Once we discover violence within, we may begin to observe the whole system of social conditioning; and perhaps we will recognize how punishment has been observed as another synonym of “justice.”
In general, in our society punishment is the settlement of an offense made by someone. Punishment increases, as the offense is deemed to be “worse.” Laws are in charge of judging the severity of those offenses, but the bottom line is that “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” still remains as the principle of retribution to compensate for a loss.
That principle of punishment is so ingrained in our society that even religions preaching peace, brotherhood, and forgiving another’s offense use the principle of punishment quite often in their philosophies and beliefs. Even “God” could be depicted as a vengeful being who supports a particular land or people over another.
Looking at the penal system in the world, we could see a wide variety of beliefs and approaches: From the popular “If you do the crime, you do the time” to a more restorative and rehabilitative system where the inmate is treated with dignity and high hopes to make him part of society again. The correctional system in Norway is well known for the later.
It could be easy to point out that the level of overall violence existing in a country, is proportional to the type of punishment that they will support. Violence uses punishment as another way of reciprocal violence under the label of “justice.”
When the collective consciousness is continuously fed with violence, there will be manifestation of it and retaliation in the form of punishment. It is interesting to look into this, for we could perceive how our conditioning will make us behave in violent ways even with our closest relatives and friends. When others do not behave according to our expectations, punishment is used to bring that person into compliance, although; our understanding of “fairness” and “justice” is biased by conditioning.
Someone stole a widget from a store. He could be penalized with jail time, a fine or even to chop that hand off. Very few will go into a way to rehabilitate that person and understand his circumstances. Who has the time in a busy society? Fear is the tool used to discourage the person from recidivism.
To understand punishment means to look into our own inner violence. That is the starting point. Someone harming another may be mentally ill or circumstances may be pushing that person. Rehabilitation is a more humane way to deal with violence.
If someone murders a close loved relative like your sibling, and you know who that person is; Wouldn’t avenging that person be the right action? Why is there the belief that by taking the life of the individual murdering a loved one, things will be even?
I could say through experience, that to deal with inner feelings of vengeance is the challenging part. That literally will poison us. Our inner violence will exacerbate and manifest. That is the hardest part. Vengeance cannot bring a loved one back, but it can destroy our own life; for our own violence will be completely unleashed and self destructive.
A “spiritual” person knows that we cannot take “justice” in our own hands. Humans do not have the power to decide over someone’s life and if we pretend to have it, consequences will be experienced. We know that Life is a gift, however; Life and Death are together. We can thank our parents for giving us Life as we have been told, but we forget that through that Life, there will be the experience of Death as well.
Life has its own “justice system,” which is not human: It never forgets and arrives at the “right time.” All we may need to be aware of, is what we keep in our hearts. If we keep the poison of vengeance, then the trauma that we will inflict into ourselves will make our life miserable. The emotion urging us to “get even” is the mind with its own conditioning, learned through living in a violent social system: “An eye for an eye.” Thus, we have the responsibility to look into this as we could experience the poison of vengeance.
We say “forgive and forget.” That is not for “normal” humans; but for those who are willing to go beyond their own little selves and open up their hearts to any experience that Life may bring. Experiences will not always be pleasant for we live in the world of duality; but for sure, those experiences will be exactly what we need to experience. This is not a matter of “luck” but destiny. It is not punishment but a test for growth. It is up to us to make it a lesson or a trauma.