" 'Nandini, the Buddha has no fear of death, and the Buddha does not change his plans out of fear. The rice soaked in mango juice was truly nourishing. I am satisfied. Thank you for your gracious gift.'

"The Buddha turned toward the locked door. But Nandini was reluctant to let him go.

" 'I am waiting for you to unlock the door.'

" 'Please, my lord, please listen. Do not approach Angulimala. He is very dangerous.'

" 'Gracious Nandini, trust the Buddha, he is fully aware of what he is doing. Free yourself from fear.'

" 'But I fear for your life, Illustrious One,' said Nandini.

" 'Life lived in fear is no life,' answered the Buddha. 'It might be the job of the King to kill the criminals, but the calling of the Buddha is to transform them, awaken them, and liberate them from ignorance. So, Nandini, do not dissuade me from my duty.'

" 'But believe me, my lord, Angulimala is beyond the pale,' Nandini pleaded.

" 'Sweet Nandini, I understand your concerns,' replied the Buddha. 'But understand that my love, my friendship, and my compassion are not limited to those who are already in agreement with me. I must reach out to those who are possessed with anger and ignorance. Healing the wounded soul is my vocation. I am not worried about my life, or my death — I am worried about Angulimala.'

"To Nandini, the innocence of the Buddha bordered on naivete. While she was thinking of ways to dissuade him from confronting Angulimala, she heard his final words:

" 'Nandini, I am happy to die, if that is what it takes to save Angulimala.'

"With shaking hands Nandini unlocked the door, yet she was still afraid. She imagined the fingers of the Buddha hanging from Angulimala's neck, and shivered at the thought.

" 'My lord, be careful, be very careful. Go well.'

"The Buddha raised his hand in blessing and walked calmly away. Soon he left the town behind."