The death penalty: not punishment but revenge
WOULD YOU PLEASE COMMENT ON THE DEATH PENALTY?
The death penalty is a degrading proof of man's inhumanity to man. It shows that man is still living in the barbarous age. Civilization still remains an idea - it has not become a reality.
The death penalty is so idiotic that you will have to look from all the aspects to understand why such an idiotic thing has continued in all the civilizations, cultures, nations. Even in a few countries where it was dropped it has been adopted again. In a few other countries where it has been dropped, it has been replaced by life imprisonment - which is worse than the death penalty itself. It is better to die in a single moment than to go on dying slowly for fifty years, sixty years.
Changing from the death penalty to a life sentence is going not towards civilization, it is going still deeper into barbarous, inhuman darkness, unconsciousness.
The first thing to remember is that the death penalty is not really a punishment. If you cannot give life as a reward, you cannot give death as a penalty. This is a simple logic, there cannot be two opinions about it. If you cannot give life to people, what right have you to take their life?
I am reminded of a true story. It happened that two criminals were in search of a treasure that was hidden in a castle. Many people had tried but had not found the way; somehow these criminals stumbled upon the treasure. The treasure was so vast that one of the two was not willing to divide it. The only way was to kill the other, but in killing the other he might get caught. There was danger, and now he could not take any risk because the whole treasure was in his hands.
He managed a very cunning way. He disappeared and spread the rumor that he had been murdered, and he left all the evidence that would prove that his friend was the murderer. The friend was caught with all the proofs: his revolver was there; two bullets were missing, and his fingerprints were on the revolver. His handkerchief with his name embroidered on it had fallen .... And only he knew the place where the friend was hiding in the jungles against the police, because they had done other crimes also, and there was a price on both of them to be caught alive or dead.
He could not prove his innocence; there was no way - everything went against him. He was given the death penalty. He knew he had not murdered his friend; he knew that this whole thing was a plot. His friend was not dead; it was just to keep the whole treasure, that the friend had removed him in a legal way, out of the way.
But he escaped from the prison before he was executed. After twelve years he came into the court, dragging the dead body of a very famous politician, a rich man of the city, and he told the court - it was the same judge - "I have murdered this man, and I dare you to punish me. But first let me tell you the whole story. I am the man who twelve years ago you had sentenced to death. I escaped from the prison because I was absolutely innocent, but I had no proof."
In fact innocence has never any proof. Proofs are for the crime or against the crime, but innocence has no proof.
He said, "Now I have murdered the man you charged me twelve years ago for having murdered - this is the man. If your first judgment was right then you cannot punish me again for the same murder because that man was murdered twelve years ago. And if your first judgment was not right, how can you be sure that your second judgment is going to be right?"
Can you punish a man for murdering the same man twice?
It is really very difficult to decide.
He said, "The only crime I have committed is escaping from the jail, but can you call it a crime?
When you punish an innocent man with death, who is the criminal - you or me?
"And this man plotted the whole thing; he managed all those proofs because he had my revolver, he had my handkerchief. He managed all those proofs, escaped from there with the treasure that we had both found, became a rich man, famous. He changed his name, his personality, shaved off his beard, changed his hair-do, and became respectable; he opened a hospital, a school, made a temple. And this is the man who managed the plot to show he had been murdered.
"In that way he was saved from the punishment for other crimes for which the police were searching for him; now he has been murdered - so that file is closed. He killed two birds by one stone: he killed me, not directly, but through a legal procedure. He used all you idiots to kill me, so that he would become the whole owner of the treasure - and he did. By the same strategy he removed all crimes against him. The file was closed, the man was dead - of course, his body was not found.
The murderer had been very clever, because he was a known criminal."
The story has many implications. The man asked, "If I was sentenced to death and I had not escaped and was executed, what would have been the case now? If it had come to be known that the man thought to be murdered is alive, would you be able to give me my life back? If you cannot give my life back, what right have you to take it away?"
It is said the judge resigned, apologized to the man and said, "Perhaps I have done many crimes in my life."
A strange thing all over the world is that unless you are proved innocent, you are guilty. This goes against all humanitarian ideals, democracy, freedom, respect for individuality; it goes against all.
