Chapter XIII - LOKA VAGGA - The World

EVIL CAN BE ERASED BY GOOD

EVIL CAN BE ERASED BY GOOD

Yassa papam katam kammam kusalena pithiyati
So imam lokam pabhaseti abbha mutto' va candima.
[173]


Whosoever, by a gooddeed, covers the evildone, such a one illumines this world like the moon freed from clouds. [173]



XIII:06 A murderer who attained Sainthood (Angulimala)

Angulimala was the son of a brahmin in the court of King Pasenadi of Kosala. His original name was Ahimsaka. He was sent to Taxila for his studies. Ahimsaka was intelligent and was also obedient to his teacher. So he was liked by the teacher and his wife, as a result of which other pupils became jealous of him. So they went to the teacher and falsely accused Ahimsaka of having an affair with his wife. At first, he did not believe them but after being told a number of times, he thought it was true and he vowed to have revenge on Ahimsaka. He considered that to kill him would reflect badly on him. So he thought of a plan worse than killing the innocent pupil. He told Ahimsaka to kill a thousand human beings and to bring one right-hand finger of each as payment for teaching him. In obedience to the teacher, though with great reluctance, he started killing people. The fingers so collected were hung on a tree, but as they were destroyed by crows and vultures, he later wore a garland of those fingers to ascertain the exact number.


Because of this he came to be known as Angulimala (finger garland) and became the terror of the countryside. The king himself heard about the exploits of Angulimala and he decided to capture him. When Mantani, the mother of Angulimala, heard about the king's intention, she went into the forest in a desperate bid to save her son. By this time, the chain around 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 him 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, he would have to suffer in hell for an even longer period. So out of compassion, the Buddha left for the forest.


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. Just then, as he looked out he saw the Buddha and ran after him with his knife raised. But the Buddha kept moving ahead of him. Angulimala just could not catch up with him. Finally, he cried out, 'O Bhikkhu, stop! stop!' and the Enlightened One replied, 'I have stopped. It is you who have not stopped.' Angulimala did not get the significance of the words, so he asked, 'O bhikkhu! Why do you say that you have stopped while I have not?'


The Buddha replied, 'I say that I have stopped because I have given up killing all beings, I have given up ill-treating all beings, and 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 Angulimala reflected, 'These are the words of a wise man. This monk is so very wise and so very brave that he must be the leader of the monks. Indeed, he must be the Enlightened One himself! He must have come here specially to make me see the light.' So thinking, he threw away his weapon and asked the Enlightened One to admit him to the Order of the bhikkhus which the Buddha did.


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 agreed to leave him alone. During his stay at the monastery, Angulimala ardently and diligently practised meditation.


Angulimala had no peace of mind, because even in his solitary meditation he used to recall memories of his past and the pathetic cries of his unfortunate victims. As a result of his evil kamma, while seeking alms in the streets he would become a target of stray stones and sticks and he would return to the Jetavana monastery with broken head and flowing blood, cut and bruised to be reminded by the Buddha: 'My son Angulimala! You have done away with evil. Have patience. This is the effect of the evil deeds you have committed in this existence. Your evil kamma would have made you suffer for innumerable years in hell had I not met you.'


One morning while going on an almsround in Savatthi, Angulimala heard someone crying out in pain. When he came to know that a pregnant lady was having labour pains and facing difficulty to deliver the child, he reflected, 'All worldlings are subject to suffering.' Moved by compassion, he reported this pathetic woman's suffering to the Buddha who then advised him to recite the following words of truth, which later came to be known as Angulimala Paritta. Going to the presence of the suffering woman, he sat on a seat separated from her by a screen, and uttered these words.


Yato' ham bhagini ariyaya.
jatiya jato n'abhijanami.
sancicca panam jivita voropeta.
Tena saccena sotthi te hotu,.
Sothi gabbhassati.


('Sister, since the day I became an Arahant I have not consciously destroyed the life of any living beings. By this truth, may you be well and may your unborn child be well!')


Instantly the woman delivered her child with ease. Both the mother and child were well and healthy. The efficacy of this paritta persists to this day.


Angulimala liked living in solitude and in seclusion. Later he passed away peacefully. As an Arahant, he had attained parinibbana.


Other bhikkhus asked the Buddha where Angulimala was reborn, and when he replied, 'My son Angulimala has attained parinibbana,' they could hardly believe it. So they asked whether it was possible that a man who had killed so many people could have attained parinibbana. 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 and meditation. Therefore, his evil deeds have been overwhelmed by good kamma and his mind has been completely rid of all defilements.'

Notes:

  1. By the Path of Arahanthood.
  2. One has to reap the effects of one's Kamma. But one is not bound to reap the effects of all actions one has done in the course ofSamsara. If one were, an escape from birth and death would be impossible. At times it is possible to obliterate one's evil kamma by performing powerful good kamma.