WORDS FROM A GREAT MAN ON THE DEATH PENALTY!
In general, death is something none of us wants, in fact it is
something we don't even like to think about. When death takes place
naturally, it is a process beyond our control to stop, but where death
is willfully and deliberately brought about, it is very unfortunate. Of
course, within our legal systems there are said to be certain reasons
and purposes for employing the death
penalty. It is used to punish offenders, to prevent them ever repeating
their misdeed and to deter others. However, if we examine the situation
more carefully, we will find that these are not the real solutions.
Harmful actions and their tragic consequences all have their origin in
disturbing emotions and negative thoughts, and these are a state of
mind, whose potential we find within all human beings. From this point
of view, every one of us has the potential to commit crimes, because we
are all subject to negative disturbing emotions and negative mental
qualities. And we will not overcome these by executing other people.
What is deemed criminal can vary greatly from country to country. In
some countries, for example, speaking out for human rights is considered
criminal, whereas in other countries preventing free speech is a crime.
The punishments for crimes are also very different, but usually include
various forms of imprisonment or hardship, financial penalties and, in a
number of countries, physical pain. In some countries, crimes that the
government considers very serious are punished by executing the person
who committed the crime.
The death penalty fulfills a
preventive function, but it is also very clearly a form of revenge. It
is an especially severe form of punishment because it is so final. The
human life is ended and the executed person is deprived of the
opportunity to change, to restore the harm done or compensate for it.
Before advocating execution we should consider whether criminals are
intrinsically negative and harmful people or whether they will remain
perpetually in the same state of mind in which they committed their
crime or not. The answer, I believe, is definitely not. However horrible
the act they have committed, I believe that everyone has the potential
to improve and correct themselves. Therefore, I am optimistic that it
remains possible to deter criminal activity, and prevent such harmful
consequences of such acts in society, without having to resort to the
My overriding belief is that it is always
possible for criminals to improve and that by its very finality the
death penalty contradicts this. Therefore, I support those organizations
and individuals who are trying to bring an end to the use of the death
Today, in many societies very little importance is
placed on education or the development of human values through social
programs and entertainment. In fact, if we take television programming
as an example, violence, including killing, is regarded as having a high
entertainment value. This is indicative of how misguided we have
I believe human beings are not violent by nature.
Unlike lions and tigers, we are not naturally equipped to kill with
sharp teeth and claws. From a Buddhist viewpoint, I believe that the
basic nature of every sentient being is pure, that the deeper nature of
mind is something pure. Human beings become violent because of negative
thoughts which arise as a result of their environment and circumstances.
I wholeheartedly support an appeal to those countries who at present
employ the death penalty to observe an unconditional moratorium. At the
same time we should give more support to education and encourage a
greater sense of universal responsibility. We need to explain the
importance of the practice of love and compassion for our own survival
and to try to minimize those conditions which foster murderous
tendencies, such as the proliferation of weapons in our societies. These
are things even private individuals can work towards.