The rule should be: unless you are proved guilty you are innocent. Yes, it is said in words, but in reality the case is just the opposite.
For example, this city, Rajneeshpuram, is, in the opinion of the attorney general of Oregon, illegal. It is just an opinion. He is not a judge; he has to go before the court to prove it. Unless he proves that the city is guilty of being illegal, the city is legal, we are innocent. Until guilt is proved, innocence needs no proof. But this is not the case.
Although America goes on claiming to be the greatest democracy in the world, it is sheer bullshit.
The Supreme Court of America goes on declaring that unless a person is proved guilty, he is innocent. Innocence needs no proof; otherwise it would be impossible for anybody to live. If everybody has to prove his innocence; otherwise he is a guilty man and he should be thrown into jail because he cannot prove his innocence ....
How do you prove your innocence? Innocence is not an act, it leaves no traces behind, no evidence.
So the Supreme Court says, "This is our standpoint: Unless a man is proved guilty, he is innocent."
But this is only said, because our city is already being regarded by the state government, by the federal government, as illegal - without it having been proved before a court.
The case is still in the court. The court is theirs, but they cannot wait even for the court to decide.
The federal government has stopped giving the money that was due to the city; not only that, the federal government has asked that the money that they have given for the past two years should be returned. For two years the city was legal. And what support have they given? - two hundred and sixty-five dollars!
I would like the mayor of your city to return the money with interest. Such a poor government, giving such a great support to the city, certainly needs at least bank-rate interest on the great sum of two hundred and sixty-five dollars.
These nuts think they are democratic.
The state government has stopped giving their share. The attorney general has been forcing the police authorities to declare our city's police also illegal. This is strange. You have not proved us guilty, you cannot prove us guilty; in fact your own court has incorporated the city with all legalities fulfilled. For two years your governments - state and federal both - have been accepting the city, training the police, having its police department in the city. You arrange the elections for the mayor, for the council.
Everything proves that the city is legal. Just one man who wants to rise in political power, who wants to become the next governor, is in need of us. Without our support in Oregon nobody can become the governor. But our support is a strange kind of support: anybody who wants to win an election has to be against us. Just being against us is enough to gain the support of all the bigots, of all the Christians, of all the orthodox, conventional people, of all those who think that Oregon is their property. Just to be against us ....
Without proving in a court - and even if you prove in one court that does not mean that you have proved it. We can appeal. The case will not be decided for at least twenty to thirty years - not before that. It will have to go up to the Supreme Court of the United States.
We are not going to be humiliated in any way. And when the law is in our favor, the whole democratic concept is behind us, all the values that democracy cherishes are in our support, there is no reason at all .... But they have started accepting us as illegal.
This is how man goes on saying one thing and goes on doing just its opposite. He talks about being civilized, cultured - he is not civilized, not cultured. The death penalty is a proof enough.
This is the rule of a barbarous society: An eye for an eye, and a head for a head. If somebody cuts off one of your hands, then in a barbarous society, this is a simple law: one of his hands should be cut off.
The same has been carried down the ages. The death penalty is exactly the same law: An eye for an eye. If a man is thought to have murdered somebody, then he should be murdered. But it is strange: if killing somebody is a crime, then how can you remove crime from society by committing the same crime again? There was one man murdered; now there are two men murdered. And it is not certain that this man murdered that man, because to prove a murder is not an easy thing.
If murder is wrong, then whether it is committed by the man or by the society and its court, makes no difference.
Killing certainly is a crime.
The death penalty is a crime committed by the society against a single individual, who is helpless.
I cannot call it a penalty, it is a crime.
And you can understand why it is committed: it is a revenge. Society is taking revenge because the man did not follow the rules of the society; the society is ready to kill him. But nobody bothers that when somebody murders, it shows that man is psychologically sick. Rather than sending him to imprisonment or to be executed, he should be sent into a nursing home where he can be taken care of - physically, psychologically, spiritually. He is sick. He needs all the compassion of the society; there is no question of penalty, punishment.
Yes, it is true, one man is murdered; but we cannot do anything about it. By murdering this man do you think the other will come back to life? If that were possible, I would be all in support of this man being removed - he is not worth being part of the society - and the other should be revived.
