Jury Duty Requires Your ‘Just Reasoning’

(Originally Cont’d from 999 reasons why a Buddhist can sit on jury 1-31-10)

The attack ended, according to Tshering, as Angulimala fell to the ground and the Buddha consoled him offering loving kindness and compassion. This experience completely transformed the criminal. He asked to be ordained a monk, and he practiced meditation and self-purification while living in a Sangha community.

What does all of this have to do with jury trial duty?

Well, the story doesn’t end here. Throughout his life, families of those Angulimala had assaulted tracked him down and beat him with stones. “He used to go to the monastery with wounds and bloodshed to be reminded by the Buddha that it is his former karmic deeds that he is undergoing this hardships in this life itself,” said Tshering (underline added for emphasis).

After his death, someone asked Buddha about the ex-criminal. He answered, “[M]y son Angulimala has attained Nirvana,” Tshering said.  Followers of the Buddha  could hardly believe it and asked how could such a person attain Nirvana. And Buddha replied:

“. . . Angulimala had done much evil because he did not have good friends. But later, he had good friends and with their help . . . he became steadfast . . . in practicing the dharma and meditation. Thus, his evil deeds have been overwhelmed by good karma and his mind has been completely rid of all defilements.”
— Tshering
“Whose evil deed is obscured by good, he illumines this world like the moon freed from a cloud,”
— the Buddha
Sitting in judgment of another requires a good student of Buddhism to be a good citizen of the country in which they live. As a criminal defense attorney with more than 100 jury trials under my belt, I can tell you that I always sought “to seat” jurors with strong spiritual beliefs. I believed they provided a just reasoning for their actions, no matter how they voted. I can see a juror helping to  provide a karmic experience by a verdict of guilty or not guilty, as well no verdict, when jurors are unsure following deliberations, and a judge declares a “mistrial” because of a “hung jury.”

6 comments on “Jury Duty Requires Your ‘Just Reasoning’

  1. William (Joe) Kollar says:

    Greetings I am a novice with regards to Buddhism. I clicked on this site because I did wonder “Should a Buddhist vote? Should one serve jury duty?” Most of my exposure to Zen is via Plum Village’s app and videos on you tube. Mindfulness practices governing diet, interactions with people (both sexual and non-sexual), avoidance of things toxic to the mind, body, others, animals, and even the earth itself are emphasized. From these practices, I deduced that one’s role is to (unattached) discriminate between harmful and nonharmful and support that which is beneficial and avoid that which isn’t, both in self and others. If a guilty or not guilty verdict is to be issued once and only if it is done so beyond a “shadow of reasonable doubt”, then it is saying that the defendant did or did not commit an offense. It is not judgment of the defendant being “good” or “evil” as compared to the jury. If the prosecution (in an attached manner), framed the case, then this is their karma, not the jurors’, because the jurors decided based on the evidence that was presented to them to the best of their ability. Does this seem reasonable? My verdict on voting is still out there-I am mindful of who not to vote for, but the “right” ones so far haven’t fleshed out the plans to make right mindful ness governing happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • contoveros says:

      Yes, I agree with your reasoning about our jury system and how a panel of men and women can use both wisdom and compassion when sitting in judgment of another sentient being. They are not judging whether the person was good or bad, but whether the action they were charged with committing was good or bad.
      I believe that they use what Buddhists call “skillful means” to view the facts of a case. It is what our justice system seeks in our courtrooms.


  2. It sounds like “skillful means” are needed when serving on a jury trial!


  3. Jesse says:

    Tshering’s recounting is based on Discourse 86 from the Majjhima Nikaya. However, it does seem like his version adds a few points not in the original. The Buddha does not judge the prior actions of, nor offer any forgiveness to Angulimala. He’s the Buddha. He does not judge. Angulimala does indeed repent of his evil ways, but not because of any promises made by the Buddha. He was merely awestruck by the Buddha’s presense.
    “He who seeking his own happiness punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death.” – Dhammapada verse 131


    • contoveros says:


      You are correct and I defer to your knowledge on this matter. I interpreted what the Buddha had done was to “forgive” Anguilimala. It came from my western way of looking at the world and such a holy one as the Buddha.

      This man repented so much that he was able to gain enough good merits in one life time that he was able to reach enlightenment in his current life rather than need another to make up for any bad karma he might have created. Would he have been able to do it if he was not confronted by the families that he had hurt, and accept — without complaints — the punishment they imposed on him? I don’t know.

      The point I tried to make in this story is to advise persons along this path to not be afraid of jury duty in non-capital cases because students of Buddhism offer compassion and wisdom when viewing facts and can help all in society by following the teachings of Dharma as it applies to our fellow man’s right speech, right intent, and right motivation.

      michael j


  4. […] ‘Just reasoning’ required for jury duty […]


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