amurderer called Angulimala
or "Thumb Necklace."

A tale out of the life of Buddha, By Glenn H. Mullin

During the lifetime of the Buddha there lived a murderer called Angulimala, or "Thumb Necklace." He was known by this name because from each of his victims he removed a thumb, which he wore on a string around his neck.

The Buddha heard of Angulimala and decided to attempt to bring him to the path of peace. At the time it was rumored that Angulimala had robbed and killed almost a thousand people, and that his necklace was made of 999 human thumbs.

In order to meet Angulimala face-to-face, the Buddha set off alone and on foot through the forest where the deadly criminal was believed to be in hiding. Angulimala saw the Buddha approach. He sprang out from behind him, club in hand, and attempted a strike. The Buddha, however, had anticipated the move, and deftly side-stepped the blow. The attack continued at length; but the Buddha remained fearless, keeping his eyes fixed on his attacker and remaining constantly out of reach.

Eventually Angulimala became so exhausted that he fell to the ground. The Buddha sat beside him, placed his arm lovingly over his shoulder, and spoke consolingly to him. The distraught criminal began to weep violently, for never before had anyone shown him such love or forgiveness. They sat like this for several hours, Angulimala's body shaking with uncontrollable sobs.

This experience of compassion completely transformed Angulimala. He asked the Buddha to ordain him as a monk and to allow him to live with the Sangha community. The Buddha accepted. Angulimala took up the practices of meditation and self-purification, and eventually attained sainthood.

As published in the American Theosophist May 1987