The Buddha & Angulimala

Thich Nhat Hanh

The Buddha was a human being, and he also knew fear. But because he spent each day practising mindfulness and looking closely at his fear, when confronted with the unknown, he was able to face it calmly and peacefully. There is a story about when Buddha was out walking and Angulimala, a notorious serial killer, came upon him. Angulimala shouted for the Buddha to stop, but the Buddha kept walking slowly and calmly.

Angulimala caught up with him and demanded to know why he hadn’t stopped. The Buddha replied, ‘Angulimala, I stopped a long time ago. It is you who has not stopped.’ He went on to explain, ‘I stopped committing acts that cause suffering to other living beings. All living beings want to live. All fear death. We must nurture a heart of compassion and protect the lives of all beings.’ Startled, Angulimala asked to know more. By the end of the conversation, Angulimala vowed to never again commit violent acts and decided to become a monk.

How could the Buddha remain so calm and relaxed when faced with a murderer?… A daily practice of mindfulness can be of enormous help. Beginning with our breath, beginning with awareness, we are able to meet whatever comes our way.

Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy. When you touch non-fear, you are free. If I am in an aircraft and the pilot announces that the plane is about to crash, I will practice mindful breathing…. Don’t wait for the critical moment to arrive before you start practicing to transform your fear and live mindfully. If you make a habit of mindfulness practice, when difficulties arise, you will already know what to do.


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