But that does not happen. The other is gone forever; there is no way to revive him. Yes, you can do one thing, you can kill this man too. You are trying to wash blood with blood, mud with mud. You are not aware of what has happened in history in many cases.
Three hundred years ago, in many cultures the madman was thought to be pretending. In many other cultures he was thought to be possessed by ghosts. In other cultures he was thought to be mad, but treatable by punishment. And these were the three ways mad people were taken care of.
They were treated by beatings - strange treatment! - and by taking their blood out. Now you give blood transfusions; they used to do just the opposite - they used to take the blood out of the man. It was thought that he had too much energy. Naturally when his blood was taken out he became weak; he started showing signs of weakness because so much blood was taken out, and it was thought they had cured him of his madness.
By beating a man, naturally once in a while it used to happen that the man came to his senses. It is almost as if a man is asleep and you start beating him and he wakes up. A madman has fallen out of his conscious mind. If you beat him too hard, once in a while it may happen that he wakes up into his consciousness again. That became a proof that beating is the right treatment. But is used to happen only once in a while; ninety-nine percent of the cases were unnecessarily beaten. But that one exception was the rule.
It was thought that he was possessed by spirits, ghosts; then too beat him, because if he is possessed by ghosts the beating will reach the ghost, not him. You are not beating him, you are really beating the ghosts who are possessing him, and because of the beating they will escape. And once in a while, but just once in a while, that is one percent, no more than that ....
I have been in one place - it was very famous for mad people. Hundreds of mad people were brought to that place. It was on the bank of a river, a temple, and the priest must have been a butcher for at least a few hundred lives. He looked like a butcher and he gave a good beating. The mad people were chained, given a good beating, no food, and very strong laxatives. And I have seen that once in a while a person came to his senses.
Strong laxatives for a few days with no food cleaned his inner system. Beatings brought him back a little consciousness. No food, hunger - a hungry man cannot afford to be mad because his body is in such torture. To be mad you need a little bit of comfort in your life situation.
You can see it: the more comfortable a society, the more luxurious, affluent a culture, the more people go mad. The more poor a society - starving, hungry - the less people go mad. Madness needs, in the first place, a mind. But a hungry person has no nourishment for the mind. He is undernourished: his mind is not in a situation to go nuts. For that the mind needs more energy than ordinarily is involved in life.
Madness is a rich man's disease. The poor man cannot afford it.
So when you keep a person hungry and give him laxatives, it cleanses his inner system, makes him so hungry that he becomes bodily-oriented. He forgets the mind, the question is the body. He is no longer interested in mind and mind games.
Madness is a mind game.
So once in a while I have seen people being cured there, but that one percent cured would spread the rumor all around, and hundreds of people were coming there. The temple became very rich. I had gone there many times to see it but only once did I meet a man who had been cured; others went back to their homes just beaten, hungry, starved, more sick, more weak. Many died through that priest's treatment.
But in India if the treatment is being given in a temple, a sacred place, by the priest, it is not a crime if you die; in fact you are fortunate that you are dying in a sacred place. You will be born on a higher level of consciousness; so it is not a crime.
But I spoke against the man wherever I went and I said, "This is absolutely criminal. What authority has he or what medical qualifications has he? Is he a psychiatrist, physiologist? - he is only a priest." But priests have been treating mad people for centuries, in the same way, all over the world.
Now we know that a mad person cannot be treated this way. Mad people were put into prison, in isolated cells. Still that is happening around the world because we don't know what to do. Just to hide our ignorance we put the mad person into jail, so we can forget about him; at least we can go on ignoring that he exists.
In my town one of my friends' uncles was mad. They were rich people. I used to go in their house often, but even I became aware only after years that one of his uncles was kept in an underground basement, chained.
I said, "Why?"
They said, "He is mad. There were only two ways: either we keep him in our own house, chained .... And of course we cannot keep him chained in the house; otherwise people will be coming and everybody will feel worried and concerned. And his children, his wife, watching their father, their husband .... And it is against our family's reputation to send him to prison, so we found this way: we have imprisoned him underground. His food is being taken to him by a servant; otherwise nobody goes to see him, nobody goes to meet him."
