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All About Buddhism: It’s in every one of us

Fifty-three years ago, on a cheesy episode of Star Trek, an alien race believed that mankind was uncivilized and decided to smite all humans.

Jason Jellison

Sunday 11 March 2018, 10:00AM

Freeing yourself from the lust for revenge is a truly liberating experience. Photo: Pixabay
Freeing yourself from the lust for revenge is a truly liberating experience. Photo: Pixabay

To test their theory, they captured Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and placed him in mortal combat against a gigantic lizard-man.

All alone and finding nowhere to escape a physically superior enemy, Captain Kirk remembered how to make gunpowder and unexpectedly turned the tables on his enemy by shooting him.

But, just as he was about to slay his enemy, he dropped his weapon and shouted to his captors, “No, I won’t kill him! Do you hear me? You’ll have to get your entertainment somewhere else!”

To Kirk’s surprise, this was the answer his captors wanted to hear, but did not expect. They realized that man had found enlightenment and a surprise happy ending was enjoyed by everyone.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably either thinking that this was the best man-versus-lizard fight ever (and it was), or you’re thinking I really need to watch less TV (and I do). Seriously though, there is a major Buddhist lesson in this old show. This lesson about revenge can teach us a lot about ourselves, too.

A long time ago, I once had an opportunity to put one of my enemies in jail. All I’ll say is that this person had done something very wrong and I could prove it. Suddenly, it seemed that I had the power of a pharaoh.

Just one phone call and, at the snap of my fingers, I could have levelled a very bad person who really had it coming. My friends and attorneys could only wait with baited breath.

Yet, to everyone’s shock (including mine), I had a “Kirk versus lizard-man moment” and I couldn’t do it. I ordered my attorneys and friends to go home.

“What?”, they exclaimed.

You see, Buddha taught his Monks that the common notion of justice is really nothing more than revenge in disguise. In fact, Buddha was often criticised for being lax about punishing people.

On this, a story is in order. In ancient times, Buddha himself took in a man named Angulimala. He was a horrible man. He had murdered 999 innocent people in a gruesome way and the King of Kosala had justly placed a bounty on his head.

One day, Angulimala was plotting to make his own Mother his 1,000th victim. But, Buddha got wind of the plot and, acting against everyone’s advice, intercepted Angulimala. Enraged, he started chasing Buddha in a lust to kill him.

Yet, he could not catch up with Buddha even though Buddha was walking very slowly. Confused, the man ordered Buddha to stop, but Buddha said “I have already stopped. It is you who needs to stop!”

At this moment, Angulimala saw himself for what he really was. Having seen the light, he eschewed his murderous ways, became a Monk, and spent the rest of his life in superhuman repentance. When the King of Kosala saw this and knew that it was genuine, he decided to be merciful. He let Angulimala go.

On a smaller scale, I found myself in this position, too. All I had to do was make one phone call, sign one document and it would be curtains for a very bad person.

Yet, the heart of a Buddhist has beat within me for many more years than I ever knew. So, I let him go. Self-defence and punishment are two very different things; and that’s exactly what Buddhism teaches.

Here’s a Thai-Buddhist secret for you: When we lust for revenge, we never think about anything else and we are the ones who suffer… our enemy relishes the macabre affair. However, if you stop thinking of revenge, you’ll shut that process down… and that’s the key to victory and happiness.

My words cannot express the profound joy that I felt after forgiving my enemy but, there’s an old song called “It’s In Every One of Us” that says it better than I ever could. If you’re contemplating revenge, why don’t you listen to this song on YouTube and think again.

Remember, we’ve all had a day where someone forgave us when they could have nailed us. If you choose to forgive, then you’ll have given a great gift to all of mankind. The joy and peace you’ll find will turn your heart to eternal rapture. After all, it’s in every one of us.


All About Buddhism is a monthly column in The Phuket News where I take readers on my exotic journey into Thai Buddhism and debunk a number of myths about Buddhism. If you have any specific questions, ideas or suggestions for articles, please let us know. Email: and we will do our best to accommodate your interests.



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