Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Dugu
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Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Dugu » Sun Feb 05, 2012 1:41 pm

In the Noble Eightfold path, we are to abstain from taking of lives. In practice I have tried my best to follow this precept. I have avoided stepping on ants. I would catch spiders in my room and release them without harm. It's not hard to abstain from taking of lives in the comfort of our modern day living. But I was just thinking if I had been in a life and death scenario, would I still be able to keep my precept? So I would like to propose this scenario to my fellow Buddhist and ask what would you do? Let's say you crashed landed on a remote island with no edible vegetation except rats and crabs roaming about. And there is no way to survive except to kill these critters for food. Rescue won't come anytime soon. Would you do it or would you allow yourself to starve to death?

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby torqz » Sun Feb 05, 2012 2:12 pm

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby chownah » Sun Feb 05, 2012 2:26 pm

I kill crabs in my rice field every year....rats too occasionally....so I guess I would have no problem eating them.....actually I have eaten them and crabs are much tastier than rats although after eating nothing but crabs for awhile a rat might be refreshing......so do these rats and crabs exist by just eating each other?.....what a bizarre ecosystem :tongue:
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Dugu » Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:15 pm

PeDr0 wrote:If you allow yourself to die, then you are in effect killing yourself.
It seems killing is unavoidable from this perspective, be it the crab or me. If I choose to kill myself out of compassion for other living beings, would I reap good or bad karma? Of course, If I did kill myself through starvation I would also lose my opportunity to seek enlightenment in this life considering a human state is extremely rare. And if I kill to eat, then I will have to bear the karma fruit of intentional killing. Would it come down to choosing the lesser of two evils? I wish I don't have to decide.

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Dugu » Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:26 pm

chownah wrote:I kill crabs in my rice field every year....rats too occasionally....so I guess I would have no problem eating them.....actually I have eaten them and crabs are much tastier than rats although after eating nothing but crabs for awhile a rat might be refreshing......so do these rats and crabs exist by just eating each other?.....what a bizarre ecosystem :tongue:
chownah


I admit I have killed crab in the past before I became a Buddhist. My mom would buy them live from the grocery store and I help her prepare them. Crabs are very tasty. In fact they are my favorite. Now, I buy them from the store that already died. Although, my purchase indirectly links to their killing. I feel a bit guilty for that as well. But I have trouble sticking to totally vegetarian lifestyle. I admire those who can.

The ecosystem isn't that bizarre. The rats eats the insects that lives on the island. The crab surface to land once in while as it's one of their favorite hot spots. :tongue:

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Fede » Sun Feb 05, 2012 4:45 pm

Dugu wrote:In the Noble Eightfold path, we are to abstain from taking of lives. In practice I have tried my best to follow this precept. I have avoided stepping on ants. I would catch spiders in my room and release them without harm. It's not hard to abstain from taking of lives in the comfort of our modern day living. But I was just thinking if I had been in a life and death scenario, would I still be able to keep my precept? So I would like to propose this scenario to my fellow Buddhist and ask what would you do? Let's say you crashed landed on a remote island with no edible vegetation except rats and crabs roaming about. And there is no way to survive except to kill these critters for food. Rescue won't come anytime soon. Would you do it or would you allow yourself to starve to death?


I'm sorry, really I am, but this does irritate me.
These hypothetical scenarios are utterly pointless.

the chances of this kind of incident happening is so remote as to be completely off the scale...unless you're Ray Mears or Bear Grils, it's of little or no consequence, and it certainly doesn't help one way or the other.... how could it, exactly? What kind of insight do you get into your own prwctice by asking other members to answer questions they'll actually probably never have to face....?

It is akin to asking Buddhists whether lying to the Nazis about hiding Jews in your cellar would be 'wrong Speech'....(please don't ask that next!)

Self-defence is both acceptable and commendable, if it is your intention to protect yourself, or loved ones from harm. If possible, react to prevent collateral damage, rather than aiming to kill your aggressor.
Any harm you do bears consequence, so intention is all.
If you intend to kill, his carries a far greater consequence to your Kamma than an intention to prevent.

Even the Qu'ran allows for the eating of pork if your life is at stake.
follow the Precepts and the 8Fold path to the best of your ability, within the circumstance you find yourself actually in.
Goodness knows that's hard enough without inventing improbable situations, which bear no relation to anything directly affecting you at all.
Why strive to answer imaginary questions, when living from day to day is a challenge in itself?

