The death penalty is clearly inconsistent with Buddhist teachings, which place great emphasis on non-violence and compassion for all life. The First Precept requires individuals to abstain from injuring or killing any sentient being. In fact, the Buddha rejected physical punishment in all its forms.
An action, even if it brings benefit to oneself,
cannot be considered a good action
if it causes physical and mental pain to another being.
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.
When misdeeds are committed, and justice must be administered, let us consider:
- inhumane treatment of offenders does not solve their misdeeds or those of humanity in general
- the best approach to justice is reformatory, rather than punitive
- punishment should only be to the extent to which offenders need to make amends, and rehabilitation into society should be of paramount importance
- punishing offenders with excessive cruelty will injure not just the offenders’ minds, but also the minds of the persons doing the punishing