The story of Angulimala or a murderer’s road to enlightenment

1001 Tales told by the Master Discourses

Angulimala “had taken a vow that he would kill one thousand people, not less than that, because the society had not treated him well.”

Angulimala and Buddha

There was one man who was almost mad, a mad murderer. He had taken a vow that he would kill one thousand people, not less than that, because the society had not treated him well. He would take his revenge by killing one thousand people. And from every person killed he would take one finger and make a rosary around his neck – one thousand fingers. Because of this, his name became Angulimala: the man with a rosary of fingers.

He killed nine hundred and ninety-nine people. Nobody would move in those parts; wherever people came to know that Angulimala was, the traffic would stop. And then it became very difficult for him to find one man – and only one more man was needed.

Buddha was passing a forest; people came to him from the villages and they said, ”Don’t go!Angulimala is there, that mad murderer! He doesn’t think twice, he simply murders; and he will not think that you are a buddha. Don’t go that way; there is another way, you can move by that one, but don’t go through this forest!”

Buddha said, ”If I don’t go, then who will go? And he is waiting for one more, so I have to go.” Angulimala had almost completed his vow. And he was a man of energy, because he was fighting the whole society: only one man – and he had killed a thousand people. And kings were afraid of him, generals were afraid and the government and the law and the police – nobody could do anything.

But Buddha said, ”He is a man, he needs me. I must take the risk. Either he will kill me or I will kill him.”

This is what buddhas do: they stake, they risk their lives.

Buddha went. Even the closest disciples, who had said that they would remain with him up to the very end, they started lagging behind – because this was dangerous!

So when Buddha reached the hill, where Angulimala was sitting on a rock, there was no one behind him, he was alone. All the disciples had disappeared. Angulimala looked at this innocent man; childlike, so beautiful, he thought, that even a murderer felt compassion for him.

He thought, ”This man seems to be absolutely unaware that I am here, otherwise nobody goes along this path.” And the man looked so innocent, so beautiful, that even Angulimala thought, ”It is not good to kill this man. I’ll leave him, I can find somebody else.”

Then he said to Buddha, ”Go back! Stop there now and go back! Don’t move a step forward! I am Angulimala and these are nine hundred and ninety-nine fingers here, and I need one finger more – even if my mother comes I will kill her and fulfill my vow! So don’t come near, I’m dangerous! And I am not a believer in religion, I’m not bothered who you are. You may be a very good monk, a great saint maybe, but I don’t care! I only care about the finger and your finger is as good as anybody else’s, so don’t come a single step further, otherwise I will kill you. Stop!”

But Buddha continued moving. Then Angulimala thought, ”Either this man is deaf or mad!” He again shouted, ”Stop! Don’t move!”

Buddha said, ”I stopped long ago; I am not moving, Angulimala, you are moving. I stopped long ago. All movement has stopped because all motivation has stopped. When there is no motivation, how can movement happen? There is no goal for me, I have achieved the goal, so why should I move? You are moving – and I say to you: you stop!”

Angulimala was sitting on the rock and he started laughing. He said, ”You are really mad! I am sitting and you say to me that I am moving, and you are moving and you say that you have stopped. You are really a fool or mad – or I don’t know what type, what manner of man you are!”

Buddha came near and he said, ”I have heard that you need one more finger. As far as this body is concerned, my goal is achieved, this body is useless. When I die people will burn it, it will be of no use to anyone. You can use it, your vow can be fulfilled: cut off my finger and cut off my head. I have come on purpose, because this is the last chance for my body to be used in some way; otherwise people will burn it.”

Angulimala said, ”What are you saying? I thought that I was the only madman around here. And don’t try to be clever, because I am dangerous, I can still kill you!”

Buddha said, ”Before you kill me, do one thing, just the wish of a dying man: cut off a branch of this tree.”

Angulimala hit his sword against the tree and a big branch fell down. Buddha said, ”Just one thing more: join it again to the tree!”

Angulimala said, ”Now I know perfectly that you are mad – I can cut, but I cannot join.”

Then Buddha started laughing and he said, ”When you can only destroy and cannot create, you should not destroy, because destruction can be done by children, there is no bravery in it. This branch can be cut by a child, but to join it a master is needed. And if you cannot even join back a branch to the tree, how can you cut off human heads? Have you ever thought about it?”

Angulimala closed his eyes, fell down at Buddha’s feet and he said, ”You lead me on that path!”

And it is said that, in a single moment, he became enlightened.

It can happen in a single moment, if the energy is there.

Osho,The Mustard Seed – Commentaries on the Gospel according to Thomas, Ch 6

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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