Do no harm.
That includes you.
Do your best.
That's all you can promise.
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Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby santa100 » Sun Feb 05, 2012 5:12 pm

Obviously it's tough to find a perfect solution in this Samsara. In some situation, one's gonna have to pick the lesser of the evils. On a practical standpoint, The first 2 options aren't good: Killing yourself or slowly starve to death: you still commit an act of killing, and you're trading one human life to save a few animal lives. Not only you'd cut off the chance of enlightenment but also what's equally important: the unique potential of a human being to help others. The third option maybe the better one if you do it properly: minimize the suffering of the poor animal by one single decisive blow to its central nervous system. Make a pledge to yourself now that you've owed your life to some creatures, that the moment you're back to the main land, you'll dedicate all your efforts to help many others: contribute your time, effort, and wealth to many charity works to help the sick, the disabled, and the poor..

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Hickersonia » Sun Feb 05, 2012 6:13 pm

santa100 wrote:Obviously it's tough to find a perfect solution in this Samsara. In some situation, one's gonna have to pick the lesser of the evils.

Exactly. Samsara doesn't give us easy, fair options. Life isn't necessarily fair and sometimes there is no winning hand to be played.
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:06 pm

Fede wrote:These hypothetical scenarios are utterly pointless.


Good call.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 05, 2012 7:52 pm

This is from a slightly different context, but with a slight rewording it would apply here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 40#p171065
daverupa wrote: You can get away with it. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. What if we ask, not what can I get away with, but what can I aspire to?"


I don't think the point of Dhamma is to build up a cheat-sheet of answers to hypothetical questions. It is to develop wisdom, to be applied to whatever situation arises.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
MN 58 Abhaya Sutta: To Prince Abhaya
"In that case, prince, I will ask you a counter-question. Answer as you see fit. What do you think: are you skilled in the parts of a chariot?"

"Yes, lord. I am skilled in the parts of a chariot."

"And what do you think: When people come & ask you, 'What is the name of this part of the chariot?' does this line of reasoning appear to your awareness beforehand — 'If those who approach me ask this, I — thus asked — will answer in this way' — or do you come up with the answer on the spot?"

"Lord, I am renowned for being skilled in the parts of a chariot. All the parts of a chariot are well-known to me. I come up with the answer on the spot."

"In the same way, prince, when wise nobles or priests, householders or contemplatives, having formulated questions, come to the Tathagata and ask him, he comes up with the answer on the spot. Why is that? Because the property of the Dhamma is thoroughly penetrated by the Tathagata. From his thorough penetration of the property of the Dhamma, he comes up with the answer on the spot."

:anjali:
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:46 am

Fede, I disagree with your opinion that these scenarios are pointless. In these hypothetical scenarios discussions you can refine your moral beliefs and rules and that can serve as a guiding line for what you do in daily life.

It's easy to put this scenario in a close real world situation though: imagine you have a rat infestation in your house and you have kids. What would you do?
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:12 am

remove the source of food, clean the place up, make it less accessible, and less habitable for them so they go somewhere else.

This is similar to a situation I have experienced, the last thing I thought about was how best to kill them, it was how best to move them on and prevent them getting in.
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Hickersonia » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:27 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:It's easy to put this scenario in a close real world situation though: imagine you have a rat infestation in your house and you have kids. What would you do?

Yes, this is a fair scenario, much akin to mine: in the spring, ants come into our home. Why? I have no idea because they invade a room in which no food is ever present. If left unchecked, after a month or so they eventually make their way to the kitchen (which I keep fairly clean, but we have kids so nothing is ever quite spotless). I guess this is just the nature of ants and we might not be able to expect them to do anything different than this...

I haven't quite figured out what we're going to do in a few months when they start coming in again... but I intend to resist the urge to poison them like we did last year. My wife, on the other hand, may choose to do so in spite of my hesitance. I'm not sure how I feel about that either. :-/

I guess we'll see how we cope when it happens...
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:36 am

Hickersonia wrote:
Modus.Ponens wrote:It's easy to put this scenario in a close real world situation though: imagine you have a rat infestation in your house and you have kids. What would you do?

Yes, this is a fair scenario, much akin to mine: in the spring, ants come into our home. Why? I have no idea because they invade a room in which no food is ever present. If left unchecked, after a month or so they eventually make their way to the kitchen (which I keep fairly clean, but we have kids so nothing is ever quite spotless). I guess this is just the nature of ants and we might not be able to expect them to do anything different than this...

I haven't quite figured out what we're going to do in a few months when they start coming in again... but I intend to resist the urge to poison them like we did last year. My wife, on the other hand, may choose to do so in spite of my hesitance. I'm not sure how I feel about that either. :-/

I guess we'll see how we cope when it happens...


are you going to get a divorce if she does?

if she decides to do it, you can raise concerns but if she does it anyway you don't need to feel bad about it, or help in the matter.