I persuaded my friend, "I would like to meet your uncle."
He said, "But I cannot come with you - he is a dangerous man, he is mad! Although he is chained he can do anything."
I said, "He can at the most kill me. You just remain behind me so if I am killed you escape, but I would like to go."
Because I insisted, he managed to get the key from the servant who used to take the food. In thirty years I was the first person from the outside world, other than the servant, who had met him; and that man may have been mad - I cannot say - but now he was not mad. But nobody was ready to listen to him because all mad people say, "We are not mad."
So when he said this to the servant, "Tell my family that I am not mad," the servant simply laughed.
He even told the family but nobody took any note of it.
When I saw the man, I sat with him, I talked with him. He was as sane as anybody else in the world - perhaps a little more, because he said one thing to me: "Being here for thirty years has been a tremendous experience. In fact I feel fortunate that I am out of your mad world. They think I am mad - let them think that, there is no harm - but in fact I am fortunate that I am out of your mad world.
What do you think?" he said to me.
I said, "You are absolutely right. The world outside is far madder than when you left it thirty years before. In thirty years there has been great evolution in everything - in madness too. You stop saying to people that you are not mad; otherwise they will take you out. You are living a perfectly beautiful life. You have enough space to walk ...."
He said, "That's the only exercise I can do here - walking."
And I started to teach him vipassana. I said, "You are in such perfect conditions to become a buddha:
no worries, no botherations, no disturbances. You are really blessed."
And he started practicing vipassana. I told him, "You can practice it sitting, you can practice it walking" - and he was my first disciple as far as vipassana is concerned. And you will be surprised that he died a sannyasin - died in the basement.
But the last time I had gone to my village, I went to see him. He said, "I'm ready; now you initiate me. My days are numbered, and I would like to die as your sannyasin. I'm your disciple; for twenty years you have been my master and whatever you had promised is fulfilled."
And you could see from his face, from his eyes, that he was not the same person - a total transformation, a mutation ....
Mad people need methods of meditation so that they can come out of their madness.
The criminals need psychological help, spiritual support.
They are really deep-down sick, and you are punishing sick people. It is not their fault. If somebody murders, that means he has carried a tendency to murder in him for a long time. It is not that somewhere, out of nowhere, suddenly you murder somebody.
In one of the existential novels there is a story: a man is caught - in fact it is not right to say "caught"
because he never tried to escape. He killed a stranger who was sitting on the beach. He came from behind and killed him with a dagger; the man died on the spot. The man was absolutely a stranger; the murderer had never seen his face even, because he killed him from the back. Even after the murder he had not seen his face; he had no idea whom he had murdered.
It was a very strange case - existentialism has been of great help in bringing strange cases to light.
The court asked the man, "We cannot understand why you murdered the man."
He said, "It is not a question of 'why' - I simply wanted to. There are people who try to find excuses to do something that they want to do. I am a simple person: why bother about an excuse? - just do it if you want to do it."
Now he is saying a truth of tremendous importance. People try to find an excuse: for example, they are angry with you - they think they are angry with you; that is not true.
They were carrying that anger - it was boiling within them, they were sitting on a volcano. They were just waiting for somebody to give them an excuse: you gave the excuse, and they exploded.
It seems you are responsible for the explosion. No, you are only an accidental excuse, you are not responsible. Somebody else would have done if you had not. It is just coincidence that you happened to pass by; otherwise, somebody else ....
This murderer says to the court, "I am a simple man; I don't bother about rationalizations and excuses - I simply wanted to kill. And it was really an exciting experience. When I forced the dagger into the back of that man whom I don't know, who has not done any wrong to me, when the blood dashed out from his back I had the greatest, the most exciting experience in my life.
"I am perfectly happy: you can give me any punishment that you want. I am not going to say that I have not done it, I have done it. I wanted to do it for a long time, and it is good that I did it."
Now, what do you want to do with this man? Is he a murderer, or a psychiatric case who has been prevented from having any excitement in his life? Perhaps he has never known love, because if you ask Sigmund Freud, he will say that the dagger is nothing but a symbol of the male's sexual organ, and dashing it into the back of the man is just an effort - perverted, but an effort - to have some entry into another body. That's what people are doing all over the world. Making love is entering another's body.
