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Sutra Club: Buddha Ordains a SERIAL KILLER! Killer Gets Enlightened After Getting STONED!

fivebellsfivebells Veteran
edited May 2013 in Philosophy
Hi, everyone. This week's sutta is about the serial killer Angulimala. The Buddha basically walks up to him and converts him to Buddhist practice on the spot. Later, Angulimala is stoned by the associates of some of his victims but he survives, and the Buddha's instructions to him regarding this incident lead to his enlightenment.

This has been one of my favorite sutras for over a decade, and I have seen some pitfalls in discussing it. It contains some claims of magic and it suggests a way of relating to adversity which starkly threatens our very survival. These aspects of it tend to trigger emotional reactions and derail the conversation from the really important issue the sutta raises, which is how to skillfully relate to our own past personal wrongdoings and how to skillfully relate to others' transgressions against us. Therefore, there are some questions I would like to avoid in this discussion: Let's not talk about whether Buddha's magical capacity to prevent Angulimala's attacks played a role in his decision to approach him. If you want to talk about that, talk instead about Angulimala's decision to seek alms among people with every reason to want to torture him to death in cold blood, because it's much closer to the decisions we mortals are forced to make. And let's not talk about whether they were right or wrong to want to seek vengeance against him. If you want to talk about that, instead talk about the skillful way to behave in a world where those against whom you've transgressed will in turn seek vengeance against you.

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Lastly, this story about a modern-day (early 90s) robbery in India is reminiscent of Angulimala:
The monk and his lay companion
riverflowTheEccentricLazy_eyeInvincible_summerVastmindLeonBasinzombiegirlkarmablues

Comments

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    I was amazed how rapidly Angulimala turned to an arhant? It was said that the object of the holy life was accomplished. I wonder how long a time. Many of us have practiced for years without becoming enlightened.
  • Yes, it says that his awakening occurred in "no long time." Looks like I got the order of the story wrong, though. He was stoned after his awakening, and it was seeing a woman's suffering during breach birth which led to his enlightenment.
  • Here is that story I meant to include, but which got cut off by bad html formatting:
    The monk and his lay companion were traveling through the forested countryside between Naµlanda \ µand Rajgir, and, lo and behold, they met up with a group of surly-looking men who had been cutting trees in the forest. They all had axes and staves of wood. It was a very lonely area and this group immediately surrounded them. They wanted to take all their things. So the layman who was with our monk, trying to be protective, started fighting with the men. After getting knocked around, the layman ran off and a couple of the robbers ran after him. This left four of them alone with the monk. They made it obvious that they were going to kill him. Because the monk spoke a little bit of Hindi, he was able to understand what they were saying. Also the head bandit was brandishing an axe over his head. The situation was pretty unambiguous.

    Then suddenly the thought flashed into his mind, “When you go to practice in the place of the Buddha, do not find fault with anyone for any reason.” He realized, “If this is what’s happening, I can’t escape. I’m not going to fight these people, and if I did, they would win anyway. So I’ll just give myself to them.” He then bowed his head, put his hands together, and started chanting, “Namo tassa . . .” He stood calmly waiting for the axe to fall. But nothing happened. He looked up and saw that the man holding the axe over his head couldn’t bring it down. Then the monk got a bit cheeky and went like this. [Drawing a line down the middle of his head with his finger.] But again the bandit couldn’t bring himself to harm him.

    At this point, the layman, who’d been hiding, realized, “Hey, wait a minute, I’m supposed to be protecting the monk. I’m not doing my job.” He ran back and tried to help out. They had another scuffle. The layperson realized he was in real danger again and ran off once more. He hid in the bushes at the bottom of some scree. As it turned out, the bandits took all of their things. The monk was left with his lower robe and his sandals. Everything else went.

    However, through all this, the monk didn’t get a scratch on him. The layman who fought back got thumped around quite a bit and was torn up by thorn bushes and the tumble down the scree. Later on, when they were discussing what had happened, the monk realized that, “If I had died, I would have died with my mind focused on the Triple Gem.” The layman realized, “If I had died, I would have died with the mind of a hunted animal.”

