Buddhist View On Capital Punishment
Buddhism and Capital Punishment
Most world major religions take an ambiguous perspective on capital punishment. This also applies to Buddhism, a diverse religion with various regional traditions. Even though the Buddha believed in non-violence and compassion for all living beings, he didn’t speak specific doctrines on capital punishment.
The First Precept teaches that one should refrain from taking the life of any living being. The Buddha also did not support physical punishment, claiming that an action cannot be regarded as a good action if it brings physical and mental suffering to others.
The Buddha said: ”If a person foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my boundless love. The more evil that comes from him, the more good will go from me.”
In terms of death penalty, some Buddhist countries hold the view that the death penalty is permissible if used in a right way. Secular countries like Korea and Japan are against the death penalty, while Thailand and Sri Lanka take a pro-death penalty stance. However, almost all Buddhist groups consider that the death penalty is not a means of retribution.
Buddhism and Punishment
Buddhism believes in the cycle of death and life. The consequences of punishment will affect the incarnation of both the offender and the punisher.
Buddhism thrusts a strong view upon the morality of punishment:
- Inhumane punishment of an offender won’t solve his wrongdoings or those of humanity in general. The best treatment of an offender is reformatory but not punitive.
- The extent of punishment should be scaled to a limit where an offender’s crime exerts an bad influence on the general. The punishment should fit the crime.
- Punishing an offender with cruelty will not only impair the mind of the offender, but also the punisher’s mind.