Pasenadi offered to provide Mantaniputta (son of Mantani) his patronage and the requisites of a monk. Mantaniputta, however, had decided that he would practise austerities. He already had the three robes that a monk required. He refused the king’s offer. Amazed at the transformation, King Pasenadi then praised the Buddha as follows:

“It is wonderful, Venerable Sir. It is marvellous how the Blessed One subdues the unsubdued, pacifies the unpacified, calms the uncalm. This one whom we could not subdue with punishment and weapons, the Blessed One has subdued without punishment or weapons.”

Despite the king’s acceptance of Mantaniputta the townsfolk feared the former killer. When Mantaniputta went on his alms round people ran away in fear. Even though he went on alms round each day, as it was the custom for the Buddha’s monks to do, he hardly ever received alms. The villagers were also in fear that this precedent would result in seasoned criminals joining the Noble Order to escape from their punishment. Reflecting on their concern the Buddha realized that no one but Himself had the capacity to look into a person and view their innate goodness. There could in the future arise a misuse of the Noble Order by evil persons. Agreeing to their request, the Buddha declared that convicted criminals would not be allowed to join the order as a means to escape their punishment or jail term.

Mantaniputta, who practised the Buddha’s teaching ardently, had difficulties attaining his goal. Visions of his former victims pleading for their life, their cries of pain and torment, haunted him. He could not calm his mind or collect his thoughts when he remembered his evil past. He continued striving, and despite the fact that he did not receive alms, he joined the other monks in the daily alms round. On one such day he saw a woman in labour in intense pain, as she was unable to deliver her baby. Full of compassion for her suffering he went back to the Buddha and asked if there was anything that he could do to help the young woman.

The Buddha then declared a stanza of Truth which is now commonly known as the Angulimala Sutta. The Buddha asked him to go to the woman and say the following:

“Since I was with the Noble Birth,
I do not recall that I have ever intentionally
Deprived a living being of his life.
By this Truth may you be well and may your infant be safe.”

As instructed Mantaniputta went back to the woman’s home. He then declared the Sutta. The woman’s suffering ceased and she gave birth to a healthy baby. The power of Truth and the resulting miracle spread across the city. Villagers lost their fear of Mantaniputta and started to accept him with compassion. He started to receive food when he went on his alms round.

The Buddha did not usually encourage His disciples to perform miracles or to heal through faith. Why then in this incident did He encourage Mantaniputta to help the woman through the power of Truth? It was because the Buddha knew that Mantaniputta did not receive any alms because the villagers did not have confidence in him. It was also to give Mantaniputta something positive on which to focus his mind so that he could put aside his past and concentrate on disciplining his mind. After this incident people started slowly to regain their confidence in Mantaniputta. He too was able to concentrate without constantly reliving his evil past. His compassion for the woman and his happiness resulting from this deed helped to calm his mind. Shortly thereafter, with diligent practice, Mantaniputta, the former murderer Angulimala, attained Arahanthship.

The acceptance, however, was not complete. Many whose family members he had killed never forgave him. They hit him with sticks and stones and Mantaniputta often came back to Jetavana bleeding, in torn robes. He bore the torment with calm for he had finally attained his salvation. His body was subject to the brutal attacks for he had to reap the effects of his evil kamma, but his mind had achieved liberation.

To this day Buddhists all over the world have great confidence in the Angulimala Sutta. It is common practice for the Sutta to be used for a safe and comfortable delivery when Buddhist women are in labour. From this point onwards Mantaniputta’s compassion spread. He led a quiet life, living in forests and glades, practising austerities.

Mantaniputta encourages his enemies and others who have done wrong and describes his transformation and gratitude to the Buddha thus:

“(one)Who once did live in negligence
And then in negligence no more.
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from the clouds.
(One)Who checks the evil deeds he did
By doing wholesome deeds instead
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from the clouds.
The youthful Bhikkhu who devotes
His efforts to the Buddha’s teachings
He illuminates the world
Like the moon freed from the clouds.
Let my enemies but hear discourses from the Dhamma
Let them be devoted to the Buddha’s Teaching
Let my enemies wait on these good people
Who lead others to accept the Dhamma (Truth).
Let my enemies give ear from time to time
And hear the doctrine as told by men who preach forbearance
Of those who speak as well in praise of kindness
And let them follow up the Teaching with kind deeds.
For surely then they will not wish to harm me
Nor would they think of harming other beings
So those who would protect beings frail or strong
Let them attain the all-surpassing peace.
Conduit-makers guide the water
Fletchers straighten arrows
Carpenters straighten out the timber
But wise men seek to tame themselves.
There are some that tame with beatings
Some with goads and some with whips
But I was tamed by such alone
Who has neither rod nor any weapon.
Harmless is the name I bear
Who was dangerous in the past
The name I bear today is true
I hurt no living beings at all.
And though I once lived as a bandit
With the name of Finger Garland
One whom the great flood swept along
I went for refuge to the Buddha.
And though I once was bloody-handed
With the name of Finger Garland
See the refuge I have found
The bond of being has been cut.
While I did many deeds that lead
To rebirth in the evil realms
Yet their result has reached me now
And so I eat free from death.
They are fools and have no sense
Who give themselves to negligence
But those of wisdom guard diligence
And treat it as their greatest good.
Do not give way to negligence
Nor seek delight in sensual pleasures
But meditate with diligence
So as to reach the perfect bliss.
So welcome to that choice of mind
And let it stand, it was not ill made
Of all the Dhammas known to men
I have come to the very best.
So welcome to that choice of mind
And let it stand, it was not ill made
I have attained the triple knowledge
And done all that the Buddha teaches.
I stayed in forests at the root of a tree
I dwelt in the mountain caves
But no matter where I went
I always had an agitated heart.
But now I rest and rise in happiness
And happily I spend my life
For now I am free of Mara’s snares
Oh! For the pity shown me by the Master.
A Brahmin was I by descent
On both sides high and purely born
Today I am the Master’s son
My teacher is the Dhamma-King.
Free of craving, without grasping
With guarded senses, well restrained
Spawn forth have I the root of misery
The end of all taints have I attained.
The Master has been served by me full well
And all the Buddha’s bidding has been done
The heavy load was finally laid down
What leads to new becoming was cut off.
— (Therigatha 871-891)


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