    These are deliberately dramatic images. Yet they characterize a certain precious quality very clearly. These stories encourage us to turn towards that which is most frightening or most offputting. When the man with the axe is threatening us, we can turn towards him and say, “Please, I’m ready.” Even when we’re getting the axe internally, such as intense waves of greed or waves of fear and anxiety or waves of nostalgia and longing, it’s that gesture of turning towards these experiences and accepting them as they are that allows the heart to be free. True wisdom, far from being beyond the practice of kindness, actually depends on such undiscriminating acceptance of the beautiful and the ugly alike. When we stop running away from things that are apparently painful, even unbearable, and fully engage in the gesture of acceptance and surrender, there is a magical transformation. We transform the so-called difficulty and move into an entirely different state.
    JeffreyLazy_eyekarmabluesmisecmisc1
  • Just to say, for the moment-- I love the thread title!
    federicaJohn_Spencerpersonkarmablues
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited May 2013
    My apologies: @fivebells made an error in his first post, but the time for editing had lapsed.
    He asked for my assistance.

    Bad idea.
    I'm about as savvy on techno~stuff as The Hulk was on knitting....
    The error in the first post was therefore not his, but mine.

    *Moderator note:*
    (This will be the one and only O/T post permitted, so please do not comment or elaborate upon it.)

    Members are graciously and courteously asked to refrain from de-railing the thread, or making OT comments, discussing personal experience or adding extraneous matter with no direct connection or link to the original posts.

    I apologise in advance, and do not intend to cause offence, but such posts will be deleted without prior warning or comment.
    I trust members will understand and forgive the 'heavy-handedness'.
    This will only occur stringently in threads specifically discussing Suttas/teachings as begun by the O/P or other members.

    These posts will all be headed initially "Sutra Club" and will be found in "Advanced Ideas" from now on.
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    The question I would ask in reference to this sutra, is not 'where have you been?' but 'are you ready?'

    Part of us is Angulimala like, doing unskilful acts and justifying it. We meet the Buddha's dharma. Do we change? Are we ready?
    :om:
    Vastmind
  • jlljll Veteran
    Even without buddha, we can see cases of
    people who has done evil things change dramatically.
    even in my own case, i am a very different person today.
    10 yrs ago, i will do almost anything to get
    what i want. i didnt really care what happens to other
    people.
    now, i am not like that.

    the second point i want to make is do we believe
    there are some people in this world with special
    powers? apart from those people who use tricks,
    i do believe that certain people have these powers.
    how they attain these powers is a separate question.

    if buddha existed, and he is a very 'special' person,
    i would not be surprised if he had some powers
    that most of us dont.
    karmablues
  • @Jeffrey, I understand there is a case to be made that Angulimala was quite an advanced practitioner of other spiritual disciplines, so he may already have had the stability of mind necessary for fast progress.

    @lobster: I agree. One aspect of this sutta which I find very interesting is that after attaining enlightenment, he responds to the stoning by going off into the forest, and only when hearing the Buddha's exhortation does he experience the bliss of release. Release from what? From the suffering induced by the stoning? As an arahant, does he suffer? Maybe instead of worrying about whether we're enlightened or not we should just use the skills we've developed to release the suffering of the present moment. Maybe at the time the Buddha exhorted him to bear with it, he was not actually an arahant, even.

    @federica, it appears the error on my part was two-fold, first the formatting mistake, then I did not see how to edit a newly-created post. If there is a way to do that, could you point it out to me, please? Anyway, I think it worked out well as it is.
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    I'm not sure how far I'll get in this lifetime, as if there's anywhere to go, but I'll be fairly happy if it's far enough that I can approach death like the monk and not like his panicky and uncentered companion. I suspect it makes a very great difference to what happens next.
  • Lazy_eyeLazy_eye Veteran
    edited May 2013
    A couple years ago I was puzzling over a Zen story, which seems to bear some resemblances to the Angulimula Sutta. It's from the record of Ma-tsu (709-788). Posting it here for anyone who might be interested in the comparison:
    Ch'an Master Hui-tsang of Shih-kung used to be a hunter. He disliked monks. One day, as he was chasing a herd of deer, he happened to pass in front of the Ancestor's hermitage. The Ancestor greeted him. Hui-tsang asked, "Have you seen a herd of deer passing nearby?

