In all good consciousness, can a student of Buddhism serve on a jury trial?
Can one sit in judgment of another, deciding the fate of a person charged with a crime?
Yes. A thousand times yes.
And the one who provides the answer is none other than the Buddha himself. Or actually, a story of the Buddha consoling a criminal who committed 999 crimes before finding enlightenment. The murderer finally reached Nirvana, but only because he endured the suffering brought on by his former karmic deeds in one single lifetime.
A man called Angulimala was rumored to have robbed and killed almost 1,000 people, in the false belief that acquiring that number of human thumbs could offer him a salvation of sorts, according to Kinley Tshering in his rendition of Angulimala: The wearer of finger garland. He was known by this name because from each of his victims “he removed a thumb,” which he wore on a string around his neck. They say he wore a necklace made of 999 human thumbs:
“The Buddha heard of Angulimala and decided to attempt to bring him to the path of peace. In order to meet Angulimala face-to-face, the Buddha set off alone and on foot through the forest where the deadly criminal was believed to be in hiding. Angulimala saw the Buddha . . . sprang out from behind him, and attempted a strike. The Buddha had anticipated the move, and deftly side-stepped the blow. The attack continued at length; but the Buddha remained fearless, keeping his eyes fixed on his attacker and remaining constantly out of reach.”
— Angulimala, by Kinley Tshering