Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Excerpt From “The Buddha and the Terrorist” by Satish Kumar

The following story is based upon a Buddhist Parable about a bloodthirsty murderer, called Angulimala, which means Wearer of a Necklace made of Fingers. Angulimala believed in his anger that if he could make a necklace of a thousand human fingers, he would have enough power to rule the world. The Buddha, upon hearing of this, set out to meet him. This version of the story was written by Satish Kumar.

The Buddha followed the path to the Jeta Grove through the fields alone, unhindered and undisturbed, deep into the cool of the woods. He kept walking, going deeper and deeper into the forest. In the stillness of the trees, the Buddha’s steps were the only sound, and the only man to hear them was Angulimala. He wondered, “What is that sound? Who is walking? Who dares to come and invade my territory?”

In the distance he saw a figure in a yellow robe moving slowly. Angulimala shook his head in disbelief, then looked again. The moving figure was coming towards him.

Feeling happy, Angulimala grabbed his sword and stood up.

“Ah ha! I am going to get ten more fingers for my necklace without much effort!” he said to himself.

He brandished his sword and moved toward the approaching figure. Seeing his furious face, the Buddha realized that he must be Angulimala. The Buddha smiled and kept moving. Angulimala was amazed. He had never encountered a person who was not afraid of him and did not run away from him.

“Doesn’t this ignorant fool know who I am? Soon he will know,” murmured Angulimala.

Within seconds he heard a sweet voice calling “Angulimala, Angulimala, Angulimala.”

“How puzzling! He obviously knows me, knows my name and yet… and yet?”

Angulimala shouted back loudly, “Who are you? Why aren’t you running away from me? Don’t you know I am going to kill you without blinking an eye and thread your fingers onto my necklace?”

“Yes, yes, I know who you are. But do you know that I can be killed without blinking an eye?” The Buddha paused for a moment, and then said, “I am always ready to die. Dying harms no one. But killing? How do you feel about killing others, Angulimala? Have you looked deeply into your feelings about killing?”

The Buddha looked at the man in front of him. Blood was still dripping from some of the fingers on his necklace. His bloodstained clothes and sweating body gave off a disturbing smell. Aggression emanated from his heavy black mustache and beard and his long matted hair. His strong and fearsome appearance would have driven away most mortals, but the Buddha stood like a rock.

“I know you can kill me, and maybe you will,” said the Buddha. “But when you kill, you kill none other than yourself. Because I am none other than you, and you are none other than me. Whatever you do to me you do to yourself, Angulimala. Let me tell you one thing. You are capable not only of killing. You are also capable of loving, you are capable of compassion. You are capable of change, you are capable of friendship.”

The Buddha stopped speaking and smiled.

“I have no friends,” said Angulimala.

“But I am your friend, Angulimala” replied the Buddha.

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: