If Angulimala ("Finger Garland") can kill more than a thousand people and still be redeemed in the same life, there may be hope for me, and there may even be hope for old Ebenezer Scrooge.
|The Buddha was a supremely skillful teacher.|
Carrying his robes and bowl, he went along the road to where Angulimala was staying. Cowherds, shepherds, and farmers saw him going along that road and seeing him said, "Don't go along that road, shaman [wandering ascetic]! That road is where Angulimala operates: brutal, bloody-handed, killing and slaying, merciless to living beings.
"He has turned villages into non-villages, towns into non-towns, settled countryside into unsettled countryside. Having repeatedly killed, he wears a garland of their fingers. Groups of 10, 20, 30, and 40 men have gone along that road, and they have fallen into Angulimala's hands."
When this was said, the Blessed One kept going along the road in silence.
A second and a third time they warned him: "Don't go along that road, shaman..." When this was said, the Blessed One kept going down that road in silence.
|Amazing, astounding, look who's coming!|
|The Buddha meets Angulimala, a serial killer who murdered more than 1,000 people for the purpose of making an offering of 1,000 human fingers to his teacher. But he lost some to birds so he began wearing them around his neck. He first intended to make his mother his final victim then the Buddha intervened. Seeing the Buddha coming, he changed his mind. Angulimala changed his ways, became a Buddhist monk, and attained enlightenment not long afterwards. His mother is in the background. Savatthi, India.|
So Angulimala, taking up his sword and shield, buckling on his bow and quiver, stealthily followed behind the Blessed One.
Then the Blessed One willed a feat of psychic power: The faster Angulimala went, running with all his might, he could not catch up with the Blessed One who was still walking at a normal pace.
Then the thought occurred to Angulimala: "Isn't it amazing? Isn't it astounding! In the past I've chased and seized even a running elephant, a running horse, a running deer, a speeding chariot. But now, even though I run with all my might, I can't catch up to this shaman who walks at a normal pace." So Angulimala stopped and called out to the Buddha: "Stop, shaman, stop!"
"I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop."
Then the thought occurred to Angulimala, "These Sakyan shamans [Scythian shramanas] are speakers of the truth, who assert the truths, yet this shaman, even while walking, says, 'I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop.' Why not question him?"
So the serial killer Angulimala addressed this verse to the Blessed One:
Now at that time there gathered a large crowd of people, loud and noisy, at the gates of King Pasenadi Kosala's inner palace [calling out:] "There is a serial killer in your realm, sire, named Angulimala: brutal, bloody-handed, killing and slaying, lacking mercy for living beings.
"He has turned villages into non-villages, towns into non-towns, settled countryside into unsettled countryside. Having repeatedly killed humans, he wears a garland of fingers. The king must stamp him out!"
Then King Pasenadi Kosala, with a cavalry of 500 [meaning "a large number" of] horsemen, drove out of Savatthi and entered the monastery. Driving as far as the ground was passable for chariots, he got down from his chariot and went by foot to the Blessed One. On arriving, he bowed, and respectfully sat to one side.
As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him: "What is it, great king? Has King Seniya Bimbisara of Magadha provoked you, or have the Licchavis of Vesali, or has some other hostile king?"
"No, venerable sir. There is a serial killer in my realm, venerable sir, one named Angulimala: brutal, bloody-handed, killing and slaying, lacking mercy for living beings. He has turned villages into non-villages, towns into non-towns, settled countryside into unsettled countryside. Having repeatedly killed human beings, he wears a garland made of fingers. I am going to stamp him out." 
- 1: The Pali Text Society version here reads, followed in The Middle Length Sayings and The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha -- "I will not stamp him out," which is surely a mistake. This version follows the Thai for this passage, even if it is somewhat ungrammatical. There are passages in MN 90 where King Pasenadi's sentences do not quite parse, and perhaps this is another example of his brusque language.
"Great king, suppose you were to see Angulimala with his hair and beard shaved off, wearing the saffron robe [of a wandering ascetic, a shramana, a Buddhist monastic], having gone forth from the home life into the left-home life, abstaining from killing living beings, abstaining from taking what is not given, abstaining from false speech, living the high life [of voluntary celibacy] on only one meal a day, virtuous and of fine character, what would you do to him?"
"We would bow down to him respectfully, venerable sir, or rise up to greet him, or offer him a seat, or offer him robes, alms food, lodgings, or medicinal requisites for curing illness. Or we would arrange a lawful guard, protection, and defense. But how could there be such virtue and restraint in an unvirtuous, harmful character?"
Now at that time Ven. Angulimala was sitting not far from the Blessed One. So the Blessed One, pointing with his right arm, said to King Pasenadi Kosala: "That, great king, is Angulimala."
