Ticks and fleas

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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cherrytigerbarb
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Ticks and fleas

Postby cherrytigerbarb » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:01 pm

Is it ok to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?
"The foolish reject what they see, not what they think. The wise reject what they think, not what they see." - Huang Po.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Anagarika » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:52 pm

All volitional acts are karma. My view is that we have to weigh for ourselves the kind of karma we are creating by our acts, and what kind of intention we bring to these acts. If to relieve the suffering of a beloved dog and to possibly save his/her life means pulling a tick out of his skin, knowing the tick will die, then by this act of killing the tick(s), we are creating karma. In my view, the good karma created by this kind act in saving the dog vastly outweighs the karma of the death of the tick. Kill the bugger....save your dog.

I guess if I suffer rebirth as a tick, I''ll know why. :)
Last edited by Anagarika on Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 9:59 pm

cherrytigerbarb wrote:Is it ok to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?

Absolutely not. You should never, ever kill living beings.

The fact that the infested animal will die is very sad, however, it is not your fault. All beings must die. It is a time to be equanimous.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:01 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:All volitional acts are karma. My view is that we have to weigh for ourselves the kind of karma we are creating by our acts, and what kind of intention we bring to these acts. If to relieve the suffering of a beloved dog and to possibly save his/her life means pulling a tick out of his skin, knowing the tick will die, then by this act of killing the tick(s), we are creating karma. In my view, the karma created by this kind act in saving the dog vastly outweighs the karma of the death of the tick. Kill the bugger....save your dog.

I guess if I suffer rebirth as a tick, I''ll know why. :)


Potentially in other lower realms too.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby m0rl0ck » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:06 pm

Virgo wrote:
cherrytigerbarb wrote:Is it ok to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?

Absolutely not. You should never, ever kill living beings.


What about bacteria? Is it better to let the infected host die? Ever take antibiotics?
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:13 pm

I think Ven. Dhammanando wrote a good post about this. I will see if I can find it and post it. :)

It's not my fault that killing beings is akusala kamma patha. It shows how strong our attachment, self-view, and conceit (edit: and aversion, etc.) are when we become upset that killing ticks on an animal to save it's life may lead us to the lower realms. We are attached to cute creatures, like cats, even though they kill, is there metta or are we attached - do we want to cuddle it? But ugly ones that kill and bite other animals, those little things are devils.

This kind of attitude is natural because we have defilements, but we must realize that we should not be judge and jury, putting one creatures life over another. If it is the vipaka of a dog to die, then so it is... all beings die, humans too. It is easy to be very attached.

I'll see if I can find that post.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:21 pm

http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=202

You have to be a member to read that section of the forum, so I will reprodcue one post from it here:

RobertK wrote:

In ancient times people also
believed that there were microscopic beings. In the Milindapanha
King Milanda asks Venerable Nagesena, if it is true that when we
boil water the reason for it splashing up is that the microscopic
beings in it are writhing in pain. Ven. Nagasensa said this is not
true.
At this time we think we are more knowledgeable, and have science to
tell us what is rupa, what is not. But it is not so easy.
The Visuddhimagga talks about the egg and sperm (in pali of course)
and how after they join consciousness has a base for arising. It is
clear from the passage in the Vis. that sperm and egg are considered
only as rupa, no mentality- they are not alive.
Yet if you have seen pictures of sperm they look like little tadpole
and move about exactly like small tadpole- they appear to be living.
Bacteria and virus are smaller than sperm and much smaller than the
egg. They do not move as much as sperm... So I don't see where there
can be any basis to think they are alive.
Take a tiny drop of bacteria culture, within that there would be
hundreds of thousands of bacteria, or more. Is each one alive, is
each bacteria making kamma? , or is it the whole drop is one living
being, or ...It seems unlikely thus I am sure they are only rupa.
But of course there are no direct references to bacteria and virus
in the Pali.
Robert


There are some other interesting posts related to the topic in the thread.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Feathers » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:27 pm

Personally, I put my pets' well-being above my own kamma - as I see it, that's the duty you take on when you choose to be a pet owner. If you don't want the responsibility, don't have a pet.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Jason » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:30 pm

In these kinds of situations, I agree with BuddhaSoup that we have to weigh for ourselves the kind of kamma we're creating by our acts.

My opinion is that Buddhist morality isn't black and white. Skillful actions are obviously better than unskillful ones, and harming living beings goes against the first precept. But even the Buddha made distinctions between killing a human being and killing insects. It's true that killing is considered an unskillful action, and it's always better to try and avoid harming other living beings when possible; but that doesn't mean we're not going to be put into a situation where we're going to have to make tough decisions. I definitely think part of right action is being proactive and preventing situations where we might have to harm something from arising, as well as being inventive in situations when they do. The most important aspect of any decision, however, is the intention behind it. If our intention is to protect ourselves or others from harm and disease, that's a lot different than killing out of anger or for fun.