I have heard of this sort of thing a few times from monks who were in Thailand, all they could do was get out of the ants way, and Ajahn Sumedho objected that the army was going around killing the ants, all Ajahn Chah said was 'you can tell them not to do your Kuti if you want', he never did.
but these aren't the same kind of ants most westerners are familiar with.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 06, 2012 1:41 am

Modus.Ponens wrote:It's easy to put this scenario in a close real world situation though: imagine you have a rat infestation in your house and you have kids. What would you do?


I had a very similar situation once, a week before I was due to go overseas and hand over my house to a tenant I discovered I had an infestation of mice.

I didn't have time to undertake measures that might save lives, and if I just left it then it would become the problem of the property manager and the tenant, to me that would just be abdication of responsibility, as the home owner I am responsible to take care of things like this for my tenant. I don't think Buddhism is about trying to dodge every kammic bullet one can and getting someone else to take it for you, it's about taking responsibility.

So I had to do what I'd rather not. I did manage to catch and release one of them though.
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"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Dugu » Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:39 am

Fede wrote:
I'm sorry, really I am, but this does irritate me.
These hypothetical scenarios are utterly pointless.


Yes, I understand your frustration when certain scenarios will not likely be relevant to you. But for me, I am precisely the Ray Mears type of person. I study Bushcraft as I plan to live in remote wilderness for some time and sail the sea. Thus I contemplate worst case scenarios as a means to prepare my journey. And I have wrestle with this scenario for some time as it could very well happen on my trip, so I thought I ask my fellow Buddhist in hope to shed some light on this moral dilemma.

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Hickersonia » Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:50 am

Cittasanto wrote:
Hickersonia wrote:I intend to resist the urge to poison them like we did last year. My wife, on the other hand, may choose to do so in spite of my hesitance. I'm not sure how I feel about that either. :-/

are you going to get a divorce if she does?

No, wouldn't that be chaos! No, I'm simply saying I just don't know how I feel about it.

Cittasanto wrote:if she decides to do it, you can raise concerns but if she does it anyway you don't need to feel bad about it, or help in the matter.

Fair enough way to see it.
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Dugu » Mon Feb 06, 2012 3:09 am

santa100 wrote:Obviously it's tough to find a perfect solution in this Samsara. In some situation, one's gonna have to pick the lesser of the evils. On a practical standpoint, The first 2 options aren't good: Killing yourself or slowly starve to death: you still commit an act of killing, and you're trading one human life to save a few animal lives. Not only you'd cut off the chance of enlightenment but also what's equally important: the unique potential of a human being to help others. The third option maybe the better one if you do it properly: minimize the suffering of the poor animal by one single decisive blow to its central nervous system. Make a pledge to yourself now that you've owed your life to some creatures, that the moment you're back to the main land, you'll dedicate all your efforts to help many others: contribute your time, effort, and wealth to many charity works to help the sick, the disabled, and the poor..


Thanks for your perspective. Yea, in Samsara there is dukkha, there is no way around it unless we reach enlightenment. I guess before we can reach the noble end, our hands will remain dirty. I don't need to go through disaster to devote my life to helping others. I have always enjoy helping others and contribute to charities when opportunities arise, but I don't have any wealth to give. No desire to acquire it. I prefer to live a simple modest life with little possessions.

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Ferox » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:21 am

the OP brings up a very good situation that I struggle with as well being a woodsman and a survivalist. I often think about what if I was lost and had to survive off the land or die.

I also think about home break in self defense type of situations, saving your own life or someone elses life and in the process ending up killing an aggressor. A good discussion so far with some great points brought up.
-just one more being treading the ancient path of Dhamma-

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby sattva » Mon Feb 06, 2012 6:28 am

Dugu wrote:In the Noble Eightfold path, we are to abstain from taking of lives. In practice I have tried my best to follow this precept. I have avoided stepping on ants. I would catch spiders in my room and release them without harm. It's not hard to abstain from taking of lives in the comfort of our modern day living. But I was just thinking if I had been in a life and death scenario, would I still be able to keep my precept? So I would like to propose this scenario to my fellow Buddhist and ask what would you do? Let's say you crashed landed on a remote is./land with no edible vegetation except rats and crabs roaming about. And there is no way to survive except to kill these critters for food. Rescue won't come anytime soon. Would you do it or would you allow yourself to starve to death?


where are the rats? (looking around)
show me the crabs!
Who is starving?
:anjali:


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