on 12 July 2011
This is a very interesting and inspiring Buddhist story of redemption. It has its basis in two Buddhist Pali scriptural sources - the Thera Gatha (V866-91) and the Angulimala Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle-lengthed collection of Buddhist Suttas). The author entitles his translation as 'The Buddha and the Terrorist', no doubt a reference to the nodern phenomena of international terrorism. Angulimala is Pali for a necklace of fingers. Angulimala was a mass murderer who lived during the life time of the Lord Buddha (c. 500BCE), he killed people, cut their fingers off and wore them around his neck as a gruesome trophy.
The paperback (2004) edition contains 75 numbered pages that are separated into an Introduction, a Foreword and 7 chapters:
Introduction: The Story of Angulimala.
Foreword By Allen Hunt Badiner
1) Encountering the Monster.
2) The Conversation of a king.
3) Freedom from Fear.
4) Spiritual simplicity.
5) Seeking Revenge.
6) The Triumph of Forgiveness.
7) From Death to Life.
The author, Satish Kumar has practised Buddhism and has been a Jain monk for 9 years. Although born in India, Satish Kumar settled in England in 1973. Today he is the editor of Resurgence magazine, and is the Director of Programmes at Schumacher College. This book tells the story of how a hate filled man spends his life trying to alleviate his inner pain by murdering people around him. That is, until he meets the Lord Buddha, whose respect inspiring deportment has a startling effect upon the mind Angulimala. After talking to the Buddha, Angulimala gives up his old life, repents his past and ordains as a Buddhist monk. He spends his time in meditation, and eventually becomes inwardly calm and free of greed, hatred and delusion.
The story shows that every human being has the potential to transform themselves, regardless of their severity or destructive nature of their past actions. Compassion and forgiveness, when encountered tend to spread through the minds of those doing the encountering. The Buddha's teaching clearly shows that no single human being is beyond redemption. When king Pasenadi (of Savatthi) raised an army to hunt and kill Angulimala, the Buddha explained to the king that forgiveness is superior to justice. King Pasenadi could not, at first understand the Buddha, or the fact that the man he wanted to kill had become a peaceful Buddhist monk named Ahimsaka - the non-violent one. The story tells us that after listening to the Buddha's instruction, the king experienced great compassion and understood the truth of the Buddha's teachings. This is a story of great hope for the entirety of humanity.
on 16 July 2010
This book tells just one of the stories of the Buddha's life following his enlightenment. It is of the Buddha's encounter with a man terrorising local communities, committed to the gaining of personal power and revenge through murder. A familiar story in any age and certainly for our own . . Following Angulimala's encounter with the Buddha he reforms and the rest of the story is of his own illumuination and redemption and how the anger and grief of the community he has devastated handle the unexpected outcome.
Satish Kumar dramatises this tale with care and understanding and in the forward it is made clear that we need to find another way in our own times to deal with the issues of terrorism and the associated anger and sense of revenge that is so prevalent today. The Buddha's example, through this story, is seen as one such solution which, it is not just admitted but laid plain for us, demands courage. But what choices do we have in our times other than to spin on the never-ending wheel of action and reaction which produces more and more violence and destruction? This is clearly no answer despite the so-called enlightened times in which we live. We have truly come no distance at all since savagery in this respect; we have not learned.
The story, as Satish Kumar shows, is not just about outer situations, though. Within all of us we need to address the terrorist within, that part of us that breeds anger and hatred which is then projected into the world and causes such havoc. Also, the way we treat ourselves and our own consciousness is shown as central to the whole question of violence in the world, in our society and culture.
The message is clear that we need to start with ourselves and co-incidental with this will be a lessening in those manifestations of anger and violence in the world.
This is the message that Gandhi, Christ and others also gave. With the clarity and poise of the Buddha's teaching as shown through Satish Kumar's writing, we can see that not only is this a powerful answer, it is a practical one on which we can make a start right now.
This is not a book just for Buddhists, but for everyone whatever our cultural and religious/Spiritual background.