Angulimal said, “I used to think I was a stubborn man – you are a thousandfold more stubborn. Now I cannot help you, I have to cut your head.”
Buddha said, “It is an old tradition and convention to fulfill the last wish of a person who is going to die, and I have a very small wish. You fulfill it and then kill me.”
He said, “What is your wish? Even if it is the biggest thing, I will manage it for you.”
Buddha said, “No, it is a very small thing. Just cut off a branch of the tree under which you are standing.”
Angulimal said, “What kind of thing are you asking? But okay, if that is your wish.” With his sword he cut off a branch.
Buddha said, “Now, put it back. Let it be part of the tree again. Let it blossom again.”
Angulimal said, “That is impossible. How can I join it with the tree?”
Buddha said, “If you cannot even join a small branch to the tree, do you see the implications of it? Any child could have broken that branch off the tree, and you are a strong man – you have not done a great job. You can cut off my head, but can you manage to give me life again? And if you cannot create, what right have you to destroy?”
There was a moment of silence. The sword fell from Angulimal’s hands. He threw away that garland of nine hundred and ninety-nine fingers, and fell at Buddha’s feet. He said, “I never thought about it, that destroying something – any mediocre person, any coward, any idiot can do that. The real genius is creative – you are right. Please accept me as your disciple.”
Buddha initiated him.
He came back to the town. Even the king, Prasenjita, when he heard that Angulimal had become a sannyasin of Gautam Buddha…. He was a lover of Gautam Buddha, but he was afraid to go there because that man Angulimal could not be trusted, he could do anything any moment. But he wanted to see the man; he was so famous all around – hearing his name, even kings used to tremble.
He came, he touched Buddha’s feet and asked, “I have heard that Angulimal has also become your initiate.”
Buddha said, “Yes, he is sitting by my side.”
Prasenjita became so afraid, he pulled out his sword. Buddha said, “Now it is not needed, put it back in the sheath. The Angulimal that you used to know is dead; this is a totally new man who cannot harm anybody. Don’t be afraid.”
And that very day when Angulimal went to beg in the city, the same cowards who had stopped even going on the road that passed nearby Angulimal’s place locked their doors, stood on their terraces with large piles of rocks, and started throwing rocks at the poor man.