The Vedic Intention Behind Capital Punishment

by Aranyakananda

My wife has been watching the Jodi Arias trial intently, and I have caught a few glimpses here and there; enough to know that her story is falling apart. If found guilty of the heinous crime of passion of which she is accused, she may get the death penalty.

Capital Punishment.
Lethal Injection.

I am not writing to offer my opinion of her or her actions, or my opinion on what caused her to commit them. I say her actions only because if you have followed it, you know she has admitted to the killing, but the matter at hand is whether it was self defense.

I want to say something about the death penalty itself. I don’t believe I have ever touched on this subject on this blog.

India (the very womb and cradle of Hinduism and Buddhism) has the death penalty, shockingly enough to some. The method used there today is often hanging. I was shocked by this at one point or another too. But I read somewhere along the line that the original purpose of capital punishment in India was not, indeed, “punishment.” It was to clear out the karma of the condemned for the act committed.

I find this fascinating in so many ways, though I don’t know if it was true. I don’t know if that is or has ever been the intention behind capital punishment in India or anywhere. But I do know that it likely works to that end for the condemned and their everlasting soul. One could say that “sitting and rotting in prison for the rest of their lives” would be a much more effective karma-clearing device. But I think for many killers, lets say, sitting and thinking what they’ve done even for years does very little to shake their inner peace.

And for me that is comforting, when trying very hard to see someone condemned for even horrible crimes for what they are: part of one and the same Infinite Oneness as myself.

What I don’t know is why someone in a death penalty situation would be given such a deal. I mean when you think about it, it is a painful backlash for the act they committed, but it is also a bit of a boon, a gift, if it does indeed clear the karma for that act. This makes me wonder if those who die by capital punishment had some “positive karma” (by this world’s standards) stored up.

What say you?

Jai Hari Aum!

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5 Responses to The Vedic Intention Behind Capital Punishment

  1. Dhrishti says:


    1) Where did you read this, about the “benefit” of killing criminal because of their “sin”? I must know.

    2) “But I do know that it likely works to that end for the condemned and their everlasting soul” – Really? What makes you think so? To me, this is creepily similar to going to a priest and being advised as to how many Hail Marys should be said to take care of one transgression or another, although obviously more violent. Who the heck determines that 6 Hail Marys takes care of breaking your mother’s china, but you gotta do 10 for lusting after the babysitter? The same with karma. Karma is (literally) infinitely more complex than “an eye for an eye,” and to say it’s foolish that any human, or group of humans, could fully comprehend the entirety of another’s karma so precisely as to determine that a resolution as simplistic as “an eye for an eye” would effectively take care of business, is an understatement. And besides, “an eye for an eye” is about a sophisticated as this scenario gets, which is sad because we already know that it only “leaves the whole world blind.”

    3) You’re probably correct that, while “sitting and rotting” does offer an opportunity for one to ponder his own misdeeds, it’s often a wasted opportunity by those given it.

    4) When trying hard to see the felon as part of the same One you belong to, remember that karma is impartial. You are literally no better, precisely because you have committed acts that you will also pay for – good AND bad. Also, “that” which you’re identifying as part of the same One as yourself, isn’t. That which kills and is killed is NOT the One that we all have as our common Source. Aranyakananda is no more a part of the One than is Jodi; they just have the same Source. This sounds a bit like mistaking the self for the Self. Do be careful – this is the dangerous root of ego and arrogance.

  2. treadmarkz says:

    Thanks, bhai,

    I dont know that I could ever re-discover the source of the claim that capital punishment was for the good of the condemned’s karma. Sorry. If I stumble across it, I’ll surely let you know.
    Regarding point #2, I don’t know that capital punishment ever makes “all things equal”, or “an eye for an eye” exactly. I guess what I meant was that the “punishment” is a step toward clearing the karma for the act. I should not have suggested that it was a perfect balance. Because we don’t know.
    As for point 4, very well stated. I had to read it a few times to get it. I sometimes use the name of a “current person” when I am really referring to that which is infinite in them. But yes obviously not Jodi, nor I are Infinite as we are bodies and personalities. I see my mistake. But it is a struggle that we go through when we see violent crimes have been committed by another. We see our own misdeeds as trifles and little bits amounting to a molehill compared to the other’s mountain. It is human nature. But it is wrong.

  3. Curious says:

    From what I know — With reference to legal terms, the capital punishment in India is reserved for the ‘rarest of rare cases’. That’s the actual legal text used when deciding over the punishment to be given. Many hardcore criminals get away with ‘lifetime imprisonment’ – which can be waived for good behavior in prison

  4. shree says:

    karma is indeed too complex for any one person to comprehend.but i agree with you on human’s nature seeing our own misdeeds as trifles and little bits amounting to a molehill compared to the other’s mountain.

    murder is a gruesome act of course.but is it truly more gruesome than a lifetime of mental and emotional torture that some people put on to their families that affects many people’s lifes there after?

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