Majjhima Nikaya 86
Bhikkhu Nanamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi
Thus have I heard.
Once the Blessed One was living at Savatthi in Jeta’s grove, Anathapindika’s park. At that time in King Pasenadi’s kingdom of Kosala there was a robber named Angulimala. He was fierce, with bloody hands, engaged in killing living beings without mercy. At that time he destroyed complete villages, complete hamlets and even whole districts. He killed humans and wore a garland of his victims’ fingers.
Then one morning, the Blessed One dressed, and taking bowl and outer robe, entered Savatthi for alms. After going on alms round and returning, and after the meal was over, he set his dwelling place in order, and taking bowl and outer robe, followed the path towards where Angulimala was staying. Cowherds, farmers and travelers, on seeing the Blessed One following the path leading to where Angulimala was staying, said: “Recluse do not follow that path, there lives a robber named Angulimala, a fierce one with bloody hands, engaged in killing living beings without mercy. He has destroyed complete villages, complete hamlets and even whole districts. He kills humans in order to wear a garland of his victims’ fingers. O! recluse, even bands of ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty people going along this path have been killed by this robber Angulimala.” When this was said the Blessed One went silently on. For the second time they said it and the Blessed One went silently on; and for the third time they said it and the Blessed One went silently on.
The robber Angulimala saw the Blessed One coming in the distance and he
thought: “Indeed it is wonderful, people come along this path in bands of ten, or twenty, or thirty, or forty, or fifty, and they all fall into my hands; this recluse comes all alone, without another; maybe he thinks he can overcome me. What if I kill this recluse?” The robber Angulimala took out his sword and armor and fixed his bow and arrow and followed close behind Blessed One. Then the Blessed One performed feat of supernormal power such that the robber Angulimala, pursuing the Blessed One with all his might, could not catch the Blessed One. Then the robber Angulimala thought: “It is indeed amazing! Earlier, I could overtake a running elephant, a running horse, a moving chariot; here running with all my might, I cannot catch up to this recluse.” He stopped and called to the Blessed One. “Stop, Recluse! Stop!”
“Angulimala, I have stopped. You stop too!” The Blessed One said.
Then the robber Angulimala thought: “These recluses, the sons of the Sakyas
talk the truth and are established in the truth. Yet while walking why does he say, ‘I have stopped and Angulimala you too stop!’ What if I ask about it from the recluse?” Then the robber Angulimala spoke this verse to the Blessed One:
‘While walking the recluse says “I have stopped,”
when I have stopped, he says I have not stopped.
Recluse, explain this to me,
how have you stopped and I have not stopped.’
‘Angulimala I have stopped for good,
I have given up harming living beings.
You are not restrained towards living beings,
therefore I have stopped and you have not stopped.’
‘For a long time to fulfill a vow, I have been honoring Shiva.
You have arrived in the forest speaking truth.
So I shall give up my thousand crimes,
for I have heard your verse which teaches what is right.’ 1
Then and there the robber threw away his weapons
into the depths of the forest;
He fell at the feet of the Blessed One
and begged for the going forth.
The Blessed One, the sage
with compassion, for the whole world,
Gave him the going forth saying: ‘Come O! bhikkhu!’
and that was his going forth.
Then the Blessed One, with venerable Angulimala as his attendant, journeyed back to Savatthi and arrived at the monastery given by Anathapindika in Jeta’s grove. At that time at the entrance to the palace of king Pasenadi of Kosala there was assembled a large gathering, making much noise: “Lord, there is a robber Angulimala, in the kingdom. He is fierce, with bloody hands, he has no compassion for living beings, he destroys, hamlets, villages and districts. He kills humans and collects their fingers to wear as a garland around his neck. Lord he should be punished.”
Then king Pasenadi of Kosala left his palace with about five hundred riders on horse back and approached the monastery. He went as far as he could in his carriage and then approached the Blessed One on foot. After paying homage to the Blessed One he sat down to one side. The Blessed One said to king Pasenadi of Kosala: “Great king, has king Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha risen against you, or have the Licchavis of Vesali risen against you?”
“No, venerable sir, neither has king Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha risen against me, nor have the Licchavis of Vesali risen against me. Yet there is a robber in my kingdom, by the name Angulimala, fierce, bloody handed, without compassion for living beings. He destroys hamlets, villages and districts, killing humans to collect their fingers to wear as a garland around his neck. Venerable sir, I shall never be able to put him down.”
“Great king, if you were to see Angulimala, with shaved head and beard, wearing yellow robes, gone forth to the homeless life, abstaining from destroying life, from taking what is not given, from telling lies, eating one meal a day, and virtuous, what would you do to him?”
“Venerable sir, I would rise from my seat on his arrival, invite him to be seated, arrange to provide the four requisites of life – robes, alms food, shelter and medicine when ill – and provide him righteous protection. Yet venerable sir, how could such virtues come to an evil doer, like him?”
At that time venerable Angulimala was seated close to the Blessed One, and the Blessed One extended his right arm and said to king Pasenadi of Kosala: “Great king, that is Angulimala.”