This man is certainly not in the right shape, things are upside down, but what he is doing is simply a sexual act; it has nothing to do with murder. The murder happened; that is just a by-product.
And why does a man want to enter the body of a woman? - because every implication has its own implications. It is because the man is born out of woman's body. He has come out of the woman's body, and he has never been so comfortable again, and he wants to be back in the womb of the mother.
Every man is searching for his mother's womb. These murderers are also searching for the mother's womb - of course in a wrong way, unnatural, but they are not responsible for it: your society is responsible for it. If a murder happens then the society should be punished, then the whole society should have to pay the penalty.
Why did it happen in this society? What have you done with the man that he had to commit a murder?
Why did he become destructive? - because nature gives everybody energy which is creative. It becomes destructive only when it is obstructed, when no natural flow is allowed. Whenever energy goes towards the natural it is prevented by society, it is crippled; it is directed into some other direction.
Soon the man is in a confusion. He does not know what is what. He does not know what he is doing, why he is doing it. The original reasons are left far behind. He has taken so many turns that he has become a jigsaw puzzle.
Nobody needs the death penalty, nobody deserves it. In fact, not only the death penalty, no other kind of punishment is right, because punishment never cures the person.
Every day the number of criminals goes on growing; every day you build more prisons. This is strange. It should not be so. Just the opposite should be the case, because with so many courts and so many punishments and so many prisons, crimes should be less, criminals should be less, slowly, slowly prisons should be less, courts should be less. But that is not happening.
I am reminded that in Great Britain, just one hundred years ago, corporal punishment for stealing was the common thing. And the punishment had to be given in a public square so people could see what happens when you steal - just to teach them. It would be a lesson to them, that if you steal this happens: a public humiliation. The person had to be naked and lashed till blood started oozing from his body.
But what happened - just one hundred years ago - was that the punishment had to be dropped because it was found that when the crowd was there ... and thousands gathered to see - it was not a good sign. When thousands of people come to see such an ugly scene it shows something in them is wrong. Perhaps they also want to beat someone naked, but they don't have the guts; at least they can see it being done.
That's what you are doing everywhere. You love football: you don't play - there are professional players - you watch. You become identified with a certain team of football players and you are so excited, as if you are participants. Just look at the crowd in a stadium: thousands of people so excited, as if their life and death is in question - shouting, screaming, throwing their caps, their hats, fighting with each other because the person by their side is giving encouragement to the party they oppose.
The football players are playing their games, and the thousands of spectators - what are they doing?
They are also, in a psychological way, participants - perhaps more excited than the real players. The real players are professionals, that is their business, and these idiots are unnecessarily becoming so hot.
And this is not the whole crowd; the real crowd is sitting by their television sets, millions of them - listening to commentaries on their radios.
I had a friend in the university; he was a professor, but a fan of hockey matches - in India, football is not so hot. One day I was sitting in his room and he was listening to the commentary on his small transistor that he used to carry continuously, keeping it close to his ear so he did not miss anything.
I was sitting there and I told him, "I have come to say something to you."
He just told me, "Keep quiet!" and went back to his commentary. And then something happened: he threw the transistor and it broke into pieces.
I said, "What happened?"
He said, "My team, they failed me! I had so much hope for them."
"But," I said, "if your team failed, why did you destroy the transistor?"
He said, "You won't understand. I was in such anger that you should feel fortunate that I did not hit you with the transistor."
"But this would have been too much! First you destroyed the transistor, and I am just sitting waiting here for you to get finished with your transistor, and you wanted to hit me with it," I said.
"Yes, I was so angry," he said, "I could have hit you. For a moment I was just going to and then I changed my mind."
I said, "This is good - next time I will never be around anyone listening to the commentary on hockey matches. This is dangerous, even to be around."
Now this man is so much involved .... The whole world has become a world of spectators.
What are you seeing in a movie? I don't think you are seeing a movie, you become part of it, you become identified with some character in it. When he falls in love, you fall in love; when he kisses his girlfriend, you are kissing his girlfriend. This is sheer nonsense, but you cannot expect anything more from the humanity that you have got around.
