Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Taliban Fingers and Angulimala

Claims that a British soldier cut off the fingers of Taliban insurgents as trophies during combat operations in Helmand in Afghanistan are being investigated by the military police.

The soldier, from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, is alleged to have severed fingers from dead insurgents during his unit's tour, which ended in April.

This story has striking similarities to the story of Angulimala whose name in Pali literally
means "finger necklace". Angulimala had been told by his teacher that he had to collect one thousand little fingers in order to graduate. He became a feared bandit and wore his growing collection of fingers in a garland around his neck. The story goes that his thousandth victim was to be the Buddha who he spotted coming towards him one day. This powerful and athletic serial killer, who had already successfully resisted several attempts to apprehend him, grabbed his weapons and dashed out to murder the Buddha and complete his score.

He expected to easily overtake him and quickly finish the job but then a very strange thing happened even though the Buddha was only walking, serenely and unhurried, Angulimala, despite his formidable strength and speed, found he couldn't catch up with him. Eventually, exhausted, angry, frustrated and soaked with sweat, Angulimala screamed at the Buddha to stop.

Then the Buddha turned and with neither anger nor fear, speaking quietly and directly, he told Angulimala that he, the Buddha, had already stopped. He had stopped killing and harming and now it was time for him, Angulimala, to do likewise. Angulimala was so struck by these words that there and then he stopped; he threw away his weapons and followed the Buddha back to the monastery where he became a monk.

Angulimala is the name of the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy service which was founded by Venerable Ajahn Khemadhammo, who in in the late 70's set up a small monastery here on the Isle of Wight.

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