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