    The Ancestor asked him, "Who are you?"
    Hui-tsang replied, "I am a hunter."
    "The Ancestor asked, "Do you know how to shoot?"
    "Hui-tsang said, "Yes, I know."
    The Ancestor asked, "How many deer can you shoot with a single arrow?"
    Hui-tsang said, "With a single arrow I can shoot only one [deer]."
    The Ancestor said, "You don't know how to shoot."
    Then Hui-tsang asked, "Does the Venerable know how to shoot?"
    The Ancestor said, "With a single arrow I can shoot the whole herd."
    Hui-tsang said, "They also have life, why shoot the whole herd?"
    The Ancestor said, "If you know that, then why don't you shoot yourself?"
    Hui-tsang replied, "If you ask me to shoot myself, I cannot do that."
    The Ancestor said, "Ah, this man. All his ignorance and defilements accumulated over vast kalpas have today suddenly come to an end." At that point Hui-tsang destroyed his bow and arrows. He cut off his hair with a knife, and became a monk...
    Well, Hui-tsang is not a notorious mass-murderer like Angulimala, at least not from the human perspective, and he has some conscience (realizes that the deer have life). But still, the two narratives seem close: a man is doing evil by killing beings; he meets the Teacher and receives an insight that makes him immediately put his weapons away and become a monk.

    I wonder if "sudden enlightenment" in Zen can be traced back to suttas like the Angulimala...




    Jeffrey
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited May 2013
    After reading this...it put me in the mind of the saying...
    Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.
    The moment of ' I have stopped...now you stop', stuck
    out at me. Made me think.

    @fivebells....May I ask? Why is it one of your favorites?
    riverflow
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Here are a few things I can gather from this Sutta as well as with respect to some issues which other posters have touched upon.

    Firstly, on the issue of Angulimala's very fast enlightenment, we can see that he didn't start from scratch. This can be seen from the fact that when the Buddha spoke his first words to Angulimala, ie. "I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop.", the Sutta says that Angulimala immediately had the thought that, "These Sakyan contemplatives are speakers of the truth, asserters of the truths, and yet this contemplative, even while walking, says, 'I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop.' Why don't I question him?"" This shows that Angulimala had held Sakyan contemplatives in high regard as speakers of the truth.

    Then when the Buddha gave Angulimala the explanation, Angulimala responds by saying, "At long last a greatly revered great seer for my sake has come to the great forest. Having heard your verse in line with the Dhamma, I will go about having abandoned evil." The fact that Angulimala says "at long last", I think that is significant. I think it shows that Angulimala has had since a long time an inner yearning for a great seer to come and show him the truth. This desire to know the truth is also shown by Angulimala's decision to "question" the Buddha (someone whom Angulimama regards as a "speaker of the truth") what the Buddha meant when he said "I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop."

    So I think this is alluding to the fact that Angulimala in his previous lives have met Sakyan contemplatives who were speakers of the truth and studied under them. Therefore, he had full confidence and faith that what the Buddha would utter is the truth. And the fact that he had an inner yearning to seek the truth, means that he was ready to apply the Dhamma when spoken to him in order to realize the truth, which he did. (By the way, I'm not very sure about this, but I remember having read somewhere that all Buddhas are born as humans and would appear in India and perhaps even always of the Sakyan clan. If this is true, this verse would suggest that Angulimala had met other Buddhas in his previous lifetimes.)

    Secondly, I think the Sutta is also showing the transformative power of compassion. When King Pasenadi Kosala saw that Angulimala had abandoned evil and become a monk, he says the following to the Buddha, "It's amazing, lord. It's astounding, how the Blessed One has tamed the untamed, pacified the unpeaceful, and brought to Unbinding those who were not unbound. For what we could not tame even with blunt or bladed weapons, the Blessed One has tamed without blunt or bladed weapons." I think here, the Sutta is saying that while people may try to use force or punishment to effect change in an evil person, this often fails. On the other hand, a wise teacher uses compassion and wisdom to cause transformation.

    Thirdly, on the issue of when Angulimala became an arahant, it would appear that he had already become one before he was attacked by thrown objects. This is because in the preceding paragraph before the incident of being attacked by thrown objects occurred, the Sutta says that, "And thus Ven. Angulimala became another one of the arahants."

