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The Pali is transliterated as Velthuis (aaiiuu.m'n~n.t.d.n.l). Alternatives:
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Personalities of the Buddhist Suttas

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Ahi.msaka, aka A'ngulimaala, "Garland of Thumbs"

 


Dictionary of Pali Proper Names: A'ngulimaala (A'ngulimaalaka). - A robber who was converted by the Buddha in the twentieth year of his ministry, and who, later, became an arahant.[1] He was the son of the brahmin Bhaggava, chaplain to the king of Kosala, his mother being Mantanii. He was born under the thieves' constellation, and on the night of his birth all the armour in the town shone, including that belonging to the king. Because this omen did no harm to anyone the babe was named Ahi.msaka.[2]

A'nguli. Can mean finger or joint, or limb, but also 'thumb,' which should be the translation used here. If it had been fingers, Ahi.msaka could have gotten away with 100 murders. Elsewhere we hear that the instruction was given in the form of a prediction that Ahi.msaka would achieve awakening after having killed 1000 people.

p.p. explains it all - p.p.

At Takkasilaa he became a favourite at the teacher's house, but his jealous fellow-students poisoned his teacher's mind, and the latter, bent on his destruction, asked as his honorarium a thousand human right-hand fingers. Thereupon Ahi.msaka waylaid travellers in the Jaalinii forest in Kosala and killed them, taking a finger from each.

The finger-bones thus obtained he made into a garland to hang round his neck, hence the name A'ngulimaala.

As a result of his deeds whole villages were deserted, and the king ordered a detachment of men to seize the bandit, whose name nobody knew. But A'ngulimaala's mother, guessing the truth, started off to warn him. By now he lacked but one finger to complete his thousand, and seeing his mother coming he determined to kill her. But the Buddha, seeing his upanissaya, went himself to the wood, travelling thirty yojanas,[3] and intercepted A'ngulimaala on his way to slay his [23] mother. A'ngulimaala was converted by the Buddha's power and received the "ehi bhikkhu pabbajjaa"[4] while the populace were yelling at the king's palace for the robber's life. Later, the Buddha presented him before King Pasenadi when the latter came to Jetavana, and Pasenadi, filled with wonder, offered to provide the monk with all requisites. A'ngulimaala, however, had taken on the dhutangas and refused the king's offer.

When he entered Saavatthii for alms, he was attacked by the mob, but on the admonition of the Buddha, endured their wrath as penance for his former misdeeds.

According to the Dhammapada.t.thakathaa[5] he appears to have died soon after he joined the Order.

There is a story of how be eased a woman's labour pains by an act of truth. The words he used in this saccakiriyaa (yato aha.m sabba~n~nutabuddhassa ariyassa ariyaaya jaatiyaa jaato) have come to be regarded as a -paritta to ward off all dangers and constitute the A'ngulimaala Paritta. The water that washed the stone on which he sat in the woman's house came to be regarded as a panacea.[6]

In the A'ngulimaala Sutta he is addressed by Pasenadi as Gagga Mantaaniiputta, his father being a Gagga. The story is evidently a popular one and occurs also in the Avadana Šataka (No. 27).

At the Kosala king's Asadisadaana, an untamed elephant, none other being available, was used to bear the parasol over A'ngulimaala. The elephant remained perfectly still-such was A'ngulimaala's power.[7]

The conversion of A'ngulimaala is often referred to as a most compassionate and wonderful act of the Buddha's, e.g. in the Sutasoma Jaataka,[8] which was preached concerning him. The story of A'ngulimaala is quoted as that of a man in whose case a beneficent kamma arose and destroyed former evil kamma.[9]

It was on his account that the rule not to ordain a captured robber was enacted.[10]

For his identification with Kalmaasapaada see J.P.T.S., 1909, pp. 240 ff.

 


[1] His story appears both in the Majjhima Cy., 743 ff., and in the Thag. Cy., ii. 57 ff. The two accounts differ in certain details; I have summarised the two versions.

[2] The Thag. Cy. says he was first called Hi.msaka and then Ahi.msaka. See also Ps. of the Brethren, 323, n. 3.

[3] DA. i. 240; J. iv. 180.

[4] Thag. 868-70.

[5] iii. 169.

[6] M. ii. 103-4; MA. 747 f.

[7] DhA. iii. 185; also DA. ii. 654.

[8] J. v. 456 f.; see also J. iv. 180; SnA. ii. 440; DhA. i. 124.

[9] AA. i. 369.

[10] Vin. i. 74.

 


 

References:

Dictionary of Pali Proper Names, by G. P. Malalasekera, D.Litt., Ph.D., M.A. (Lond.), O.B.E., Pali Text Society, 1974
Dhammatalk discussion: Garland of Thumbs
MN 86, A'ngulimaala Sutta
Sutasoma Jaataka