Tambadanhika served the king as an executioner of thieves for fifty-five years. In old age he could no longer cut off a man’s head with a single blow. On the day he was retired from office, he gave orders that sweet milk-porridge should be cooked for him. And taking with him old clothes and jasmine flowers and perfumes, he went to the river and bathed.
Having so done, he put on the old clothes, decked himselfwith garlands, anointed his limbs, and went home and sat down. They set before him sweet milk-porridge made with fresh butter and water for rinsing the hands. At that moment Venerable Sariputta showed himself at the door of the former executioner’s house. When the man saw the Venerable, he paid obeisance to him. And escorting him into his house, he provided him with a seat, poured the sweet milk-porridge into his bowl, spread fresh ghee thereon, and standing beside him, began to fan him.
After the meal, the monk taught him the Dhamma, but Tambadanhika could not pay attention, because he was so agitated as he recollected his past life as an executioner. When the monk knew this, he decided to ask Tambadanhika tactfully whether he killed the thieves because he wished to kill them or because he was ordered to do so. Tambadanhika answered that he was ordered to kill them by the king and that he had no wish to kill. Then the monk asked, “If that is so, would you be guilty or not?” Tambadanhika then concluded that, as he was not responsible for the evil deeds, he was not guilty. He, therefore, calmed down, and requested the monk to continue his exposition. As he listened to the Dhamma with proper attention, he came very close to attaining sotapatti magga and reached as far as anuloma nana (adaption-to-truthknowledge). After the discourse, Tambadanhika accompanied Venerable Sariputta for some distance and then returned home. On his way home a cow (actually a demon in the guise of a cow) gored him to death.
When the Buddha came to the congregation of the monks in the evening, they informed him about the death of Tambadanhika. When asked where Tambadanhika was reborn, the Buddha told them that although Tambadanhika had committed evil deeds throughout his life, because he comprehended the Dhamma after hearing it from Venerable Sariputta and had already attained anuloma ¤aõa before he died, he was reborn in the Tusita deva world. The monks wondered how such an evil-doer could have such great benefit after listening to the Dhamma just once. To them the Buddha said that the length of a discourse is of no consequence, for one single word of sense can produce much benefit.