    But yes, the Sutta does say that Angulimala "experienced the bliss of release" after the Buddha said to him, "Bear with it, brahman! Bear with it! The fruit of the kamma that would have burned you in hell for many years, many hundreds of years, many thousands of years, you are now experiencing in the here-&-now!" I would say that Angulimala's experience of bliss of release was not caused by the Buddha urging him to "bear with it", but rather his experience of release was caused by the Buddha revealing that the fruit of his past karma was ripening and being extinguished in the "here-and-now". So perhaps Anguilama was experiencing a bliss from the knowledge that he was being "released" from the fruits of past karma. This is possible because there are different types of arahants. While some arahants possess the five kinds of super-knowledge which includes knowledge about one's own past births (and thus what kind of karma one had committed in the past), most arahants achieve enlightenment without possessing the five super-knowledges.

    The above interpretation is also supported by what Angulimala himself says with reference to the incident, that is:

    "Having done the type of kamma
    that would lead to many
    bad destinations,
    touched by the fruit of [that] kamma,
    unindebted, I eat my food."

    Now, if we apply this to our own lives, it also means that when we experience something bad, we can consider that perhaps this is just bad karma coming into fruition, and so we are actually being released from such bad karma following us into the future, therefore, this is a good reason to just "bear with it" because one will no longer be indebted to that karma. In fact, this could even be an occasion to feel a bliss of release.
    misecmisc1Vastmind
  • What does it mean for an arahant to be released from the fruits of past karma? Was he clinging to some sankhara prior to the release? If so, in what way was he an arahant?
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited May 2013
    @fivebells

    In the case of Angulimala, the specific fruit of his past karma that the Buddha revealed is that he would have " burned in hell for many years, many hundreds of years, many thousands of years". However, Angulimala escaped this fruit of karma because of his arahantship which caused such karma to ripen "in the here-&-now" and experienced in a much much lesser degree of being thrown at with objects. The Buddha revealed this fact to Angulimala. So I was just saying that maybe the phrase "experienced the bliss of release" meant that Angulimala felt blissful with the knowledge that he had been "released" from having to spend many thousands of years in hell.

    Actually, I would not normally interpret the text in that way but it was just an attempt at trying to reconcile the fact that the Sutta had clearly stated that Angulimala had attained arahantship prior to the incident of him being thrown at with objects. Also, the Sutta doesn't seem to imply that what the Buddha said (ie. Bear with it brahman!... etc) was the cause for Angulimala attaining arahantship.

    Perhaps this would be another way of looking at it. When the Sutta says, "Then Ven. Angulimala, having gone alone into seclusion, experienced the bliss of release." So rather than experiencing the bliss of release due to the Buddha exhorting him to bear with it and revealing the ripening of his past karma, Angulimala's experienceing the bliss of release was due to him "having gone alone into seclusion." For this to be the correct interpretation, it must mean that arahants do not experience the bliss of release at all times but perhaps only when they incline their minds towards such bliss.

    If that is the case then the sequence of events would be the same as it appears in the Sutta, as follows:

    1) Angulimala gives well-being to women and fetus in Savatthi
    2) Angulimala attains arahantship
    3) Angulimala goes back to Savatthi and gets thrown at with objects
    4) Angulimala goes to Buddha (presumably to question him about why he was thrown at with objects despite being an arahant)
    5) The Buddha provides answer to Angulimala that the incident was caused by the fruit of his past karma ripening in the here and now
    6) Angulimala is satisfied with the answer then goes into seclusion
    7) Having gone into seclusion, Angulimala is able to incline his mind towards the bliss of release and thus experiences bliss of release.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 2013
    It still is odd that Angulimala can be considered close to enlightenment when he met Buddha because he was absolutely horrible at right action and right livelyhood.

    Then again if you consider Trungpa it is said he was very advanced practioner and some even believe he became a Buddha at death. But Trungpa was engaged in sense pleasures it seems.

