The Buddha and Angulimala

Reviewed by Andi McDaniel, Whole Life Times, Sept 6, 2009

The Buddha and the Terrorist
Author: Satish Kumar
(Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Los Angeles, CA (USA) -- Whatever happened to good stories? You know—the ones with happy endings, characters that strive to do the right thing, and neatly packaged lessons about life and death? “There’s no time for stories like that!” our culture seems to be saying. “We’ve got problems to solve, wars to fight, a planet to save!” But that’s precisely why we need parables, claims Satish Kumar, one of Britain’s leading spiritual thinkers and the author of The Buddha and the Terrorist.

In The Buddha, Kumar retells the ancient story of Angulimala, a vicious killer who turns into a peaceful monk upon experiencing the unconditional compassion of the Buddha. Despite Angulimala’s horrific crimes—and the townspeople’s righteous cries for revenge—the Buddha treats him with kindness, and in the process, unravels a long, tangled thread of violence begetting violence. Drawing obvious parallels to the current state of global affairs, The Buddha reminds us why nonviolence is not only virtuous, it’s effective.

Don’t expect any surprise twists from this short book by the founder of Resurgence magazine and author of You Are, Therefore I Am. Rather, The Buddha delivers precisely what it promises—a simple and elegant tale laced with lessons we’d forgotten to remember. And while it isn’t as slickly spun as the stories we hear in our everyday media, in the long run, The Buddha and the Terrorist is immeasurably more relevant.