Angulimala - Conversion from Murderer to Saint
Angulimala was one of the disciple of Lord Buddha who used to be a murderer. Angulimala bowed down when he listen to Lord Buddha explained to him about his knowledge.
Angulimala is one of the important figures in Buddhism as well as the lifetime of Lord Buddha. The story of Angulimala is described in many sutras of Buddhism especially in the Theravada Sutras. Among all the important disciples of Gautama Buddha, Angulimala had the most terrible background.Angulimala was popularly known as Daku Angulimala since he was a ruthless killer and his name means “finger necklace or garland ”. The story of Angulimala holds quite a significant part because his story tells us how a ruthless murderer became saint when he met Lord Buddha and was accepted in the monastic order of Sangha.
The life of Angulimala can be explained three parts, his life as a student, as a ruthless murderer and life as a monk.
As a Student
AngulimalaÂ was born in a Brahmin family and his father was a chaplain to the king of Kosala,Â King PasenadiÂ . According toÂ Buddhist textsÂ and scripture, whenÂ AngulimalaÂ was born, bad omens occurred like the flashing of weapons and appearance of the constellation of thieves. So his father asked the king to name his son.Â King PasenadiÂ named him âÂ AhimsakaÂ â which means harmless one in order to change the dark fate occurred duringÂ AngulimalaÂ birth. Ahimsaka was sent to a well-knownÂ Brahmin GuruÂ inÂ TaxilaÂ for his study. He was very good in his studies and was theÂ GuruâsÂ favorite. So he got a special privilege to stay inside theÂ GuruâsÂ house.
But other students were jealous of him and they made a plan to turn theÂ GuruÂ against him. They were successful in turningÂ GuruÂ against him by making a scene thatÂ AhimsakaÂ was seducingÂ GuruâsÂ wives and stating thatÂ AhimsakaÂ was proud and was wiser than theÂ Guru. Thus, theÂ GuruÂ in rage demandedÂ AhimsakaÂ theÂ DakshinaÂ or final gift since he canât use physical violence since it is believed that Ahimsaka was as strong as seven elephants. TheÂ GuruÂ demanded thatÂ AhimsakaÂ would bringÂ 1000 human fingersÂ from different victims. Scared of such demand, horrifiedÂ AhimsakaÂ returned to his home inÂ KosalaÂ and started living in the forest.
As a Murderer
After hearing such demand, Ahimsaka was quite half-hearted and started living reluctantly in the forest. But after living some time in the forest, he started attacking the lone travellers, killing them and cutting their fingers and started living in their possessions. At first he hung all the fingers on the branch of the tree but birds started picking the flesh of fingers. So he tied the fingers on a cord and wore them as a necklace. That’s how Ahimsaka got the name “ Angulimala ”. In ancient India, dead bodies were not burnt but thrown away in the barren land. Murdering the lone travellers and cutting the fingers of casted dead bodies, he was able to collect 999 human fingers.
Then the villagers of Kosala requested the king to get rid of Angulimala. King Pasenadi vowed to hunt down Angulimala. In fear and love of his son’s life, Angulimala’s mother planned to go to the forest to talk to him. Buddha knew about this since he can perceive with his “ divine eye ”. Then Lord Buddha quickly left Jetavana and set out to find Angulimala. The travellers in the Jalani forest warned him of murderer and yet Buddha continued on the journey to find Angulimala. When Angulimala saw Lord Buddha, he decided to kill Buddha instead of his mother whom he saw first and decided to make his victim. Then he ran to kill Buddha as fast as he could but he couldn’t catch up to Buddha. Angulimala gave up and called Buddha to stop. But the Blessed One replied that it is Angulimala who should stop. Hearing such answer, Angulimala begged to hear more from Buddha. After hearing Buddha explanation, he vowed to change his ways and later joined the order of Sangha.
As a Monk
After some time of becoming aÂ Buddhist monk, King Pasenadi set out to hunt down Angulimala. In this journey,Â King PasenadiÂ metÂ Lord BuddhaÂ and explained about his quest. ThenÂ Lord BuddhaÂ asked King how the king would react ifÂ AngulimalaÂ had changed and became aÂ monk.Â King PasenadiÂ replied that he would saluteÂ AngulimalaÂ and offered to provide him various offerings. WhenÂ King PasenadiÂ saw shaved Angulimala, he was astounded and offered to donate robe materials as he promised.
The famous verse known asÂ Angulimala Paritta, recite the work of Angulimala to help delivered a young woman who was having difficulties to give birth. According to this verse, Angulimala came across a young woman who was having a difficult labor. Then Angulimala went Buddha and asked what he could do to ease that young woman labor.
âSister, since I was born with the noble birth (became a monk), I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.â
This was the revised statement after Angulimala pointed some mistake in the first statement.
âSister, since I was born I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your fetus.â
Then the woman safely delivered and gave birth to her child.
Even though being anÂ arahant,Â AngulimalaÂ had to repay for his evilÂ karmaÂ , evil deeds he performed in his life. The people who lost their loved ones byÂ AngulimalaÂ still wanted to avenge their loved ones. WhenÂ AngulimalaÂ went inÂ SavatthiÂ to ask for alms, he got attacked by those angered people. But with warning and words ofÂ Buddha, they stopped their anger.
According to Theravada andÂ Mahayana,Â AngulimalaÂ story had proved that even the worst kind of people can repent for their sins and evilÂ karmaÂ and can become saint and follow on the path ofÂ DharmaÂ showed by Lord Buddha.