    So it could be hard to understand how Angulimala accomplished so much.
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    Wasn't the reason Angulimala killed so many people that a guru of his told him if he killed 1,000 people he would attain enlightenment? I thought I'd heard that before, if so then that would seem to imply that he was a spiritual seeker but turned down a terrible path.
    lobster
  • Jeffrey said:

    It still is odd that Angulimala can be considered close to enlightenment when he met Buddha because he was absolutely horrible at right action and right livelyhood.

    Then again if you consider Trungpa it is said he was very advanced practioner and some even believe he became a Buddha at death. But Trungpa was engaged in sense pleasures it seems.

    So it could be hard to understand how Angulimala accomplished so much.

    Not that I am exactly a fan of the fellow, but the story of Angulimala reminds me of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. And like that story, this story makes the scandalous and outrageous claim that the capacity for awakening is possible for even people who have committed the worst of crimes. The possibility is always present for everyone and anyone.

    The Buddha stopped. Have we stopped? As long as we behave in a way that is continually harmful, try as we might, we can't catch up with the Buddha either-- like a dog that chases his own tail.
  • @Jeffrey, perhaps the prerequisites for enlightenment are different than you imagined.

    @person, I've heard that story, too. No idea what the provenance of it is. I think the Gombrich essay on Angulimala must address the possibility, but I haven't been able to find it online.

    @riverflow, nice comment.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    @fivebells, so the 8 fold path is not involved in the prerequisites?
    fivebells said:

    @Jeffrey, perhaps the prerequisites for enlightenment are different than you imagined.

  • @Jeffrey, do you think there is some threshold duration for which you need to follow the 8FP before earlier karma is burned up and enlightenment is possible? He was presumably following it after he ordained.
    riverflow
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    Yeah we are not sure the time period. But I would think that there would have to be a duration of time where he was following the 8FP before he became an arhat. Otherwise there would have to be something special as @riverflow said about apostle Paul getting struck by divine lightning on his way to demascus. I believe it is possible, personally. I experienced enormous possibly psychic or paranormal experiences when I first had my mental break. Sometimes I would wake up on the floor without having taken any drugs and I had a huge realization about people which I can't put into words, but with the consciousness I had the realization was very 'fresh', alive, and invigorating.
  • I don't think there's any such threshold. When you can drop the karma, it's gone.
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    According to the wiki page on Angulimala the part about him following the advice of a guru appears in later suttas.
    Two texts in the Pali canon concern themselves with Angulimala's initial encounter with the Buddha and his conversion. The first is the Theragatha, verses 866-91, and the second is the Angulimala Sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya. Both offer a fairly short description of Angulimala's encounter with the Buddha, and omit much of the background information later incorporated into the story (such as Angulimala being placed under an oath by a jealous teacher). These later additions- which appear in the sutta commentaries attributed to Buddhaghosa and Dhammapala (the Majjhima Nikaya commentary known as the Papancasudani (Ps) and the Therigatha commentary Paramattha-dipani (Pad), respectively) — may represent attempts by later commentators to "rehabilitate" the character of Angulimala — making him appear as a fundamentally good human being entrapped by circumstance, rather than as a vicious killer. The sutta texts themselves do not provide for any motive for Angulimala's actions, other than pure sadism.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    Is the 8FP about dropping karma?

    Padmasambhava said:
    " My view is as vast as the sky, but my actions are finer than flour."
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Why was he killing in the first place?...Is that like asking where the arrow came from?
    Who shot it at me?
    Where was it made?

    Maybe I'm missing something... :scratch:
    Did the thread take this turn because the 'before'
    could have effected the 'after'....i.e. the moment
    he 'stopped'?
    Are we discussing the prerequisites of him stopping?
  • Just ran across this lovely quote via FB, from an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh, which I think is relevant here:

    “Our enemies are not human beings. They are cravings, anger, hatred, suspicion, despair. The energy of mindfulness is healing and helps us recognise that. When you suffer less, you are lighter. You are more compassionate.”
    VastmindJeffreykarmablues
  • @Vastmind: Yes, some of us believe that the before affected the after, i.e., that he already had the concentration training he needed to make rapid progress with insight practice.

