The New Mexico Senate voted to abolish capital punishment, a measure already approved by the lower House that Governor Bill Richardson must sign before it goes into effect, the Senate said on its website. Supporters of the measure argue that replacing the death sentence with life in prison without parole would save the state more than one million dollars a year. There are about 10 US states currently considering repealing the death penalty, which is applied in 36 of the 50 states in the union.
James: The death penalty has no place in civilized society and in my opinion not in Buddhism either. Consider this tale from the Rajaparikatha-ratnamala, which was advice given to King Udayi from the great Indian-Buddhist philosopher Nagajuna:
The Rajaparikatha-ratnamala or The Precious Garland of Advice for the King is a treatise attributed to the famous South Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (2nd or 3rd century AD). In this work on Buddhist statecraft, Nagarjuna gives King Udayi of the Satavahana Dynasty advice on a variety of matters. Here is how Nagarjuna handles capital punishment:
O King, through compassion you should always< style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(102, 102, 102);">Even for all those embodied beings Who have committed appalling sins. Especially generate compassion For those murderers, whose sins are horrible; Those of fallen nature are receptacles Of compassion from those whose nature is great.... Once you have analyzed the angry Murderers and recognized them well, You should banish them without Killing or tormenting them.
Banishment or exile has been employed as a form of sanction in various pre-modern Asian legal systems. Indeed, banishment has also been employed at times in the West. Although banishment obviously entails psychological and physical hardships, it is certainly to be preferred to death. Moreover, it can protect the convicted defendant from the possible wrath of friends or family of the victim.James: I see banishment and exile today as life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is a very humane yet punitive way to deal with murders and other serious felons. I think whether we kill prisoners or not says more about us than the prisoners. As I've said here before the death penalty is excessive and continues the cycle and energy of anger, hatred and lust for violence and revenge.
Attention must be focused upon the person having to do the actual killing of these prisoners--the executioners. It is probably nearly impossible to kill people over and over and not be negatively effected emotionally and possibly karmically. I have seen several anti-death penalty videos showing former executioners who are still tormented with the visions of a botched electricution of a prisoner or of seeing their faces before being the one to administer the punishment. In these videos many of these executioners are now against capital punishment.
The Dhammapada states:
Everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill. Everyone fears punishment; everyone loves life, as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill.
Knowing this, how can we Buddhists support state sanctioned killing in our names? Being o.k. with someone having to be the official executioner is "causing to kill." We go about our lives often not thinking of the burden that someone has of killing people in our names. Just because we don't think of it nor are we personally involved in the killing doesn't mean that we as a society are immune from heavy, less skillful karma.
P.S.~To the Michael who was selected from the drawing for the Enso-Zen t-shirt. I need to hear from you so that I can send it to you. If I don't hear from you by this coming Friday then I'll have to give it to someone else.