In this particular case, I wouldn't go so far as to say that killing fleas or ticks on a pet is OK, but I also don't think it's OK to let a pet suffer either since our intentional non-action is essentially harming them; and we have to make a choice about which is the 'lesser evil.'
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:30 pm

Of course, if you were to remove the bugs from an animals, such as a dog, in order to try and save the dog's life, this would be a process in which an uncountable amount of cittas or various types would arise. The intention to help the dog, when there is metta, is wholesome, and would create wholesome kamma. Intentionally killing any of the bugs, however, would be unwhsolesome, with dosa (killing is always with dosa), and would result in the creation of the unwholesome kamma of killing in relation to those living creatures.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby reflection » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:31 pm

Some already said similar things, but I guess it can't hurt to see some more views. In my eyes the precepts are not black and white. They are guidelines for our behavior. What karma comes down to eventually is not a defined line, but our intention. So while in one case a particular action is not good, in another case the same may be good, depending on the intention. So therefore it is up to us to contemplate and reflect on our actions. That's the best way to learn, not simply following some lines of text just because.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:35 pm

Feathers wrote:Personally, I put my pets' well-being above my own kamma - as I see it, that's the duty you take on when you choose to be a pet owner. If you don't want the responsibility, don't have a pet.

I am sorry, but you do not own the pet. You feed it and give it shelter (and if it is very lucky, you get it good medical treatment).

And I admire that you care for it.

Kevin

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Jason » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:39 pm

Virgo wrote:Of course, if you were to remove the bugs from an animals, such as a dog, in order to try and save the dog's life, this would be a process in which an uncountable amount of cittas or various types would arise. The intention to help the dog, when there is metta, is wholesome, and would create wholesome kamma. Intentionally killing any of the bugs, however, would be unwhsolesome, with dosa (killing is always with dosa), and would result in the creation of the unwholesome kamma of killing in relation to those living creatures.

Kevin


Yes, that's an important point to consider. The commentarial tradition of Theravada posits that the intention to kill itself is inherently unskillful as it's always rooted in an unskillful state of mind such as ill-will or delusion, and ultimately leads to unpleasant results in the form of mental suffering (e.g., as a result of remorse, legal punishment, a bad destination after death for those who believe in such things, etc.). The Abhidhammattha-Sangaha, for example, states that:

    According to Abhidhamma killing is invariably done with ill-will or aversion. Prompted by whatever motive, one, as a rule, kills with a thought of ill-will. Where there is ill-will (patigha) there is displeasure (domanassa). Where there is displeasure there is ill-will in a subtle or gross way.

I don't necessarily agree with this point of view, however, and accept that, in certain situations, it's possible that a person can kill, steal, lie, etc. out of compassion or other skillful (read 'morally blameless) mental states (e.g., helping a sick and dying loved one who wants to end their life, stealing food to help feed a starving child, lying to protect someone from harm, etc.). Whether or not someone agrees with those specific actions, I think they can be motivated by things like compassion, etc. That doesn't mean it's morally right (or even wrong for that matter) in any objective sense, but then, I'm not much of a moral absolutist. What I do think, however, is that the intentions behind our actions can influence how we experience the results of those actions.

Pragmatically speaking, actions are deemed 'unskillful' if they lead to to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both. Actions that don't lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others or to both are deemed 'skillful' (MN 61). Therefore, the distinction between skillful and unskillful actions is based upon how their results are experienced—not only by ourselves, but by others as well. This emphasis on the consequential aspect of actions is similar to Jeremy Bentham's teleological utilitarianism, with John Stuart Mill's idea of higher and lower happiness being similar to the Buddha's distinction between long-term and short-term welfare and happiness.

Psychologically speaking, however, the quality of the intentions behind the actions is what ultimately determines whether they're unskillful or skillful. This aspect is closer to Kant's deontological categorical imperative when combined with the Buddhist principle of ahimsa or harmlessness. Intentional actions rooted in greed, hatred or delusion are said to produce painful mental feelings "like those of the beings in hell," while intentional actions rooted in non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion are said to produce the opposite ("like those of the Beautiful Black Devas"). Then there are acts rooted in both that bring mixed results "like those of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms" (AN 4.235), which I think would be the case here (i.e., killing fleas and ticks being 'dark' and helping to relieve the suffering of a pet being 'bright').

So from the Buddhist point of view, it's not simply the utility of an action that must be taken into consideration, but the motives behind the action as well. Hence I believe that even though sometimes what we think are skillful intentions when breaking the precepts are really selfish and/or unskillful ones, that's not always the case, which I suppose means I agree more with the Mahayanin stance on this issue (e.g., see the Upayakausalya Sutra) than that of the Theravadin Adhidhamma.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Feathers » Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:11 am

Virgo wrote:
Feathers wrote:Personally, I put my pets' well-being above my own kamma - as I see it, that's the duty you take on when you choose to be a pet owner. If you don't want the responsibility, don't have a pet.

I am sorry, but you do not own the pet. You feed it and give it shelter (and if it is very lucky, you get it good medical treatment).

And I admire that you care for it.