    @Jeffrey, Padmasambhava's simile about the mind is as clear to me as the wind, but his simile about his actions simile is as opaque to me as a loaf of bread being used by a mime to beat himself in the head. :)
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    @fivebells, It means he respects the karma of his actions like fine grounds of flower ie he is careful and skillful in his actions.
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited May 2013
    @fivebells...OK..I think I'm following... its fruition of the progress that's the
    subject....not necessarily what/why he was doing at the time...
  • @Jeffrey, that's awakened mind. 8FP is certainly a requisite for awakening, not a long-term prerequisite.

    @Vastmind: Yes.
    karmablues
  • In the Anguttara Nikaya, the Buddha states that when the mind is empty of greed, aversion and delusion, empty of 'I' and 'mine' then kamma ends by itself. This means that kamma, vipaka (its result) and the mental defilements which are the cause for the creation of kamma, spontaneously and simultaneously come to an end. So don't be afraid of kamma, to fear that means we are ruled by our kamma. Rather, we should take an interest in emptiness. If we have created emptiness with regards to 'I' and 'mine', kamma will utterly disintegrate and there will be no way that we will have to follow its dictates.

    It's due to this very point that someone like Angulimala, a murderer, could become an arahant. Don't explain wrongly as is often done, the Buddha's reply to Angulimala, "I have already stopped. It is you that have not stopped." Don't explain that 'not stopped' means that Angulimala became a saint because he stopped killing people. Anyone that explains like that is badly representing the Buddha because when the Buddha used the word 'stop' here, he was referring to the stopping of 'I' and 'mine', to the stopping of clinging and grasping, or in other words to emptiness. So it is emptiness that is the stopping and it is the only kind of stopping that could have made Angulimala an arahant. If it was just stopping killing people that would make one an arahant why are not all those people who do not kill arahants? It is because cessation, the true stopping, is the emptiness where there is no self to dwell anymore. That is true stopping. If there is still a self then you can't stop.

    So we should understand that the word 'empty' is the same as the word 'stop', the single word by which the Buddha was able to enlighten Angulimala, even though the killer's hands were still red with blood and around his neck hung the 999 finger bones of his victims. For kamma to end by itself, to reach the stopping, we must rely on this single term: empty of 'I' and 'mine', not grasping at or clinging to dhammas.

    Ajahn Buddhadasa

    Alternatively, you can examine the continually changing emotions within yourself, as they arise and cease. Even if you don't go astray by chasing after these moods, perceptions and notions, you should still carefully stabilize the mind so that it doesn't grasp after anything -- including any memory or thought which may arise. Just concentrate on doing this and you will sweep clean the mind, wiping out whatever suffering is present. Every condition arises and then ceases, comes and disappears. Don't go and grasp hold of anything, thinking it's good or bad, or taking it as oneself. Stop all such thinking and conceptualizing. When you understand this, the mind will calm down of itself; it will naturally become free. Whatever thoughts arise, see that they just come and will go, so don't grasp at them. Then there's not much else to do. Just carefully scrutinize and detach yourself from any entanglements within. There are then no fantasies and thought fabrications about the past or future. They've all stopped. Things arise and cease -- just that.

    Upasika Kee - Training for Liberation
    Jeffrey
  • On Angulimala's ability to achieve enlightenment relatively quickly, I'm going to reproduce one of my posts (with a few edits added) in another thread from a few weeks ago which touches the issue of the speed it takes for someone to become enlightened in a particular lifetime:

    "In the Theravada tradition, we believe one must fully develop the ten perfections (ie. Generosity, Virtue, Renunciation, Wisdom, Effort, Endurance, Truthfulness, Determination, Loving-kindness and Equamity) and accumulate merit to full capacity in order to become enlightened. From what I understand these ten perfections and merit can be accumulated over rebirths until they eventually become fully developed and reach full capacity. This means you don't start from scratch in a new rebirth in relation to the development of these ten perfections and accumulation of merit.

    Many of us would have probably heard about people during the Buddha's time who would attain full enlightenment or one of the lower stages of enlightenment upon their first hearing of the Buddha's teachings. Now how is that possible? A lot of these people were non-believers and in fact some were people who had harboured extremely wrong or even destructive views. However, upon their first meeting with Buddha and hearing just a Sutta-length sermon by the Buddha or sometimes even just a single verse of his teaching, they were able to immediately attain one of the four stages of enlightenment.

