Last updated on: 8/26/2008 10:17:00 AM PST
Does Hinduism Support the Death Penalty?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Jagdish Muni, Head of Sant Mandal Ashram, in an Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 article "Capital Punishment: Time to Abandon It?" published in Hinduism Today, stated:
"The scriptures speak both for and against the system of capital punishment. The scriptures give the ruler or the government the power to use capital punishment. However, the saints and mahatmas do not believe in capital punishment. They believe in reforming people. There are a large number of instances in which saints have reformed criminals, in some cases so much so that the reformed people themselves became saints."
Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 - Jagdish Muni
Parmatmananda Saraswati, Co-ordinator of the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha, in an Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 article "Capital Punishment: Time to Abandon It?" published in Hinduism Today, stated:
"Capital punishment is allowed under Hindu tradition. Lord Rama is the embodiment of dharma, yet he killed King Bali, who had stolen his own brother's wife... Sometimes I feel that the crimes today are even more heinous than in the past. Hence capital punishment, if sanctioned by the scriptures, should continue."
Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 - Parmatmananda Saraswati
Srila Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna Movement, in his 1968 book Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, wrote:
"[I]t is supported that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer for the great sin he has committed...
In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state."
1968 - Srila Prabhupada
The Vishnu Smriti, an ancient law book of the Hindus, as translated by Julius Jolly and printed in 1880 as the seventh volume of the Sacred Books of the East collection, stated:
"Great criminals should all be put to death... Let the king put to death those who forge royal edicts; And those who forge (private) documents; Likewise poisoners, incendiaries, robbers, and killers of women, children, or men."
1880 - Vishnu Smriti (150 KB)
Samvidananda Saraswati, Head of Kailash Ashram, in an Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 article "Capital Punishment: Time to Abandon It?" published in Hinduism Today, stated:
"Hinduism is full of compassion and forgiveness. Leave aside human beings, we are supposed to be kind even to insects and animals. We are not supposed to kill a small insect. Therefore, taking the life of a human being is a very big issue for us. Our Hindu dharma is very clear that use of violence against anyone is not allowed. Any other type of punishment may be given, but we should not take anyone's life. Our scriptures and Vedas do not favor capital punishment. They advocate the principle of nonviolence."
Oct./Nov./Dec. 2006 - Samvidananda Saraswati
T. Kumar, LLM, Amnesty International USA's Advocacy Director for Asia and the Pacific and a practicing Hindu, in an Oct. 12, 2002 interview for Amnesty International's Faith in Action Online Event, stated:
"[S]ince the faith basically revolves around non-violence and no revenge, as well as not hurting any living organs including...eggs, or fish or meat eating because it hurts. You have to kill something to consume your food habits, so even that has been prohibited. So, from that perspective, Hindus can safely assume that the Hindu religion opposes death penalty in a very fundamental way...
[S]ince we are not an organized religion, there is no hierarchical power to tell [that] this is right or this is wrong. We have to find every Hindu to stand up and say this is wrong, we are opposed to death penalty."
Oct. 12, 2002 - T. Kumar, LLM
Mahatma Gandhi, LLB, former Indian religious and political leader, in an Oct. 16, 1916 letter in the Modern Review on the topic of Ahimsa, a Hindu philosophy of non violence, wrote:
"By birth I am a Vaishnavite [a follower of Vishnu], and was taught Ahimsa in my childhood ... In its negative form, it [Ahimsa] means not injuring any living being, whether by body or mind. I may not therefore hurt the person of any wrong-doer, or bear any ill will to him and so cause him mental suffering."
Oct. 16, 1916 - Mahatma Gandhi, LLB