A recent L.A. Times article discussed the confusion in the field of
penal execution. Prison wards and medics as well as doctors and Phds.
were interviewed. They were asked if the new form of execution by
poisonous injection is inhumane. The subject of whether or not
capital punishment is just was also in the article.
Many views were presented. Injection is now considered much more
humane than gas chambers which cause severe pain in the lungs and
electric chairs which sometimes malfunction.
However, the new `clinical’ version has it’s drawbacks, too,
evidently. While some say that sodium penathol, an anesthetic given
before the administration of the more lethal poisons, makes for a
virtually painless death, others claim to be witnessing agony in the
bodies of the inmates
What is the Vedic version?
First of all, the terms death sentence and inhumane are somewhat
incompatible terms in Vedic literature. While just and appropriate,
the Vedic culture is not anemic and sentimental.
"A person who knows the principles of religion does not kill an enemy
who is careless, intoxicated insane, asleep, afraid, or devoid of his
chariot. Nor does he kill a boy, a woman, a foolish creature or a
surrendered soul. A cruel and wretched person who maintains his
existence at the cost of other’s lives deserves to be killed for his
own well-being; otherwise he will go down by his own actions."
The scriptures of the Vedic culture such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam
recommend the death sentence as the only means by which a murderer
may be absolved from his sin.
Whether his crime goes unnoticed or the state fails to punish him, by
the law of karma he will be murdered or killed in a way that befits
him, either in this life or a future lifetime
The Vedas recommend the threat of severe punishment by any king or
head of state who wishes to insure the safety and protection of his
innocent citizens. Capital punishment makes null and void the karmic
reactions coming to the murderer and puts aside the chance of any
further karmic entanglement between him and the rest of the
The L.A. Times asked the professionals who had witnessed executions
just what they saw and whether or not there was much suffering by the
method of injection. One report from an Oklahoma newspaper described:
"He was strapped down to the table, and as much as he could his back
arched and he was breathing out very heavily. It may have been
perfectly humane to the inmate. We’ll never know. For appearance’s
sake, it looked painful and inhumane."
Michael Radalet, a University of Florida sociology professor,
compiled a widely publicized list of 11 problem injections in Texas,
Arkansas, and other states, stating, "the method is the most commonly
botched form of execution in the U.S." Some reasons for this is
insufficient amounts of poison in relation to the inmate’s body size
as well as prison medics with insufficient training to administer
On another note, one Texas prison spokesman said he had seen 16
executions and every one of them "has just been bam, bam, bam."
Not one could actually give definitive details of the experience of
death, for none had ever died or been executed. In truth, the
arrangements for one’s death, whether by execution or otherwise, are
pre-destined by God, not physicians and scientists who are simply
standing on the outside looking down at you, in death’s spell on the
Every detail, right down to how you will die, what pain will be
experienced and even what thoughts will pass through your mind, is
all by the laws of material energy.
We are all to be penalized by death, so in
Bhagavad Gita, As
It Is, by
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, God gives directions for those
who want to get free from the experience of death. The Gita explains
that we are not the immortal perishable body but pure eternal
spiritual souls in temporary bodily dress. Krsna (a special name for
God) wants to help us to die in accordance with His divine will, with
our minds fixed in loving devotion to Him. Then our souls become free
from matter and reinstated in their position of association with
"Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits this body, O son
of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail."
-Bhagavad-Gita, As It Is, 8.6
Srila Prabhupada, who wrote vast commentaries on Vedic literature,
gives this purport on the verse:
"How can one die in the proper state of mind? Of course one’s
thoughts during one’s lifetime accumulate to influence one’s thoughts
at the moment of death, so this life creates one’s next life. If in
one’s present life one lives in the mode of goodness and always
thinks of Krsna, it is possible for one to remember Krsna at the end
of one’s life. That will help one to be transferred to the
transcendental nature of Krsna. If one is transcendentally absorbed
in Krsna’s service, then his next body will be
transcendental.(spiritual,) not material. Therefore the chanting of
Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama,
Hare Hare is the best process for successfully changing one’s
state of being at the end of one’s life."
It’s best to take up the process as soon as possible and not have to
be born and then die even one more time. The best way to help others
is to help them take up the process, too. Then we can do away with
the death penalty.