So those spectators in Great Britain, what were they doing? They were so involved in watching that there were pickpockets all around, cutting their pockets. It was brought to the notice of the parliament: "What kind of lesson are you teaching, because exactly there, where the crowd has gathered to learn the lesson, there are people who are cutting others' pockets." And it is easy because those people are so involved they have completely forgotten themselves and their pockets.
And that man is being beaten almost to death, and those pickpockets ....
Your whole reasoning is wrong. You cannot teach by punishment.
That's what your jurists, legal experts, politicians, have been saying down the ages: "If we don't punish people, then how are we going to teach them? Then everybody will start committing crime, so we have to go on punishing so people remain afraid."
They think that fear is the only way to teach - and fear is not the way to teach them at all. What punishment teaches is, it makes people acquainted with fear, so the original shock is no longer there. They know what can happen: "At the most you can beat me. And if one person can take it, I can also take it. And out of a hundred thieves you can catch only one or two persons."
Now, if you are not ready even to take that much risk - ninety-eight percent success, two percent failure - then what kind of man are you?
Nobody learns from any punishment. The very person who is being punished, he also does not learn what you want him to learn. Yes, he learns something else: he learns how to become a thick-skin.
Once a person goes into prison, prison becomes his home, because there he finds people of a like mind. There he finds his real society. Outside he was a foreigner; there he is in his own world.
They all understand the same language, and there are experts. You may be just an amateur, an apprentice; it may be your first term.
I have heard: one man enters a prison; in the dark cell he sees an old man, resting. The old man asks him, "For how long are you going to be here?"
He says, "For ten years."
The old man says, "Then you can stay close to the door. Just ten years! You seem to be new. I am going to be here for fifty years. You just remain close to the door. Soon the years will be gone and you will be out."
But when you are with experts for ten years, of course you learn all their techniques, strategies, methods, their experience. You will find your jail almost a certain kind of university where crime is taught at government expense. You will find professors of crime, deans of the crime faculty, vice-chancellors, chancellors - all kinds of people who have done every kind of crime that you can imagine; certainly the newcomer starts learning. And one thing is in the air of every prison .... I have been to many prisons.
It happened that in Madhya Pradesh when I was a professor there, one old man, Mangaldas Pakvasa, was governor of Madhya Pradesh. He was very much interested in me, so much so that although I went on telling him, "Kaka" - he was known to everybody as kaka, uncle - "I don't believe in God," he said, "Whether you believe it or not, just when you reach, tell God something for this Mangaldas Pakvasa, because I am an old sinner. Being in politics, you know, I have done everything that I should not have done. Now I am getting old."
"But," I said, "you will be dying first, Kaka. Can't you see a simple thing: you will be reaching first.
So if you want, you can help me, but I cannot help you; I am not going that early!"
"But," he said, "I suspect that I will never be going to heaven. Governors and prime ministers and presidents - I don't think any of them are going there. This whole company is going to hell!"
He was a very simple and good man. Because he was governor, I had immense dimensions open for me. I asked him, "You give me a general permission: if I want to visit any jail I should be allowed."
He said, "That is no problem." And the biggest jail was in Jabalpur itself; it was the central jail of the whole state - three thousand diehard criminals. So I used to go almost every Sunday; while he remained governor I continued to go there. And what I saw - this was the climate, and in other jails also. I went in smaller jails also but the climate was essentially the same.
The climate was that it is not crime that brings you to jail, it is being caught, so if you know right ways to do wrong things .... It is not a question of doing right things; the question is doing wrong things in a right way. And every prisoner learns the right way of doing wrong things in jail. In fact I have talked with prisoners and they said, "We are eager to get out."
I said, "For what?"
They said, "You are a friend, and we don't hide anything from you: we want to get out as soon as possible because we have learned so much, we want to practice. Just the practicals were missing, it was all theoretical knowledge. For practicals you need the society."
Once a person becomes a jailbird, then nowhere will he find himself at ease; sooner or later he will be coming back to jail. And slowly slowly jail becomes his alternative society.