Then King Pasenadi Kosala was frightened, terrified, and his hair stood on end. So the Blessed One, sensing the king's fear and hair-raising apprehension, said to him: "Be not afraid, great king, be not afraid. He is no danger to you."
Then the king's fear, terror, hair-standing-on-end subsided. He went over to Ven. Angulimala and said: "Are you really Angulimala, venerable sir?"
"Yes, great king."
"What is your father's clan? What is your mother's clan?"
"My father is a Gagga, great king, and my mother a Mantani."
"Then may Master Gagga Mantaniputta delight [in staying here]. I will be responsible for your robes, alms food, lodgings, and medicinal requisites."
Now it so happened that at that time Ven. Angulimala was a forest-dweller, an alms-goer, wearing one set of the triple robe made of cast-off cloth [some of the "13 sane ascetic practices" or dhutangas the Buddha allowed for the overcoming of certain defilements]. So he said to King Pasenadi Kosala: "Enough, great king. My triple robe is complete."
So King Pasenadi Kosala went to the Blessed One and, having bowed down, sat respectfully to one side. Sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "It is amazing, venerable sir! It is astounding how the Blessed One has tamed the untamed, pacified the agitated, brought to nirvana [peace] those who were not free.
"For what we could not tame even with blunt force or blade the Blessed One has tamed without blunt or sharp weapons. Now, venerable sir, we must go. Many are our duties, many our responsibilities."
"Great king, do as you see fit at this time."
Then King Pasenadi Kosala got up from his seat, bowed to the Blessed One and, respectfully keeping him to his right, departed.
Ven. Angulimala, early in the morning, having put on his robes and carrying his outer robe and bowl, went into Savatthi for alms. As he was going from house to house for alms, he saw a woman suffering a breech birth. On seeing her, the thought occurred to him: "How tormented living beings are, how tormented living beings are!"
Then having wandered for alms in Savatthi and returning after his meal, he went to the Blessed One. On arriving, he bowed and sat respectfully to one side. Sitting there he said: "Just now, venerable sir, I went into Savatthi for alms. As I was going from house to house, I saw a woman suffering a breech birth. On seeing her, the thought occurred to me: 'How tormented living beings are, how tormented living beings are!'"
"In that case, Angulimala, go to that woman and when you arrive, say to her: 'Sister, since I was born I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your child.'"
"But, venerable sir, wouldn't that be a lie for me? For I have intentionally killed many living beings."
"Then in that case, Angulimala, go to that woman and when you arrive, say to her: 'Sister, since I was born in the noble birth [glimpsed nirvana, saw the Path, reached the initial stage of enlightenment, gotrabhu, having experienced a "change of lineage" from ordinary uninstructed worldling to a noble disciple who has entered at a minimum the stage of stream entry, or progressed further along], I do not recall intentionally killing a living being. Through this truth may there be wellbeing for you, wellbeing for your child.'" 
- 2: This blessing is often chanted to bless homes in Theravada Buddhist countries.
Then Ven. Angulimala, dwelling alone [to meditate intensively], secluded, heedful, ardent, and resolute, in no long time reached and remained in the supreme goal of the high life for which persons of good family rightly go forth from home into the left-home life, knowing and realizing [the ultimate truth] for himself here and now.
He knew: "Rebirth is ended, the high life fulfilled, the task done. What had to be done has been done and there is nothing further to be done in the world." Thus Ven. Angulimala became another one of the enlightened ones [arhats, "saints"].
|Bad kids still want Santa gifts.|
So Ven. Angulimala -- his skin broken open and dripping blood from his head, his [ceramic] bowl broken, and his outer robe shredded -- went to the Blessed One.
The Blessed One saw him coming from afar, and on seeing him said to him: "Bear it, Brahmin, bear it! The fruit of the karma that would have burned you in perdition [niraya] for many years, many hundreds of years, many thousands of years, you are now experiencing here and now!" 
- 3: This incident illustrates the karmic principle stated in AN 3.99.
Who praise non-opposition, and may they follow it.
Today I am true to my name, for I harm no one at all.
See my going for guidance! Uprooted is [craving],
They are addicted to heedlessness  -- dullards, foolish --
It was not badly thought through for me.
- NOTES: 4: This verse = Dhp 172. 5: This verse = Dhp 173. 6: This verse = Dhp 80. 7: This verse is another illustration of the principle stated in AN 3.99. 8: This verse = Dhp 26. 9: This verse = Dhp 27. 10: "This" apparently refers to the abundant bliss mentioned in the previous verse.
- See also: "Angulimala" (Theragatha 16.8)