Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Buddha on Punishment

Sayings of Buddha on "Punishment".
Rendered in haiku form.

This is tenth in the series.

The image is The Tibetan Wheel of Life. The pig, snake and bird represent ignorance, anger and clinging, but the image was chosen for its representation of the reciprocal nature of violence that afflicts mankind.


All shrink before pain.
Put yourself in others’ shoes
And do not hit them.

All shrink before death.
Put yourself in others’ shoes
And do not make threats.

The one who seeks joy
But harms others doing so
Will never find joy.

The one who seeks joy
And harms no-one doing so
Will surely find joy.

Do not speak harsh words,
For careless talk causes harm
And retribution.

Like a broken gong,
Be silent, no resonance
Of harshness in you.

Like a broken gong,
Calm and still, may you be free
Of any discord.

As the cowherd’s stick
Drives cattle to new pastures,
Time drives men till death.

A fool who does wrong,
Without knowing lights a fire
Wherein he will burn.

He who draws weapons
And harms those who are harmless,
Ten times shall he die.

Evil men shall fall
Through pain, poverty and loss
Ten times shall they die.

Injury, disease,
Madness and persecution
Are wicked men’s lot.

The wicked shall lose
Good name, relatives and home,
Struck down like lightning.

Ten times shall he pay,
And when the wicked man falls,
Hell shall be waiting.

When his body rots,
The evil man shall spend time
In hell for his wrongs.

Shameless nakedness,
Fasting or squatting in filth
Will get one nowhere.

Sleeping on the ground,
Bedraggled and smeared with dust
Will not make one pure.

Losing shame or fear
Does nothing to purify
He who still has doubt.

He may wear fine clothes,
But so long as he harms none,
His faith sets him free.

Restraining from wrong,
Awake! like the noble horse
That need not be whipped.

Sparing no effort,
Ride true as the rare horse,
Who’s swiftly set straight.

Through meditation,
Concentrate, see and escape
The wheel of sorrow.

As water’s channelled
Arrows straightened and wood planed,
So the self’s mastered.


  1. Okei....I couldn't get the reply button to work...so I will cut and paste.


    "Injury, disease,
    Madness and persecution
    Are wicked men’s lot.

    The wicked shall lose
    Good name, relatives and home,
    Struck down like lightning.

    Ten times shall he pay,
    And when the wicked man falls,
    Hell shall be waiting."

    And, the kicker is....that the innocent man's fate will be the same if he secretly BELIEVES he's wicked.

    A man can be as "good as gold" and learn to feel guilty for wanting to experience peace and love - if others ignored his needs and brutalized him as a child.

    But, once such shame has been taken into the mind and not refuted, he will suffer for the beliefs in the same way as a wicked man.

    Great post, Okei.....thanks.

  2. Hi Nancy, I think false guilt was quite an alien concept to Buddha, so I don't think he takes it into consideration. So shame and fear of retribution for transgression are seen as positive forces in Buddhism, the "guardians of the world" that prevent degradation of moral standards in society.

    As for the particular verses you quote, they seem to refer in particular to the one described previously who draws a weapon and harms one who is harmless, something like the Geneva Conventions today, though they are still broken.

    There also seems to be an element common to most other religions of pacification of vengeance, reassuring that man need not set right avenging the one who commits evil, for the evil deed will reap its own punishment in time.

  3. On further consideration, I think he did consider it and imagined it in individual cases, but didn't imagine its repressive consequences on society as a whole. Fear is the foundation stone of every religion that seeks to impose its values in people's daily lives. I think it is also effective in doing so, but it doesn't make it right. But also as I said in my previous comment it could be reassurance to the righteous, so they don't lose faith. I think the real problem anyway is dissonance between people's beliefs and their actions.

  4. It was a different age and setting, of course, so the audience has to be considered whenever we read a sacred text, and this was a time when societal norms were not as codified (speaking of the Geneva Convention :-) as they are now, so these kinds of admonitions were even more relevant.

    In today's world, fundamentalism in most religious traditions still assumes that for the sake of maintaining moral standards, black & white or good vs. bad assumptions are necessary and everyone is railed against (thinking of children) as though there is a evil potential that needs to be stamped out. But this seems to encourage harshness and propagate the very human problems that such people believe they are defending against.

    So rather than "the dissonance between people's beliefs and actions...being the real problem," it appears to me that "beliefs" are the culprit, because human egos are notorious for defending what they believe 'to the death.'

    It's a thorny issue....however you look at it.

  5. Indeed! This is an interesting question...of what comes first. Religion always puts belief first, Right View is the first of Buddha's Eightfold Path for example. In the beginning was the word etc. Obviously this makes wrong belief problematic. But still we need some belief....see even if we believe that belief is unnecessary, that in itself is a belief. ;-)

    Indeed it is a tangled skein. That reminds me of a poem, but I'm not sure which one... google throws up this, which is fun even though I don't agree with it

  6. Loved the fun poem....

    But, why do we need ANY belief.....when knowledge is a better state of awareness. All beliefs take us out of Being (fully present) through which we are connected to our internal, reliable guidance system.

    We don't have to BELIEVE murder is wrong to KNOW it is wrong. Beliefs are a perceptual interference pattern....and it is the ego that is conditioned to act on belief.... because knowledge was brought into question...

  7. Hmmm... I see what you're saying, but I think it's good to bring knowledge into question. :^)

    It's only when doubt is lacking that people feel obliged to impose their beliefs on others. The motivation to teach others anything is the belief one KNOWS oneself, lol.

  8. I am speaking of fundamental "knowledge" - i.e. SELF AWARENESS - with which we are born. Doubting that knowledge - Being who we authentically are - is the beginning of the ego...

    Once we are tempted to doubt what we alone can KNOW for certain, our defensive beliefs begin forming to survive this Self-doubt. And, it is this primal doubt that causes people to feel obliged to impose their beliefs on others.

    Someone MAY be motivated by such ego beliefs (that you KNOW something) to teach, but it will only be valuable to others if what you love (your passion) is the prime motivator, rather than your ego's belief that you know something.

    Beliefs control and distort our perception, thoughts, feelings and reactions... no matter how positive or even "accurate" they may be about what is Real or True. They simply shift the mind out of Being wholly present in the eternal Now...

  9. This is deep, Nancy!

    Love and Knowledge undistorted by the mind's attempts to control and doubt its fundamental self-awareness, undistorted by the ego's and returning to our essential being.

    I'm letting it sink in...

    I think this is really great from the first-person perspective, but then religion always wants to impose in the third-person on others...which ties in with my post today which included being "impeccable" and "practice what you preach" and this is where maybe a certain ego-awareness comes in (as opposed to self awareness). But you're saying we should be doing away with this third-person imposing of beliefs on others absolutely, and I say for sure! It's amazing how political philosophy twists perfectly reasonable moral philosophy to nefarious ends.

    I'm going to have to think more on what you said...