It is more comfortable, he feels more at home; nobody looks down on him, nobody thinks that he is superior and you are inferior. Everybody is a criminal. Nobody is a priest and nobody is a sage and nobody is a holy man: all are poor human beings with all the weaknesses and frailties.
Outside he finds that he is rejected, abandoned.
In my town there was a permanent jail-goer. He was a very beautiful man; his name was Barkat Mian. He was a Mohammedan. Mian is a Mohammedan respectful word exactly like "sir" or the Indian, Hindu, ji. If you simply say, "Gandhi" it will not look respectful; you have to say "Gandhiji." For Mohammedans mian is simply equivalent to ji or "sir".
It was strange that Barkat Mian was a permanent jail-goer, almost nine months in jail, three months outside; and in those three months also, every week he had to go to report to the police station to show that everything was okay and he was here.
But I had a great friendship with that man. My family was very angry; they said, "Why do you keep company with Barkat?" My family used to say to me, "A man is known by his company."
I said, "I understand you: that means Barkat will be known by me, and to give a man a little respectability is not anything bad."
They said, "When will you see things in the right way?"
I said, "I am seeing it exactly the right way. Rather than Barkat degrading me, I am upgrading Barkat.
You think his evil is more powerful than my goodness? You don't trust my integrity; you trust Barkat's integrity." I said, "Whatever your opinion, I trust myself. Barkat cannot do any harm to me. If any harm is going to be done it will be done to Barkat by me."
He was really a beautiful man, nice, and he used to tell me, "You should not be around me. If you want to meet me and talk to me, we can manage to meet somewhere outside the town, by the riverbank."
He himself lived near the Mohammedan cemetery where nobody goes unless one dies: one goes only once. He was not allowed to live in the town. In the town nobody was ready to give him a house to rent. Whatsoever rent he was ready to pay, nobody was ready to take it, nobody was going to take him in.
There on the Mohammedan cemetery was a house - nothing but a shelter for the rainy season, summer. People die in all kinds of climates, not bothering about anybody - that it is raining and they could wait a little, there is no hurry. But people are people: if they can harass you, they will harass you. They will die when it is raining dogs and cats, or is it cats and dogs? But it makes no difference; when it is raining who is first and who is second does not matter.
So that shelter was just for certain times; people could sit there. But in a small place people don't die every day, only once in a while; so Barkat used to live in that shelter. He said, "You always are welcome in my house" - that shelter he used to call his house. And of course there was no fear because nobody could steal anything from Barkat. Nobody could even dare to go in the night near Barkat Mian because he was a dangerous man.
Just by the side of my father's store was a big shop, a kind of general store, having all kinds of things.
He stole from that. One night he told me, "Tonight I am coming to Mody's shop" - that was the name of the shop. And he came and he did a good job: he took out all the ornaments and everything, and managed to escape but finally was caught. Not that day - after two months, in another robbery he was caught, and there it was found that one watch he was wearing was from Mody's store.
So it was worked out and he was forced to confess from where the watch had come to him. And he confessed that it was from Mody's store because that was the only store in the town that had watches to sell. From where else could it come? Everybody's watch came from Mody's store!
But other things were also found in his home, in that shelter where he used to keep his suitcase and things; and a few things he had sold - so he was sentenced to six months. After six months - this I call a real gentleman - after six months, when he was released from the jail .... The jail was in a district which was nearabout sixty miles away. He came in a taxi, stopped the taxi before Mody's store and went in.
Mody stood up, afraid that now there was going to be trouble; this man has been released. Barkat said, "Pay the taxi - I don't have any money. And you know for six months you have kept me unemployed, so, some money for my pocket."
I was just present there because Mody's store was just next to my father's shop. Mody had to pay the taxi and give Barkat a few rupees. He told Barkat, "Don't come every day," and Barkat said, "Till I manage something I will have to come, because six months you kept me unemployed. You are responsible."
He continued to come every day, and I said to Mody, "Modyji, you go on giving money to Barkat."
He said, "What to do? He can cut my throat - he is a dangerous man! You don't see: when he comes inside the shop, he shows me a knife. Nobody sees it from the outside because of so many things in the shop. With one hand he asks for the money, with the other hand he shows me a knife, so everybody thinks I am giving the money happily. You think I am giving it happily?"
