Filed in Zen (Chan)

The Finger Bone Path of Angulimala

Thich Nhat Hanh

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In this episode of the life of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni encounters the treacherous murderer, Angulimala, who subsequently transforms into a monk more gentle than" a handful of earth. Excerpted from Old Path White Clouds, Thich Nhat Hanh's biography of the Buddha, this story occurs after the Buddha has already acquired many followers among the laity and the ordained, or bhikkhus, and it reflects the interweaving of social and spiritual dimensions of his teaching. Angulimala's change of heart proves that the present is not imprisoned by the past, that karma is not an immutable sentence, and that the forces of ignorance, even when they create the dementia of murder, can be subdued by compassion. In another radical departure from the prevailing ethos of the India of his day, the Buddha expressed unconditional love in the concrete terms of democratic social ideals, as demonstrated by his embrace of Angulimala.


Jessica Nissen

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