"Q: What are Buddhist views on capital punishment? Suppose someone has killed ten children. Why should he be allowed to live?

"A. Ten people are dead; why do you want to kill an eleventh one? A man who has killed ten children is a sick person. Killing him won't help him and it won't help us. There are others like him in society, and looking at him deeply we know that something is wrong with our society that it can create people like that. Looking in the light of interbeing, we can see the other elements that have produced him. That is how understanding arises. That is how we see that this person needs help, not just punishment. Of course, he must be locked up for the safety of society, but that's not the only thing we can do.

"Buddhist books on meditation, Buddhist magazines, and even Dharma talks have been offered in prisons, and many prisoners have begun to practice. A number of them have learned to live peacefully, even in prison. I get many letters from prisoners who have read my books. One wrote, 'I see other inmates running up and down the staircases and I can see their suffering and agitation. I hope they can do as I do, walking up and down the staircase in mindfulness, following my breathing. When I do that, I feel peace within myself, and when I feel peace within myself, I can see very clearly the suffering of other inmates.' That person has been able to give rise to the compassion within him.

"So punishment is not our only option. Transformation and healing are possible in these difficult situations. Killing someone only reveals our own weakness. We don't know what to do any more, and we give up, we surrender. Killing someone is a cry of despair. But together we can practice looking deeply in order to find better means than approving of capital punishment."