I’ve always had a hard time believing that Angulimala killed 999 people… I just figured that number was created to make a better story, to give people a sense that no matter how awful one’s past is … there is always possibility to turn ones life around and even to become enlightened. But when I inquired, the Sri Lankan monk told me he believed it was possible and true that Angulimala killed that many people… Perhaps Bhante could share his thoughts… thank you
The figure of 999, along with all the rest of Aṅgulimāla’s background story (i.e., the account of his becoming a killer after his brahmin teacher set him the task of killing 1,000 people), is found only in the commentary to the Aṅgulimāla Sutta. It’s not mentioned in the sutta itself, nor in the Vinaya account of him, nor in his Theragāthā verses.
At best the episode might perhaps have a slender canonical foundation in Aṅgulimāla’s Theragāthā statement that having heard the Dhamma he “will renounce a thousandfold evil” (sohaṃ cajissāmi sahassapāpaṃ).