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Mv I 28
PTS: Mv I 41 | CS: vin.mv.01.28
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The Story of Aṅgulimāla the Criminal
Ven. Khematto Bhikkhu
Alternate translations/layout: 'read-friendly' layout

28. aṅgulimālacoravatthu (Mv.I.41.1)
The Story of Aṅgulimāla the Criminal [BMC]

[103] tena kho pana samayena coro aṅgulimālo bhikkhūsu pabbajito hoti.

Now at that time Aṅgulimāla[1] the criminal had gone forth among the monks.

manussā passitvā ubbijjantipi uttasantipi palāyantipi aññenapi gacchanti aññenapi mukhaṁ karonti dvāraṁpi thakenti.

People, on seeing him, were agitated and afraid, ran away, took a different route, turned their faces away, or shut their doors.

manussā ujjhāyanti khīyanti vipācenti

People criticized and complained and spread it about,

kathaṁ hi nāma samaṇā sakyaputtiyā dhajabaddhaṁ coraṁ pabbājessantīti.

“How can the Sakyan-son contemplatives give the Going-forth to a criminal who is ‘wrapped in a flag’?”

tattha dhajaṃ bandhitvā viya vicaratīti dhajabandho. mūladevādayo viya loke pākaṭoti vuttaṃ hoti.

In that case, “He goes around as if wrapped in a flag” (means,) “wrapped in a flag.” This is said of world-famous (criminals) like Mūladeva, etc.

assosuṁ kho bhikkhū tesaṁ manussānaṁ ujjhāyantānaṁ khīyantānaṁ vipācentānaṁ.

The monks heard the people criticizing and complaining and spreading it about.

athakho te bhikkhū bhagavato etamatthaṁ ārocesuṁ.

Then the monks reported the matter to the Blessed One.

na bhikkhave dhajabaddho coro pabbājetabbo yo pabbājeyya āpatti dukkaṭassāti.

“Monks, a criminal who is ‘wrapped in a flag’ should not be given the Going-forth. Whoever should give it: an offense of wrong doing.”

na bhikkhaveti bhagavā sayaṁ dhammassāmī, tasmā āyatiṁ akaraṇatthāya bhikkhūnaṁ sikkhāpadaṁ paññapento evamāha.

“Monks, one shouldn’t ...”: The Blessed One is himself the master of the Dhamma[2]. So, laying down a training rule, he said this for the monks not to do (such an action) in the future.


According to I.B. Horner, this is not the well-known bandit whose verse is in the Theragāthā (Thag 16.8), and after whom MN 86 is named. She notes that the word nāma: ‘named’, along with an endquote, is missing. But the same is true of Sañjaya the wanderer, Sāriputta the wanderer, and Moggallāna the wanderer, when they enter the story of the Buddha for the first time [Mv.I.23.1]. Also, this origin story, unlike the others in this section, doesn’t mention Aṅgulimāla going to the monks and getting them to ordain him. The Commentary passage quoted below implies that the Buddha gave him the Going-forth, as he did the Aṅgulimāla of the aṅgulimālattheragāthā. Also, there is nothing in the Commentary to indicate that this might be a different monk.
Here is a case where the Buddha knew when to ordain a famous criminal, but didn’t trust the Saṅgha to do so. As in the case of displaying psychic powers, the Buddha was able to do certain things, to good effect, that he didn’t allow his disciples to do. That means that in interpreting the Vinaya, one cannot take the Buddha’s example as evidence that a given action is or should be allowable.
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