Kevin


Technically you may be correct, as in, technically, we don't 'own' anything, but on a more mundane, practical level: most pets don't have the option of leaving. e.g. my rats live in a cage/free range in my room, so if they "decide" I am not caring for them well enough, they're stuck. I decided to take them in, care for them, but also trap them - so it's my responsibility to look after them well. If they got mites, they would be dependent on me treating them (which would involve killing the mites) and I chose to take on the responsibility of care for the rats, so . . .

If I have moral standards that prevent me giving good care to pets, I just shouldn't have pets. Let them go to a home where people will be happy to care for them properly.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Anagarika » Sun Oct 13, 2013 12:23 am

There are just some questions that do not have easy answers. The Buddha himself struggled with a black-and-white approach to the asceticism of his peers, and he nearly died. He understood the capacity of attachment to abject sensuality to also bring about harm, and thus taught the Middle Way. As thoughtful Buddhists, when we look at issues like hospice care and euthanasia, therapeutic abortion, and "just war," we may never agree on the correct approach. The Suttas give us great insight, but the Buddha did not teach on certain issues that are present in modern society. To me, these ethical questions are very interesting, and the hope is that good minds can offer helpful, and even diverse, solutions to people with questions.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:59 am

cherrytigerbarb wrote:Is it ok to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?

What do you mean "is it ok"?
OK with whom or what?

One might ask, "Is it in line with the Buddha's teachings to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?"

Or one might ask, "Is killing always an unwholesome act which leads to suffering? Or is it sometimes a wholesome act which leads to pleasure? Is it ever a wholesome act which leads to peace?"

I have read a lot of scriptures and I have never come across one which says "killing is sometimes a wholesome act". So as far as I can tell, no it is not in line with the Buddha's teachings.

I think if I owned a dog I would feel compelled to keep it safe from ticks and fleas. My choice would be to use a repellant. If there was no such choice, if my only choice was some sort of poison, then I think I would just not own a dog.

If I were to walk in high grass, I would wear long clothes and use repellant.

My point is, I do not think we find ourselves in an unavoidable situation where killing fleas and wasps is the only course of action. If you choose to keep a dog then you also choose everything that comes with it.

I find wasp nests around my home regularly. The thoughts which arise are not ones of compassion for my family. The thoughts which arise are fear for my families well being. Fear, last I checked, is not a wholesome thought. Killing wasps because I fear the pain they might cause my family would not be a wholesome act.

I'm trying to use fake wasp nests to discourage them from building their nests near my house. We'll see how that goes.

Some posts in this thread have suggested killing with a thought of compassion. I don't see how that would work. There might be, in that series of thoughts, a thought of compassion for the animal infested with the ticks, but it is impossible that would be the only thought which arises. There are, in such situations, many different thoughts. At some point there will be the weighing of one life against another, which I'm pretty sure is not a wholesome thought. And there will inevitably have to be the thoughts concerned with the killing itself. The thought "I will end the life of this being" must arise. That I understand to be an unwholesome thought, regardless of what other thoughts preceded it. There seems to be some suggestions in this thread that the killing thought somehow becomes wholesome if it's preceded by other wholesome thoughts. I do not recall reading anything like that in the Buddha's teachings.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:07 am

cherrytigerbarb wrote:Is it ok to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?

I thought of something else. We might ask "Am I OK with killing <insert circumstance here>?" I once heard it said "If you are not OK with it, then don't do it." I think that is sound advice.

I guess the flip side is... if you are OK with it then I'm not sure anything I'm going to say is going to change that.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby cooran » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:52 am

Why not use herbal repellents, rather than pesticides?

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Oct 13, 2013 3:59 am

Virgo wrote:
cherrytigerbarb wrote:Is it ok to kill ticks and fleas if it's to save the life of an infested animal?

Absolutely not. You should never, ever kill living beings.

The fact that the infested animal will die is very sad, however, it is not your fault. All beings must die. It is a time to be equanimous.


Really? What if it was a human being infested with ticks and fleas? Would you let the human die so that you don't accumulate any bad kamma?

Yes, killing is bad, but everything is not all so easy when we have obligations and responsibilities. And size does matter to some extent. The Vinaya makes one such distinction, considering murder (of a human) an offense so serious as to require permanent expulsion from the Sangha (Parajika 3), while killing an animal is a far less serious offence (Pacittiya 62), on a par with insulting someone, idle chatter and having a non-regulation size sitting mat.

Large royal animals are not allowed to be eaten even if offered to monks. Animals and small beings which one does not see but accidentally steps on or kills; there is no offense.

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby cherrytigerbarb » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:57 am

kc2dpt wrote:My point is, I do not think we find ourselves in an unavoidable situation where killing fleas and wasps is the only course of action. If you choose to keep a dog then you also choose everything that comes with it.


In this particular case, the animal had been abandoned and was brought to us as we are an animal rescue. It had already been treated with two kinds of pesticide, but the infestation was so great that the treatment was not working. We made the decision to have further treatment applied and all the ticks physically removed by a vet. The life of the animal was saved and it is now thriving.
"The foolish reject what they see, not what they think. The wise reject what they think, not what they see." - Huang Po.


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