Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “story of angulimala” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Note: This appendix was extracted from Chapter XXXIX part 2.2 (The knowledge of the retribution of actions):

“These people, of keen faculties (tīkṣnendriya), are hindered by the fetters (saṃyojana): for example Yang-k’iun-li-mo-lo (Aṅgulimāla), etc. Certain others, of keen faculties, are not hindered by the fetters, for example Chö-li-fou (Śāriputra), Mou-lien Maudgalāyana), etc.”.

Aṅgulimāla, son of the brāhmin Bhaggava, chaplain of king Pasenadi of Kosala, studied at the university of Takkasilā and soon became the favorite of his teacher. But the latter suspected him of having failed to respect his wife and demanded fees of a very special kind from his disciple: a thousand fingers cut from the right hand of a human. To acquit himself of his debt, the young man lay in ambush in the Jālinī forest at Kosala, killed all those who tried to cross through it, cut off a finger from each corpse and from the cut fingers he made a garland which he wore around his neck. Hence the nickname Aṅgulimāla, meaning ‘Finger Garland’.

In order to complete the number of a thousand demanded by his teacher, there remained only one more finger to be cut. And so, when his mother came to warn him that he was being hunted by the king, Aṅgulimāla prepared to kill her. But the Buddha, foreseeing his destiny, came in person towards him, prevented him from committing this last crime and, having won him over, admitted him into the Order according to the swiftest procedure. Subsequently Aṅgulimāla showed himself to be an exemplary monk.

Quite a body of literature has grown up around Aṅgulimāla, but the main source remains the Aṅgulimālasutta in Majjhima, p. 97–105, translated many times into Chinese: Tsa a han, T 99, no. 1077, k. 38, p. 280c18–281c2; Pie yi tse a han, T 100, no. 16, k.1, p. 378b17–379a22; Tseng yi a han, T 125, k. 31, p. 719b20–722c22; three separate versions (T 118–120) of which the oldest, entitled Yang kiue mo king, is by Dharmarakṣa.

Aṇgulimala occupies an important place in the Pāli commentaries: Comm. on Majjhima, III, p. 328–344; on Dhammapada, III, p. 169–170 (tr. Burlingame, III, p. 6–14); of the Theragāthā, (tr. Rhys Davids, Brethren, p. 318–325); of the Jātakas, V, p. 456 seq.

In the neighborhood of Śrāvastī, a stūpa marked the place where Aṅgulimāla was converted. This monument was mentioned by the Chinese pilgrims Fa hien (T 2085, p. 860b11) and Hiuan-tsang (T2087, k. 6, p. 899a19).