I said, "No, I know about the knife because Barkat Mian is my friend and he tells me everything."
I asked Barkat, "How did you become a thief?"
He said, "The first time I was jailed I was absolutely innocent, but I was poor, I could not hire an advocate; and the people who wanted me to be forced into jail had some vested interest.
"My father and mother died when I was very young, fourteen or fifteen, and my other relatives wanted to capture the whole family's possessions - house, land - and they wanted to remove me out of their way. They simply managed it. They put something into my bag in my house. And there was no way to get out of it: the thing was found in my bag, and I was sent to jail.
"When I came back, my land was gone, my house was sold, my relatives had managed to disperse everything and distribute everything. I was just on the streets.
"So, first, I was innocent when I went in, but when I came out I was not innocent, because I had come with a certain graduation. I told everybody in jail what had happened to me - I was only seventeen.
They said 'Don't be worried, these nine months will be soon finished, but in nine months we will also give you the finishing touches. And you will be able to take revenge on everybody.'
"And I started to take revenge on all the relatives - this was simply tit for tat. They had forced me to become a thief, and I proved that, okay, now I am a thief. I destroyed this whole gang of my relatives; I stole everything that they had. But by and by I became more and more involved.
"You can have ten cases in which you are saved but in the eleventh you are caught. As you grow older and more efficient, you are caught less. But now there is no problem; in fact imprisonment proves a relaxing place, a holiday from work and worry and all kinds of things.
"A few months in jail are good for health - a disciplined life: an exact time to get up, to go to work, an exact time to go to sleep. Just enough food to keep you alive; more than that makes you sick."
He said, "I am never sick in jail, unless I pretend and want to be in hospital to escape; otherwise I am never sick. Outside I fall sick, but never inside. And outside is a foreign world and everybody is superior and I am inferior. Only in jail I feel a freedom."
Strange! When he said that, I said, "You say in jail you feel freedom?"
He said, "Yes, only in jail I feel freedom."
What kind of society is this, in which people in jail feel freedom, and outside they feel imprisoned?
And this is almost the story of every criminal. A small thing in the beginning - maybe he was hungry, maybe he was cold, needed a blanket and just stole a blanket - small necessities which should be fulfilled: otherwise the society should not produce these people. Nobody asks it to produce them.
On the one hand you go on producing people more and more and more, and there are not enough things for them, neither food nor clothes nor shelter. Then what do you want? You are putting people in a situation where they are bound to become criminals.
The world population has to be cut to one third - if you want crime to disappear.
But nobody wants crime to disappear because the disappearance of crime means the disappearance of your judges, of your advocates, of your law experts, of your parliaments, of your policemen, of your jailers. It will create a big unemployment problem; nobody wants anything to change for the better.
Everybody says things should change for the better, but everybody goes on making things worse, because the worse things are, the more people are employed. The worse things are, the more chances you have to feel good. Criminals are needed for you to feel that you are such a moral, respectable person.
Sinners are needed for saints to feel that they are saints. Without sinners, who will be the saint?
If the whole society consisted of good people, do you think you will remember Jesus Christ for two thousand years? For what? It is the criminal society that remembers Jesus Christ for two thousand years.
It is a simple thing to understand. Why do you remember Gautam Buddha? If there were millions of buddhas, awakened people in the world ... what speciality did Gautam Buddha have? He would have been lost in the crowd. But twenty-five centuries have passed and he stands like a pillar, a mountain peak far above you and your heads.
In fact Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Mahavira, are not giants - you are pygmies.
And every giant has an investment in your remaining a pygmy; otherwise he won't be a giant.
This is a great conspiracy.
I am against this whole conspiracy. I am neither a giant nor a pygmy; I have no vested interest at all.
I am just myself.
I don't compare myself with anybody, so nobody is lower than me and nobody is higher than me.
Because of this simple fact I can see directly; there is no vested interest creating diversions to my vision. And this is my immediate response to the question: the death penalty is simply a proof that man still needs to be civilized, needs to be cultured, needs to know human values.
In this world nobody is a criminal, never has been. Yes, there are people ... they need compassion, not imprisonment, not punishment. All prisons should be transformed into psychological nursing homes.