Synopses & Reviews
“A challenging story, beautifully written, most pertinent and relevant to our time.” —Deepak Chopra
Not every book will change your life, but any book can. Not every discussion will make a difference, but a conversation can change the world.
In this timely retelling of an ancient Buddhist parable, peace activist Satish Kumar has created a small book with a powerful spiritual message about ending violence. It is a tale of a fearsome outcast named Angulimala ("Necklace of Fingers"), who is terrorizing towns and villages in order to gain control of the state, murdering people and adding their fingers to his gruesome necklace. One day he comes face to face with the Buddha and is persuaded, through a series of compelling conversations, to renounce violence and take responsibility for his actions.
The Buddha and the Terrorist addresses the urgent questions we face today: Should we talk to terrorists? Can we reason with religious fundamentalists? Is nonviolence practical? The story ends with a dramatic trial that speaks to the victims of terrorism—the families whose mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters Angulimala has murdered. It asks whether it is possible for them to forgive. Or whether it is even desirable.
No one can read The Buddha and the Terrorist without thinking about the root causes of terrorism, about good and evil, about justice and forgiveness, about the kind of place we want the world to be, and, most important, about the most productive and practical way to get there.
Kumar (You Are, Therefore I Am) neatly reworks an ancient allegory of Buddha's conversion of a bloodthirsty killer. In the northern Indian city of Savatthi, a renegade Untouchable called Angulimala murders people indiscriminately and cuts off their fingers (his name means "Wearer of a Finger Necklace"). Apprised of the danger, Buddha insists that he must also console "those who are possessed with anger and ignorance" and seeks him out. With Buddha's gentle instruction in the forest, Angulimala recognizes the futility of violence in dealing with his profound sense of abandonment and separation from loved ones. He takes the name Ahimsaka ("Nonviolent One"), becomes a monk and lives by the Four Noble Truths. The king and relatives of Angulimala's victims nevertheless cry out for vengeance. Skillfully, Kumar demonstrates the transformation necessary in the consciousness of a society bent on punishment rather than persuasion, or as the king says: "What one person, the Buddha, has achieved, my entire army could not." In a foreword, Thomas Moore draws parallels between this parable and the Gospels, the Tao De Ching and the Sufi "way of love." More a pamphlet than a novella, this short piece hits its mark with studied grace.—Publishers Weekly Publishers Weekly
“A challenging story, beautifully written, most pertinent and
relevant to our time.”—Deepak Chopra
"This kind of parable has a calming effect on the mind. The change in outlook from anger to compassion is also contagious, also powerful."
—The Los Angeles Times Book Review
“An inspiring retelling of an ancient legend. It has a lucid clarity and directness that speaks
pointedly and movingly to our times. It should touch every heart that meets it.”
— Pico Iyer
Every once in a while a profound and beautiful book comes along that speaks for all time and also to our specific time. The Buddha and the Terrorist
is such a book.
"There is a virus buried deep in all violence that is contagious, that inspires an equally brutal and mindless response. You can choose not to be part of the destructive cycle, and that choice not to participate is the first step toward peace. We can begin to cultivate small acts of compassion right now."
—from the foreword by Thomas Moore
Kumar's retelling of the ancient Buddhist tale of transformation speaks to the possibility of changing the world. This small book contains an unassailable spiritual and practical message and inspired guidance in the use of nonviolent resistance in the quest for lasting peace.
International terrorism may have become the central specter of our time, but the threat of violence is as old as history. Among all the experiences of the Buddha, perhaps this story of his eye-to-eye encounter with a fearsome terrorist is the one most relevant and vital for us today. What happens when a man committed to violence is confronted by a man committed to nonviolence? Who is more powerful? Who can influence whom? The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, have all sought to inspire us. Satish Kumar’s retelling of the ancient Buddhist tale of transformation speaks to the possibility of changing the world.
This small book contains an unassailable spiritual and practical message and inspired guidance in the use of nonviolent resistance in the quest for lasting peace. The Buddha’s approach is one of engagement and dialogue—even toward those with whom he disagrees. No one can read this tale without thinking about the root causes of terrorism, about good and evil, about justice and forgiveness, about the kind of place we want the world to be, and about the most productive and practical way to get there.
About the Author
Thomas Moore is the author of Care of the Soul.Satish Kumar was born in India. He was a monk for nine years and then founded the London School for Nonviolence. He is the editor of the international magazine Resurgence and the director of programs at Schumacher College, and he has written two previous books, No Destination and You Are, Therefore I Am.