Carrying snails across the gravel path

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Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby a_human_being » Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:43 pm

When I take nature walks I often see snails that are about to, or on their way of, trying to cross the gravel path where I am walking. Since this path most often have people walking, running or biking there, it feels like these snails face a very big risk of (if not even being doomed to) getting smashed on their no doubt hard and draining struggle to cross this dry "desert" to the green grass on the other side. Almost every time I see a snail here, I get an impulse inside telling me that the right thing to do, would be to just stop and pick this snail up and carry it safely to the other side, in the direction it was going, which I quite often do.

No matter how many snails I help this way, I feel guilty for not helping every single snail that I see. Why should I be allowed to differentiate and judge this way based on my sheer laziness to decide not to take every single snail I see across? Which snail deserves to be saved if I can, and which does not? All of them deserves to get safely across. I can't explain it further but my inside tells me: "By helping them across, you help all of us across."

1) Is stopping and picking a snail up and carry it safely across the the gravel path to the other side to prevent it from getting smashed by other people, a skillful, neutral or unskillful act, and why?

2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?

3) Is it unskillful because we ...interrupt ... events unfolding... that is not our business (even if we would like to make it our business) ?

4) If this is skillful, does that mean that ideally we should stop and help EVERY snail across? How do I know where to draw the line? (I guess I should think of "the middle way" here and that helping a few is better than none)

5) What are your other thoughts if any on this?
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Annapurna » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:11 pm

1) Is stopping and picking a snail up and carry it safely across the the gravel path to the other side to prevent it from getting smashed by other people, a skillful, neutral or unskillful act, and why?


I think it is sweet of you! Compassionate. But I often observed that they tend to turn around anyways if the path gets too unpleasant for them, their judgement may not be as poor as we think.

2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?


You don't know for sure, do you? But if it's very likely to happen, since lots of folks trot by, why not, if it makes you feel better.

3) Is it unskillful because we ...interrupt ... events unfolding... that is not our business (even if we would like to make it our business) ?


Well, if you pick it up, you must be part of the 'events unfolding', and the snail is reaping some good karma, to meet you! :smile:

4) If this is skillful, does that mean that ideally we should stop and help EVERY snail across? How do I know where to draw the line? (I guess I should think of "the middle way" here and that helping a few is better than none)


Well, if you miss school, the bus, work, basically damage your own life, to help a less evolved being, then it's probably not so skillful, but if there is nothing better to do...? (Are you sure...?)

5) What are your other thoughts if any on this?


Saving a sentient being out of a danger that it is not aware of is skillful.

If you don't lose other things that may be in your life out of perspective and things stay in proportion, -nice.

Like, -don't get tunnel vision on snails, as they are not an endangered species.

Perhaps your caring nature will be most happy in environmental issues on a larger scale as well, such as creating places in your garden, if you have one, where butterflies find food, on certain plants, etc, and of you meet a little snail, help it across the street as well.

I save snails too...pick them up from the walkway...

I don't want too many in my garden, and so I "help them out". Into a near meadow. ;)

I can't kill any...

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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:27 pm

This reminds me of a benny hill skit. There is an old lady standing on a corner and a rather aged gent in a boy scout uniform comes along and helps (drags) her across the street. All the while the old lady is protesting and hitting him with her umbrella, but he is proud to be doing his good deed.

I dont think i would bother them, maybe if i actually caught one on the path i would move it to the closest side. It doesnt seem as if they have trouble keeping their numbers up tho.

You may be single handedly responsible for introducing the alien abduction meme into local snail culture :)
There is no comfort without pain; thus
we define salvation through suffering.
-- Cato
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:21 am

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.


The snail is a living being and he or she wishes to not suffering. To protect the weak of any species is a wonderful thing to do.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Annapurna » Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:46 am

So beautiful to read. Heart-warming. Thank you for posting!
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Annapurna » Mon Aug 06, 2012 7:46 am

Where from, please? (link?)
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby manas » Mon Aug 06, 2012 11:15 am

Hi ahumanbeing,

while I can relate, as I also rescue animals, insects or molluscs who are in mortal trouble if they happen to come my way, I can't see any justification for feeling guilty that you haven't picked up every single one. If you tried to save every single snail you might have to go around picking them up all day, and this would cut in to time that needs to be spent helping others (not to mention yourself). I'm not saying snails are unimportant - they are living, sensate beings who deserve our consideration & compassion. But while you can stop them from getting squashed today, you can't prevent them being squashed at some later time, and you can't give them wisdom. Their lives are rather limited to fulfilling the natural life of a snail, and that's it.

So I would say, save the ones you have time for, but don't stress when you have to 'leave some behind' for lack of time. Although your intentions are good, sometimes I just tell myself to 'let Nature take it's course' which, if you have watched any Documentaries on the subject, involves the wholesale destruction of many living beings daily, and we just cannot save them all. We need to choose how we can best be of service, how we can most fittingly utilize this precious human birth for our own, and others', benefit.

Having said all that, your kindheartedness is inspiring to hear of.

:anjali:
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Doshin » Mon Aug 06, 2012 12:01 pm

Annapurna wrote:Where from, please? (link?)


I can't tell you, but I quickly found a(nother ?) copy Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha's Words on Loving-kindness on ATI.
Knowing about dhamma, does not imply knowing dhamma
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Annapurna » Mon Aug 06, 2012 1:26 pm

Thank you, Doshin. :anjali:
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Spiny Norman » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:01 pm

a_human_being wrote:2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?


Yes, because it's done with good intention and stems from compassionate awareness.

PS I'm not sure snail-carrying would be a good career choice though ;)
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Annapurna » Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:01 pm

We have a street in the area, crossing an old toad path to a pond, where they mate and lay their eggs.

Each year, a group of environmentalists makes a small fence during that period, where the toads gather and can't cross, and then they get a free transfer into the pond... :thumbsup:
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby marc108 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:32 pm

its great. a great exercise in compassion. it would not be BAD for you not to help them, but it is good for you to help them.

you could make an entire meditation out of it... cultivating compassion towards each snail as you move it, or use these actions while sitting to cultivate compassion. small actions like this are GREAT aids to cultivating the Brahmaviharas.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:47 am

Annapurna wrote:Each year, a group of environmentalists makes a small fence during that period, where the toads gather and can't cross, and then they get a free transfer into the pond... :thumbsup:


I heard about some tunnels being built under a motorway for newts. Cool!
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