Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Story of Angulimala -- Separating Emotions and the Self




"Distinguishing between Person and Emotion" - Dharma echoes n°124
"There was a man who lived during the time of the Buddha whose life illustrate this point. There was an immensely strong-willed person named Angulimala. The overwhelming force of his own mental afflictions led him astray. Somehow he conceived of the idea that he would attain great spiritual powers if he killed a thousand people. He became completely determined to keep killing until he had reached a thousand victims. He was convinced that this would be the height of spiritual accomplishment. He cut a thumb from each of his murder victims, and wore them strung around his neck as a garland, and thus became known by the name "Angulimala", which means "Garland of Fingers" in Sanskrit.
Angulimala persisted until he had killed 999 people, and was then looking for his final victim. By this time, of course, he was so notorious that people ran the moment they saw him. If he was known to have entered an area, people feared to walk outdoors and stayed locked inside. The only one who did not hide from him was his loving mother. She still felt great concern for him, and was worried that he would go hungry. Seeing that no one else would do so, she went to bring him some food, and as soon as he saw her approaching, Angulimala decided to kill her. This murder would complete his quest for a thousand victims, and he thought that killing his own mother would be a fittingly spectacular pinnacle to his achievement.
The Buddha observed Angulimala turning on his own mother, and intervened. He said, "Rather than kill your mother, you should come after me."
Angulimala thought that killing the Buddha would be an even more magnificent finale than killing his mother, so he immediately abandonned his pursuit of her and went after the Buddha. But Angulimala couldn't catch up with the Buddha. This serial killer called out, "Stop! Don't go so fast."
The Buddha replied: "I have stopped. You are the one still moving, driven forward by your mental afflictions."
At that very moment, Angulimala gained the clarity to see for the first time that he and his mental afflictions were separate. He and his murderous impulses were not the same thing. This realization struck Angulimala like a lightning bolt, and he was stopped in his tracks. The deluded emotions simply lost their grip on him. He went on to become a disciple of the Buddha, and eventually became one of the most remarkable Buddhist monks of the day."

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