Majjhima Nikaya

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Majjhima Nikāya
II. Majjhima-Paṇṇāsa
4. Rāja Vagga

Sacred Books of the Buddhists
Volume VI
Dialogues of the Buddha
Part V

Further Dialogues of the Buddha
Volume II

Translated from the Pali
by Lord Chalmers, G.C.B.
Sometime Governor of Ceylon

Humphrey Milford
Oxford University Press
Public Domain

Sutta 86

Aṅgulimāla Suttaɱ

The Bandit's Conversion


[97] [50]

[1][edmn][pts][than][ntbb][upal] THUS have I heard:

Once when the Lord was staying at Sāvatthī in Jeta's grove in Anāthapiṇḍika's pleasaunce,
there was, in the realm conquered by Pasenadi, king of Kosala,
a robber named Aṅguli- [51] māla,
a ruffian whose hands were red with blood,
who was always killing and wounding,
and showed no mercy to any living creature.

Because of him,
what had been villages were villages no more,
what had been townships [98] were townships no more,
and what had been countrysides were countrysides no more.

From every human being whom he slew,
he took a finger
to make him a necklace
(and so got his name of 'Necklace of fingers').

In the morning early, the Lord,
duly robed and bowl in hand,
went into the city for alms
and on his return after his meal
first put away his bedding
and then, with robes and bowl,
set out on his journey to find the robber Aṅgulimāla.

Seeing him journeying thither,
ploughmen and wayfarers called out: -

Don't go that way, recluse!

It will take you to the robber named Aṅgulimāla,
a ruffian ... make him a necklace.

Why, even when ten,
thirty or forty people
band themselves together
to travel this road,
the whole company falls into the robber's hands!

Thus they;
but, without a word,
the Lord held on his way.

A second time,
and yet a third time
these neatherds and the rest
repeated their warning;
but still,
without a word,
the Lord held on his way.

From some way off
the robber saw the Lord coming
and marvelled exceedingly that,
where even companies of ten to [99] fifty travellers all fell into his hands,
this solitary recluse should seem
to be forcing his way alone;
and the robber was minded to slay 'this recluse.'

So, armed with sword and buckler,
and with his bow and quiver,
the robber followed up the Lord's trail.

Hereupon, the Lord manifested his psychic powers
so that, while he himself was proceeding at his wonted pace,
the robber,
for all his efforts,
could not catch him up.

Thought the robber: -

This is a wonderful and marvellous thing!

Heretofore, I could always overtake an elephant,
or horse,
or carriage,
or deer,
when going full speed;
and yet here [52] am I unable,
despite all my efforts,
to overtake this recluse
while he proceeds at his wonted pace.

So he stopped
and shouted to the Lord to stop.

I have stopped, Aṅgulimāla;
you stop too.

Thought the robber:

These Sakyan recluses speak truth
and are true to their word.

Yet here is this recluse who,
while he still walks on,
says he has stopped
and bids me stop too;
I had better ask him about it.

So the robber addressed the Lord in these lines:

You who profess to stop, still march ahead;
I, who have stopped, am told by you I've not;
- Explain how you have stopped while I have not.

Yes, I have stopped; for, never violence
do I to any. - life you still destroy.
- Thus I have stopped indeed, but you stop not!

[100] At last this sage revered has tracked me down!
And now at last thy hallow'd utterance
makes me for ever evil deeds renounce!

He spoke, and into deep abyss his arms
the robber flung: low at the Master's feet
he craved admission to the Brotherhood.

The Buddha, sage compassionate, the guide
of gods and men, said: 'Almsman,follow me';
and Almsman on that summons he became!

With Aṅgulimāla as his Almsman in attendance,
the Lord now proceeded on his way
to the pleasaunce in Sāvatthī.

At this very time
the portals of the king's inner palace
were beset by a huge crowd loudly shouting
that in the realm he had conquered
there was a robber named Aṅgulimāla,
a ruffian ... make him a necklace.

Suppress him, sire, they cried.

In the morning early Pasenadi, king of Kosala,
with five hundred horse,
left the city for the pleasaunce,
and, after driving as far as the ground was passable for his carriage,
proceeded thence on foot to the Lord
and [101] after greetings
took a seat to one side,
thus to be addressed by the Lord:

What is the matter, sire?

Is there trouble with Seniya Bimbisāra of [53] Magadha,
or with the Licchavis of Vesālī
or with any other hostile powers?

No trouble at all of that sort, sir.

In my realms there is a robber named Aṅgulimāla
... make him a necklace;
and I shall never suppress him.

If now, sire,
you were to see Aṅgulimāla with his hair and beard off,
in the yellow robes,
as a Pilgrim who kills not,
steals not,
lies not,
eats but one meal a day,
and leads the higher life in virtue and goodness, -
what would you do to him?

Sir, I would salute him,
or rise to meet him,
or would invite him to be seated,
or invite him to accept robes and other requisites,
or I would extend to him the defence,
protection and safeguards
which are his due.

But how could the sway of such virtue
ever extend to one so wicked and depraved?

At that moment the reverend Aṅgulimāla was seated quite close to the Lord,
who, stretching forth his right arm, said: -

This, sire, is Aṅgulimāla!

Hereat the king in his alarm
became dumbfounded,
with every hair of his body standing erect.

