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related to, but not the same as Does Buddhism have a significant notion of justice

I need some clarification. What is one's moral obligation to render justice (or bring to justice) others for observed misdeeds? this can but need not be as member of a jury which must render justice.

it is clear that one should sympathize with the perpetrator. it is clear that one should not get emotional over a (passed) misdeed or over (or while) rendering a sentence.

I am guessing that to be compassionate is to contemplate the effects of a sentence on other sentient beings, [a] in light of the future incentives that one's judicial actions will create, and [b] in light of the contemporaneous effect that one's sentence will have on the perpetrators, victims, and others. even though the deed was done and thus has passed, and even though others should be philosophical about it now, it is still true that a sentence can improve the lives of many others at the cost of worsening the life of the perpetrator. [there is no dilemma if the latter is not the case.]

is there more Buddhist advice to us here?

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because with a worldling justice is being served from a defiled mind, the intentions can't ever be completely pure and so justice will eventually not be just

i think the most Buddhist advice would be to refrain from rendering justice as much as possible, the law of kamma will in due course take care of that anyway


in response to the comment below

If anyone gives those bhikkhunis a blow with his hand, with a clod, with a stick, or with a knife in your presence, you should abandon any desires and any thoughts based on the household life. And herein you should train thus: 'My mind will be unaffected, and I shall utter no evil words; I shall abide compassionate for his welfare, with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner hate.'

If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a clod, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and any thoughts based on the household life. And herein you should train thus: 'My mind will be unaffected, and I shall utter no evil words; I shall abide compassionate for his welfare, with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner hate.' That is how you should train, Phagguna.

Kakacupama sutta (MN 21)

to be sure, bearing no ill-will towards the perpetrator doesn't negate bringing him/her to justice, but the very act of bringing to justice is certainly not dissimilar to taking revenge, because that particular moment occurs after the fact, by the time the victim or the object of the crime is usually out of danger, and deprivation a person of freedom for X amount of time isn't after all an act of compassion or benevolence

  • this makes no sense to me. this is not about revenge---it's about justice. one does not have to believe in reincarnation, so khamma won't necessarily take care of it anyway. (if it did, is everything determined?) and evidently often it does not. and evidently there is evil in the world, in degrees, from hitler to shoplifters. does one have no obligation to help protect other sentient being (a) from them, and (b) from such behavior in the future (which requires some justice)? – ivo Welch Feb 28 '16 at 17:07
  • the original question was about rendering justice, but this and 'helping to protect other sentient beings' are not quite one and the same... the actual protection or rescue may only occur at the moment of crime, not so much after the fact... as far as kammic retribution/reward is concerned, it indeed IS determined (provided it's believed in), if a deed has moral significance the kamma principle is activated... since the question was about 'Buddhist advice' it's only natural that kamma has a role to play... indeed, life is suffering – Баян Купи-ка Feb 28 '16 at 20:52
  • the concept of justice in the form of isolation from society has two intrinsic flaws in its moral aspect: A) it is vindictive because necessarily is done after the fact when the victim doesn't require immediate protection and B) it recognizes possibility of retribution for uncommitted crime(s) under the guise of protection of society from anticipated conjecturable future crimes of the wrongdoer – Баян Купи-ка Feb 28 '16 at 21:10
  • (1) what about dis-incentives for future crimes? (2) what if you are designated to be on a jury? – ivo Welch Feb 29 '16 at 1:36
  • well i totally understand the purpose and the motives but i don't think the system is morally sound, after all it wasn't designed to be, was it? that's why i opine for abstention from rendering justice for an individual, obviously the system will never turn dhammic therefore there will always be people willing to take upon themselves this moral burden, but even if it became dhammic someone probably would still have to sacrifice their kamma and do that... if i was summoned to be on a jury i'd decline, i hope it's not illegal, but hey, one is allowed to avoid military service so why not jury – Баян Купи-ка Feb 29 '16 at 8:36
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A true "Justice" isn't easy to render.

Read from page 37 of this PDF for example (which translates the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta):

  • A king protects his subjects but doesn't give financial support to those who need it
  • Poverty becomes widespread
  • People begin to steal
  • And, it all goes down-hill from there: whether the king rewards or punishes the criminals, both/either of these courses of action have undesirable consequences.

Before you dismiss that as irrelevant (because "there is no wheel-turning ruler"), let's consider whether we do that ourselves: whether we help people to have no cause to behave criminally etc.


Maybe there's similar advice from later Buddhist stories too: e.g. The Thief Who Became a Disciple.


Another source of advice might be the Vinaya training rules for monks -- their society has lots of rules, which are pretty well defined. If you search that document for the word "accus" (it's there 150 times), it has some advice that you might not expect e.g. on page 137,

The next step, if one is qualified to make the charge, is to look for a proper time and place to talk with the other party—for example, when he is not likely to get embarrassed or upset—and then to ask his leave, i.e., to ask permission to speak with him

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