Then king Pasenadi of Kosala was frightened and his hairs stood on end. The Blessed One, knowing that king Pasenadi of Kosala was frightened and that his hairs were standing on end, said: “Great king, do not fear, there is nothing to fear now.” Then all the fear vanished from the king and he approached the venerable Angulimala and said: “Venerable sir, are you Angulimala?”
“Yes, great king, I’m Angulimala.”
“Of what clan is the venerable one’s father and of what clan is the venerable one’s mother?”
“Great king, my father is Gagga and my mother Mantani.”
“Venerable sir, venerable Gaggamantaniputta, may you find happiness in the Blessed Ones Dispensation. I will provide you with the requisites of life, such as robes, alms food, shelter and medicines when ill.” At that time venerable Angulimala was dependent on alms food, a forest dweller, a rag robe wearer and confined to three robes. So venerable Angulimala said to king Pasenadi of Kosala. “That is not necessary, great king, my three robes are complete.”
Then king Pasenadi of Kosala approached the Blessed One, paid homage, sat down to one side, and said: “Indeed, it is wonderful, how you tame the untamed, how you appease the unappeased, how you liberate the unliberated. You tame without stick or weapon those that we could not tame with sticks and weapons. Now we have much work to do, we must be going. Then king Pasenadi of Kosala got up from his seat, paid homage and circumambulated the Blessed One, and went away.”
Then in the morning, the venerable Angulimala dressed, and taking bowl and robes, entered Savatthi for alms. While going on alms round in Savatthi, he saw a woman in the pains of childbirth. It occurred to him: Great indeed is the suffering of beings. Then after finishing the alms round and after eating his meal, venerable Angulimala approached the Blessed One, paid homage, sat down to one side and said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, when I was going for alms this morning, I saw a woman suffering from the pains of childbirth and it occurred to me: ‘Great indeed is the suffering of beings.'”
“Then Angulimala go to Savatthi, approach that woman and tell her. ‘Sister, since my birth I have not knowingly destroyed a living being; by this truth may you be well and may your child be well.'”
“Venerable sir, won’t that be knowingly telling a lie? I have knowingly destroyed many living beings.”
“Then Angulimala go to Savatthi and approach that woman and tell her. ‘Sister, since I was born in the noble birth I have not knowingly destroyed a living being; by this truth may you be well and may your child be well.'”
Then venerable Angulimala agreed, went to Savatthi and approached the woman and told her. “Sister, since I was born in the noble birth I have not knowingly destroyed a living being; by this truth may you be well and may your child be well.” Then she became well and the child was also well.
Before long, dwelling alone, secluded, diligent, ardent and resolute Angulimala realized for himself that for which sons of clansmen rightfully leave the household life and become homeless: the noble end of the holy life. He knew: birth is destroyed, the holy life is lived, what should be done is done. There is nothing further to do.
Then in the morning, the venerable Angulimala dressed, and taking bowl and robes, entered Savatthi for alms. Then a clod was thrown by someone and it hit venerable Angulimala. A stick was thrown by someone, it hit venerable Angulimala. A stone was thrown, it hit venerable Angulimala. Venerable Angulimala came to the Blessed One with a split head and blood dripping, with his bowl broken and his robes torn. The Blessed One seeing venerable Angulimala approaching in the distance said: “Bear it, Brahmin, bear that. Because of your actions you would have been reaping results for many years in hell, for many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years. Brahmin, bear the results of your actions here and now.”
Venerable Angulimala experienced the pleasantness of release in his seclusion, and then these verses occurred to him:
“The negligent one
and illuminates the world
like the moon freed from clouds.
When his merit
covers up the demerit,
he illuminates the world
like the moon freed from clouds.
The young bhikkhu yoked
to the Dispensation of the Blessed One
illuminates the world
like the moon freed from clouds.
My enemies, listen to the Teaching,
be yoked to the Dispensation of the Blessed One.
My enemies, associate with friends
who show the peaceful Teaching.
My enemies, with patience
and with aversion dispelled,
listen to the Teaching
and live according to the Teaching.
Do not hurt me
or anybody else for any reason,
attain to the highest peace
and protect the firm and the infirm.
Irrigators lead water,
fletchers bend arrows,
the carpenter bends wood
but the wise seek to tame themselves.
Some are tamed with a stick,
or hook or whip,
I was tamed by a such one
without a stick or weapon.
Earlier when I was a hurter,
my name was non-hurter,
now am true to my name
I do not hurt anyone.
Earlier I was a robber
known as Angulimala,
and was carried away by the flood
Now I take refuge in enlightenment.
Earlier I was known as Angulimala
with bloody hands,
look at the refuge I have found
the bond of being is destroyed.
Having done many actions
leading to birth in hell,
touched by the results of such actions
I now partake food without a debt.
Fools are yoked
the wise protect diligence
as the highest wealth.
Do not be yoked to negligence,
and sensual pleasures,
to attain the perfect bliss.
Go to increase, not to decrease,
this is good advice,
reach the highest
of the analytical knowledges.
Go to increase, not to decrease,
this is my good advice,
I have attained the Three knowledges
and done the dispensation of the Enlightened One.”