This is a tale of love, lust, suicide, murder, mutilation, lies, revenge, grief, guilt and forgiveness. Why so much drama? Well, even sugar-coated fairy tales for children are about facing and overcoming inner and outer demons, before reaching the ‘happily ever after’, what more a tale featuring Edgar Allan Poe, one of the forefathers of macabre fiction, on the darkness of tell-tale hearts and such.
What if the savage was inflicted upon the beloved or unrelated? Seek justice of course, for the dark deed, lest the evil wreck further havoc upon more. However, the inconsolable Landor did not want justice via confession; he sought punishment by direct death – killing. Perhaps it is with seething rage within, that conventional justice for criminals almost always feels disproportionate to the bereaved, by ‘falling short’.
Criminals without remorse might feel that any justice is disproportionately ‘excess’ too. In this warped sense, does it balance out to be fair? One of the key consolations from having faith in the relenting law of karma is believing that it has many long arms, reaching out in all directions across space and in time, to catch up with all the unrepentant eventually and appropriately, even if in the after life, a future life.
Just as we can choose to be instruments of gross injustice, we can be instruments of karmic justice too. In the Buddhist teachings, it is with greed, hatred and delusion that harm is done, creating evil karma. Thus, if in bringing about justice, doing so with greed, hatred and delusion too, this harms oneself too. To overly punish is surely injustice too. It is perhaps impossible to be simultaneously vengeful and just.
Revenge is bitter; not sweet. Revenge does not ‘work’ as it requires the nursing of hatred (i.e. self-harm) even before harming others, with the further side-effect of oneself feeling guilty after harming. Why harm anyone and fear revenge? Why harm the harmer in return (i.e. avenge) and fear retaliation? Why spend the rest of this life looking over your shoulder? Injustice to anyone is injustice to oneself too.
There is often legal justice, till it seems amiss. How can we have total confidence in the workings of karma, for ‘filling in the gaps’? In a way, we do not need perfect faith. After doing our best to seek justice, what else can we do? As above, feeling indignant does not bring about justice. To seek hateful revenge harms peace of mind and tends to overly harm harmers. Find your peace and smile like the Buddha then! As Marcus Aurelius wrote, ‘The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.‘ Live on, well.
Can Buddhists Seek Revenge?
(‘Out Of The Furnace’ Of Hate)