Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

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Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby frank k » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:54 pm

thread on the chronology and authenticity of pali suttas http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=16610&start=0

My main interest in this subject is, was the Angulimala sutta a real sutta?
Or was it an exaggerated version of a real historical character?
Is it possible the whole story was completely fabricated?

I'm wondering about the chronology of the sutta, as well as if in the vinaya and other text there are corroborating evidence that Angulimala actually existed. One would think if a killer who successfully killed 999 people and attempted to kill a samma sambuddha, there would be some interesting to say about it in the vinaya, as well as stories of how Angulimala interacted with his fellow monastics, etc.

The wiki article gives a good overview and an interesting quote
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angulimala

Richard F. Gombrich, in his paper Who was Angulimala?, has postulated that the story of Angulimala may represent an encounter between the Buddha and a follower of an early form of Saivite or Shakti tantra. Gombrich reaches this conclusion on the basis of a number of inconsistencies in the sutta text that indicate possible corruption (particularly the failure of the verses in the Theragatha to conform to accepted Pāli metrical schemes), and the fairly weak explanations for Angulimala's behaviour provided by the commentators. He notes that there are several other references in the early Pāli canon that seem to indicate the presence of devotees of Siva, Kali, and other divinities associated with sanguinary tantric practices, and that Angulimala's behaviour would not be inconsistent with certain violent practices that were observed in India by Thuggee-like transgressive cults into recent times. However the fact that Thuggee itself was an army of ex-soldiers of the erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad, who were Muslims, as documented by Sleeman et al., detracts from Gombrich's claim. If Gombrich's thesis could be conclusively proven, it would establish the Angulimala Sutta as likely being the earliest known documentation of tantric practices in South Asia, about which very little is known before the 7th century CE.
Last edited by frank k on Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:00 pm

frank k wrote:My main interest in this subject is, was the Angulimala sutta a real sutta?
What would a fake sutta be?
Or was it an exaggerated version of a real historical character?
Is it possible the whole story was completely fabricated?
Both are possible, but there is no way to know with any certainty this way or that.
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:02 pm

If you can, it's worth tracking down Gombrich's essay on the subject. He makes a pretty compelling argument, in my mind - but as Tilt said, it's probably impossible to make a certain case one way or the other.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:12 pm

If I recall correctly, the 999 victims figure is only in the Commentaries, not the Sutta?

The Sutta mentions his killings without a specific number, I think.

Angulimala = garland of fingers

Why didn't he just amputate the fingers and collect them that way? Some mafia members have their little fingers amputated apparently to show discipline, devotion to the organization; so it could be done without killing the victim.
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby convivium » Fri Mar 22, 2013 9:14 pm

For that matter, he could have collected the fingers from a charnel ground. :embarassed:
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby pilgrim » Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:19 am

convivium wrote:For that matter, he could have collected the fingers from a charnel ground. :embarassed:

From what I remember reading, his intention was to take lives. The fingers was only to help him keep count of the number.
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby convivium » Sat Mar 23, 2013 2:49 am

i did an essay comparing him to frankenstein in junior college and got an A. i should know :geek:
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby frank k » Sat Mar 23, 2013 3:28 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
frank k wrote:My main interest in this subject is, was the Angulimala sutta a real sutta?
What would a fake sutta be?


good question, i'll comment on the parent thread.
thread on the chronology and authenticity of pali suttas viewtopic.php?f=29&t=16610&start=0
http://www.audtip.org Audio Sutta Recordings
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:14 pm

frank k wrote:One would think if a killer who successfully killed 999 people and attempted to kill a samma sambuddha, there would be some interesting to say about it in the vinaya, as well as stories of how Angulimala interacted with his fellow monastics, etc.

The Vinaya does say something about him. After he was ordained, people complained about it, so the Buddha made a rule prohibiting the ordination of criminals who had been announced as wanted by the authorities.

Aṅgulimāla did not live long after his ordination.

The Aṅgulimāla Sutta (Paritta) is well known, but there's not much else said about him. King Pasenadi offered to provide his requisites.

The story of Tambadāṭhika is no less remarkable.
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Re: Angulimala. Was he a real historical figure?

Postby Kumara » Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:02 am

pilgrim wrote:
convivium wrote:For that matter, he could have collected the fingers from a charnel ground. :embarassed:

From what I remember reading, his intention was to take lives. The fingers was only to help him keep count of the number.

That is based on the commentarial version of the story. No such idea is found in the sutta. In the sutta, he was referred to as "a bandit in the realm of King Pasenadi of Kosala named Angulimala, who was murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Villages, towns, and districts were laid waste by him. He was constantly murdering people and he wore their fingers as a garland." (from MLDB). ["Murdering" seems to me over-translated. "Slaying" should be more appropriate for "vadhati".]

I suggest reading the sutta in itself, and see what it doesn't say.
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