Seeing this, the Lord said: -

Fear not, sire; fear not;
there is no cause for fear here.

So the king's fears [102] and alarms abated;
and across to the reverend Aṅgulimāla he went,

Is your reverence indeed Aṅgulimāla?

Yes, sire.

What, sir, was your father's family,
and your mother's?

My father was a Gagga, sire,
and my mother a Manṭāṇi.

Be of good cheer,
Gagga Manṭāṇi-putta;
I will take care to supply you with all requisites.

Now at the time the reverend Aṅgulimāla was resident in the wilds,
subsisting on alms,
and wearing clothes from the dust-heap
not exceeding three in number.

So he declined the king's offer
on the ground that he had already got
his full three robes.

Then the king went across to the Lord
and after salutations
seated himself to one side,
saying: -

It is wonderful, sir,
it is marvellous,
what a tamer of the [54] untamed the Lord is,
how he quells the unquelled,
and how he calms the uncalmed!

Here is one whom I could not subdue
with cudgel and sword;
but without either cudgel or sword
the Lord has subdued him!

And now, sir,
I must be going,
for I have much to do and attend to.

When your majesty pleases.

Then, rising from his seat,
the king saluted the Lord with deep reverence and withdrew.

Early one morning the reverend Aṅgulimāla,
duly robed and bowl in hand,
went into Sāvatthī for alms and there,
in the course of his round for alms,
saw a woman in difficult and protracted labour.

The sight [103] brought him the thought how foul humanity was.

After his meal he came back to the Lord
to tell what he had seen and what he had thought.

Go back then to the city,
said the Lord,
and say to the woman: -

From my birth onwards, sister,
I am not aware that, wittingly,
I have ever robbed of life
aught that lives;
may this my solemn protestation
bring weal to you
and weal to your child unborn!

But that, sir, would,
be a deliberate lie;
for, I have wittingly taken many a life.

Go back then to the city,
said the Lord,
and say to the woman: -

From my Noble Birth onwards, sister,
I am not aware that, wittingly,
I have ever robbed of life
aught that lives;
may this my solemn protestation
bring weal to you
and weal to your child unborn!

Obediently, he went back to the woman
to make this solemn protestation;
and all went well with mother and child.

Ere long, the reverend Aṅgulimāla,
dwelling alone and aloof,
strenuous ardent and purged of self,
won the prize in quest of which
young men go forth from home to homelessness as Pilgrims,
that prize of prizes which crowns the highest life: -
even this did he, here and now,
think out for himself,
enter on,
and abide in;
and to him came the conviction:

Rebirth is no more;
I have lived the highest life;
my task is done;
and now [104] for me there is no more of what 1 nave been!

Thus the reverend Aṅgulimāla
was numbered among the arahats.

[55] In the morning early,
when, duly robed and bowl in hand,
Aṅgulimāla had gone into Sāvatthī for alms,
he was hit by a clod flung by one man,
by a club flung by a second
and by a potsherd flung by a third,
so that it was with a broken head
streaming with blood,
with his bowl smashed,
and with his cloak in tatters,
that he presented himself before the Lord.

Seeing him drawing near,
the Lord said to Aṅgulimāla: -

Endure it all, brahmin;
endure it all.

What you are suffering now
is the harvest of past deeds
which might otherwise have kept you
in the torments of purgatory
for many a year,
yea, for hundreds and thousands of years.

As he realized in solitary meditation
the bliss of his Deliverance,
the reverend Aṅgulimāla now burst into this heartfelt utterance:-

Whoso shows zeal, where zeal was none,
whoso with virtue clokes his past,
whoso in youth to Buddha cleaves,
- he, like the moon, floods earth with light.

My foes, this gospel hear, this creed embrace,
and follow wisdom's sons who cleave to it.

[105] Love's message, meek forbearance, hear, my foes,
- in season hear, and let your lives conform.

He who has garner'd Peace, harms neither me
nor any man, but shields both weak and strong.

[1] Ditchers guide rills; his shaft the fletcher shapes;
joiners shape wood; -but sages shape themselves.
Constraining goad, compelling lash tames some;
- with neither club nor sword our Saint tamed me.

My name is 'Harmless,' though I harmful was;
bnt rightly now am named, for I harm none.

As' Finger-Necklace; I a bandit lived,
and whirled down Stream, till He brought me to Land.

As 'Finger-Necklace,' I was steeped in blood;
saved now, no tethers bind me still to life.

My whilom guilt, with all its heritage
[56] of future woe, has found its outcome here;
- of my estate I'm lord; no debt I owe.

Insensate folly ne'er can rise to zeal,
that zeal which wisdom's priceless treasure is.

Forget not zeal in pleasure's hot pursuit;
for, zeal by Ecstasy to bliss attains.

In blessing came, and still abides, my Call when
'mong the warring creeds I chose the best.

In blessing came, and still abides, my Call;
- the threefold lore is mine; I've lived His creed.


[1] These verses, of - I think - later date, include a repetition of Pilinda Vaccha's verses from Theragāthā p. 2.



See also:

Garland of Thumbs (discussion)
The Sutasoma-Jātaka (No. 537)
The verses ascribed to Aṅgulimāla are at Thag. 806 ff.

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