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The story of Angulimala

Is anybody familiar with this story?

It resonated with me, as many of you know about my mental health challenges. Not that I've ever thought of killing my mother....but I took that as a metaphor for the mental delusions I often face. They can feel so extreme at times and ungrounded in reality and the natural flow of things.

Even with the irrational and psychotic pursuit of wanting to kill his mother, Shakyamuni and Dharma still reached Angulimala! A true testament that all beings poses Bodhicitta.

What are your thoughts on this story?

"There was a man who lived during the time of the Buddha whose life illustrate this point. There was an immensely strong-willed person named Angulimala. The overwhelming force of his own mental afflictions led him astray. Somehow he conceived of the idea that he would attain great spiritual powers if he killed a thousand people. He became completely determined to keep killing until he had reached a thousand victims. He was convinced that this would be the height of spiritual accomplishment. He cut a thumb from each of his murder victims, and wore them strung around his neck as a garland, and thus became known by the name "Angulimala", which means "Garland of Fingers" in Sanskrit.

Angulimala persisted until he had killed 999 people, and was then looking for his final victim. By this time, of course, he was so notorious that people ran the moment they saw him. If he was known to have entered an area, people feared to walk outdoors and stayed locked inside. The only one who did not hide from him was his loving mother. She still felt great concern for him, and was worried that he would go hungry. Seeing that no one else would do so, she went to bring him some food, and as soon as he saw her approaching, Angulimala decided to kill her. This murder would complete his quest for a thousand victims, and he thought that killing his own mother would be a fittingly spectacular pinnacle to his achievement.

The Buddha observed Angulimala turning on his own mother, and intervened. He said, "Rather than kill your mother, you should come after me."

Angulimala thought that killing the Buddha would be an even more magnificent finale than killing his mother, so he immediately abandonned his pursuit of her and went after the Buddha. But Angulimala couldn't catch up with the Buddha. This serial killer called out, "Stop! Don't go so fast."

The Buddha replied: "I have stopped. You are the one still moving, driven forward by your mental afflictions."

At that very moment, Angulimala gained the clarity to see for the first time that he and his mental afflictions were separate. He and his murderous impulses were not the same thing. This realization struck Angulimala like a lightning bolt, and he was stopped in his tracks. The deluded emotions simply lost their grip on him. He went on to become a disciple of the Buddha, and eventually became one of the most remarkable Buddhist monks of the day."



  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited December 2016

    It is an important reminder. <3
    That the very powerful conflictive states are the flaws in the diamond that eventually lead to its unique brilliant reflective qualities ...

    The three jewels are the catalyst and our practice and efforts the means for others to offer compassion and wisdom.

    If someone is dead, mad, enlightened, finger or mudra collector, soldier, sailor, spy, Christian, Trumpette, demon etc is all incidental karma and circumstance. Just their present standing, not their potential ...

    We can make offerings to the Buddha, including illness, crazy thoughts, conflicted doubts, suffering ... and of course the good stuff metta, commitment to be kind and supportive, puja, lights, incense, fruit, water, grains, finger biscuits (yum) etc.

    I would always urge you to record and share your journey ...


  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran

    I love the story of Angulimala. It kind of reminds me of the story of Saul in the Bible. Saul, also a murderer, became Paul who wrote much of the Bible. I think both stories are a good reminder that no one is too far gone to generate metta.

    Angulimala became a fully awakened Buddha. And Paul wrote: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Anyone has the ability to generate metta. You can direct the sunshine of your mindfulness on your heart and the pedals will open and metta will flow like a rushing river. The "thoughts" of the heart are always gentle and kind.

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