999 reasons why a Buddhist can sit on jury

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
See Part II

Just reasoning’ required for jury duty

12 comments on “999 reasons why a Buddhist can sit on jury

  1. dotiengiang says:

    I don’t think a real Buddhist practitioner can appropriately sit on a jury duty because s/he believes that everyone can become Buddha (free of sin) in one life without being jailed or punished by the country’s law (like in Angulimala’s case).

    Also, real Buddhist practitioner believes that only the enlighten one (like Buddha or Arahat) can best know how to get involved to transform these individuals from being a bad person to become a good person seamlessly without breaking the karmic rule of the universe. We, as a Buddhist in training, cannot decide wisely the fate of the individual without creating more karmic consequences.

    You can also visit this web page to understand more about the same rationality.

    Best regards.


    • contoveros says:

      It sounds like you could sit as a Buddha giving one the chance to create positive karma out of a negative karmic encounter. That’s enlightenment!


  2. livvy1234 says:

    What is a Buddhist? Nothing more than a label. Labeling creates concepts. The concept of being a Buddhist is what?


    • contoveros says:

      A student of Buddhism, I believe, is one who seeks the path to enlightenment without labels and concepts.

      It comes from within, but can be guided by a teacher, some teachings, and friends like you. (The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha).


  3. anonymous says:

    This has nothing to do with serving on a jury. That story had absolutely nothing to do with passing judgement. there was no point to this article…just thought i’d point that out.


    • contoveros says:

      I would never ask a Buddhist to serve on a death penalty case. I would not, because of my believe in the sanctity of life, the lives of all sentient beings. But, a Buddhist, just like a Jew, Christian , Muslim and Hindu, should pay their taxes, obey the laws of their countries, and serve on juries as a civic duty. Too often, the best qualified jurors believe they can’t “pass judgement” on another, thereby removing their voice from the pool of potential jurors. I always looked for spiritual people to sit on my juries. I felt they would search their conscience hard while deciding whether the prosecutor has proven the state’s case against another fellow human, no matter what his skin color or financial background. You deprive your fellow man of love and compassion if you cop out!

      Give me a jury of all Buddhists and I show you how justice can be served in a world where we all seek equanimity
      michael j

      michael j


  4. JhanaJian says:

    it was a hung jury because of me, and me alone. the thing is, when we the jurors were first sequestered, we took a vote. the majority by far said the guy was guilty. the guy had actually chased down another man and clubbed him with a baseball bat. neither man was totally innocent, there was some provocation, but to my mind, there is no excuse for chasing someone who is running away and hitting him with a baseball bat. Well, there was one man on the jury who got himself elected jury foreman (or something like that) immediately. he was quite charismatic, and he managed to eventually convince everyone on the jury that the guy should be found not guilty. i remember one woman who changed her vote from guilty to innocent because she didn’t like the way the assaulted man treated his wife. of course that had nothing to do with the case at hand, but… it influenced her vote. and it wasn’t just her, there were a lot of irrational reasons people came up with for finding the assaulter not guilty. in the end, i was the only one who held out, and would not give in. so yes, it was a hung jury. i didn’t realize before that jury duty that i am such a law and order type person. but obviously i am. there is no way that i’m going to let a guy go scott free who chases down another man (quite a good distance) and clubs him with a baseball bat.


    • contoveros says:

      Was the man ever retried?

      Could you get others to find him guilty of a lesser charge, say simple assault, rather than aggravated assault?

      One could also be found guilty of criminal mischief and escape having a criminal record.

      You. A law and order type? what would OSHO say about that?


      • livvy1234 says:

        If we must conceptualize what Osho said, we are just creating more concepts.


        • contoveros says:

          I wonder how difficult my life would be without concepts? Or how freer I’d be without those thoughts brought on by an ancestorial gene pool, my environment growing up, and the great majority of outside influences that left me with no real choices except what was programmed around me since birth.

          I choose to read what Livvy says and whatever concepts she wants to de-create.

          michael j,
          (just another label)


  5. JhanaJian says:

    I don’t know why anyone would want to serve on a jury. I had jury duty once, and it was once of the worst experiences of my life. The only good thing about jury duty is that you learn a lot about people, how they are swayed by anything and everything except rationality. And the ideas… Hell, yes, somebody looks at you wrong, that’s reason enough to club him with a baseball bat, even as the other person is running away. People will excuse it!!! Oh well, I’m rambling, I know. Just the thought of jury duty… Don’t talk about jury duty, Michael!


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