In the last of these films about the Life of the Buddha and his disciples, we continue the story of Angulimāla with his joining the Sangha and the interview with King Bimbisāra which follows, and his final reckoning as he is recognised by villagers he had formerly terrorised and he is stoned to death.
Devadatta’s conflict with the Buddha takes up a major part of the film as he gains the patronage of Ajātaśatru, grows more emboldened and starts a breakaway group holding their own ceremonies.
But by opposing the Buddha he loses his supernatural powers and his followers drift back to the Teacher. He then tries to kill the Buddha by hiring bandits, driving the elephant Nālagiri into his path, and throwing rocks down on him from a mountain top, but without success. Eventually he falls ill and decides to seek forgiveness from the Buddha, dying at his feet.
Maudgallāyana’s death is also recounted in the final episode (although interesingly, Sāriputta’s is omitted). In previous lives he had performed some very bad deeds, the result of which catch up to him at the end when he is shot and murdered by thieves.
The last part of the film is taken up with the Buddha’s last meal, and his final journey to Kuśināra, where, too ill to continue, he lays down between two Sal trees, and gives his final instructions to the Sangha. After he has passed away it is found impossible for the bier to be set on fire until Ven Mahā Kaśyapa arrives.
I wondered when I started writing these reviews whether there would be a departure in later episodes from the early texts and commentaries, but in fact there isn’t. Throughout the story is reliably told, with only few deviations, probably inserted to avoid the complexities of the stories in the texts.
This is certainly the best effort yet at a Life of the Buddha and his disciples and the Vietnamese Hoang Phap Monastery is to be thanked for such a worthy endeavour in presenting this important story and teachings so well in these dramatised films.