    The Buddha is said to have categorized people into four different types of lotus in accordance with their distance to achieving enlightenment. The people I mentioned above are said to be like a lotus bud which is sticking out of the surface of the water and is ready to bloom when touched by sunlight. This type of lotus represents people who are able to readily understand the Dhamma at first hearing. So how did these people get to become this type of lotus without prior practice during the lifetime in which they met the Buddha? The explanation that many teachers have given is that these people had in previous countless lifetimes been developing the ten perfections and accumulating merit to the point where they have already become really really close to reaching enlightenment and therefore when they met the Buddha, he provided the ray of sunlight upon which they fully bloomed instantaneously.

    [Added comment: As for Angulimala, he would have been considered as the lotus on the water level which is ready to bloom the next day. This type of lotus represents people who require not much effort to understand the Dhamma. The reason for him reaching this stage can be explained the same way, ie. he developed the ten perfections in previous lifetimes and accumulated a lot of merit to a very high level, but not as much as those who are the type of lotus bud which is out of the water and ready to bloom upon being touched by sunlight.]

    Although this implies that there is an overall forward trajectory heading towards enlightenment through the development of the ten perfections and accumulation of merit over the countless lifetimes, this trajectory is not necessarily a linear one, but there may be periods of ups and downs along the path. So, for example, during a lifetime as a human you may have managed to overcome anger, but then you also had committed some very negative karma causing you to be reborn in hell upon death. As there is intense suffering in hell, extreme anger is said to be the predominant state of mind for hell-beings. Therefore, after your negative karma has been exhausted and you eventually take rebirth in the human realm again, then it is expected that you would have to unlearn the anger which was re-imprinted into your stream of consciousness during your lifetime in hell."
  • I don't know, @karmablues. Your explanation raises the question of why the Buddha said the following in the sutta:

    "I have stopped, Angulimala,
    once & for all,
    having cast off violence
    toward all living beings.
    You, though,
    are unrestrained toward beings.
    That's how I've stopped
    and you haven't."

  • Lazy_eyeLazy_eye Veteran
    edited May 2013
    Just as a side note, the great Emperor Ashoka seems to resemble Angulimala in some ways. He was a bloodthirsty conqueror until he converted to Buddhism.
    lobster
  • @fivebells
    I'm not sure what your point is.
  • @karmablues, sorry, I meant that for @pegembara, particularly the part about stopping not referring to killing, but to emptiness.
  • fivebells said:

    I don't know, @karmablues. Your explanation raises the question of why the Buddha said the following in the sutta:

    "I have stopped, Angulimala,
    once & for all,

    having cast off violence
    toward all living beings.
    You, though,
    are unrestrained toward beings.
    That's how I've stopped
    and you haven't."

    Stopping as Buddhadasa describes is pointing to nirodha(cessation) or ending of things. It goes deeper than just refraining from harming which is the superficial meaning. It means stopping of becoming/rebirths, stopping of papanca, of coming and going, of activity of consciousness.

    Consciousness without feature,[1]
    without end,
    luminous all around:
    Here water, earth, fire, & wind
    have no footing.
    Here long & short
    coarse & fine
    fair & foul
    name & form
    are all brought to an end.
    With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness
    each is here brought to an end.'"

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html#gods

    This the exact advice given by Patrul Rinpoche
    Advice from Me to Myself

    Your mind is spinning around
    About carrying out a lot of useless projects:
    It’s a waste! Give it up!
    Thinking about the hundred plans you want to accomplish,
    With never enough time to finish them,
    Just weighs down your mind.
    You’re completely distracted
    By all these projects, which never come to an end,
    But keep spreading out more, like ripples in water.
    Don’t be a fool: for once, just sit tight.

    http://sealevel.ca/patrul/
    riverflow
  • @pegembara, I agree that that's a crucial perspective, but I don't see how you can argue it's what the Buddha was presenting to Angulimala on their first meeting. He expands on what he means by "stop" quite explicitly, and he clearly means the conventional meaning.
  • @fivebells, I don't disagree with the conventional meaning but somehow when reading the passage on stopping I got the distinct impression of what Ajahn Buddhadasa had described.
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