There was once the son of a Brahmin in the court of King Pasenadi of Kosala, whose name was Ahimsaka. He was sent to Taxila for his studies. He was liked by both the teacher and his wife. This made the other pupils jealous of him. So they went to the teacher and falsely accused Ahimsaka of having an immoral relationship with the teacher’s wife. At first, he rubbished their claims but eventually came to believe them. His rage prompted him to ask his pupil to kill a thousand human beings and to bring the right thumb of each as payment for his gurudakshina. Ahimsaka refused, so he was banished from the teacher’s house and returned to his parents.
When his father learned why Ahimsaka had been expelled, he became furious with his son, and ordered Ahimsaka to leave the house. In despair, Ahimsaka could only recollect the teacher’s order: to collect 1,000 human thumbs. And so he began a reign of terror; he would kill people and collect their thumbs which were hung on a tree, but as they were eaten by crows and vultures, he began wearing a garland of fingers to keep track of the number. Because of this he came to be known as Angulimala.
The Buddha, in order to save Angulimala from himself, came to the forest to see the thing out. As he looked down from his perch, he saw the Buddha and set out after the Blessed One with his knife raised. But the Buddha kept moving ahead of him. Angulimala just could not catch up with him. Finally, he cried out, “O Bhikkhu, stop, stop!” And the Buddha replied, “I have stopped. It is you who have not stopped.” At that moment Angulimala was transformed. He gave up all killing and became the Buddha’s disciple.