Should Felons be Exempted from Punishment?

发布日期:2017-08-31   字体大小:   

Question: The precept of abstaining from killing sentient beings should be understood to mean that one should not kill good people. If there are felons who have committed atrocious crimes such as murder and arson, by law these are capital offenses. Should they be exempted from the punishment?

Answer: Felons who commit murder or other atrocious crimes should be brought to justice for sure, because anyone who violates the law of the state must be punished according to law. This is nothing to do with any personal will. While the judge holds the power to pronounce sentences, he merely acts according to law, it is nothing personal. When Sakyamuni decreed that his followers abstain from taking life of beings he did it in terms of individuals. It was also intended to keep them from breaking the laws of the state. The Buddha never argued that the state should not punish criminals, but always admonished his disciples to abide by laws of the state. Here are two things of different nature, which must not be confused. When referring to the law of causality (hetu-phala), Buddhism often claims that good yields good returns while evil yields bad returns and that any debt of murder should be paid off. This shows that Buddhism does not run counter to temporal laws, but recognizes them. Such a spiritual principle applies to abstention not only from killing sentient beings, but also from covetousness and hatred. As to making wealth for the whole country and do good for the people, it is a great merit for the interest of mankind. However, it would be against the precepts for one to thirst for personal gain or do harm to others to revenge personal grudge. In brief, if everybody conducts himself according to the codes of the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Acts, people would live in peace and health, society would be stable and united, and the nation would prosper and thrive, leading to a world of peace and happiness with high spiritual civilization. This is the goal pursued by popular Buddhism. (From Essentials of Buddhism: Questions and Answers)

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