The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Training of Sila, the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).

Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Thrylix » Wed Apr 27, 2011 4:15 pm

Justsit wrote:
Thrylix wrote:...I never thought about why I do it it until recently.

Well, now that you've thought about it recently, why do you think you do it?


I'm going to venture a guess that it's a sort of subconscious display of dominance over other beings that I think don't matter. What better way of affirming your dominance over another being than by crushing the life out of it?

I don't think that's true so much now, but I think that might probably the function behind how the habit began. Now it just feels natural.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby ricketybridge » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:49 pm

Thrylix wrote:I'm going to venture a guess that it's a sort of subconscious display of dominance over other beings that I think don't matter. What better way of affirming your dominance over another being than by crushing the life out of it?

I don't think that's true so much now, but I think that might probably the function behind how the habit began. Now it just feels natural.


Now that you're aware of that, I would hope that you can let it go. Not that I'm so sympathetic towards ants (nor do I believe in literal karma and rebirth), but it seems like it's become a subtle sort of craving to you, and as we all know, craving leads to dukkha. (Old-timers, let me know if I'm off base here.) The need for dominance is a need to feed the ego. Both ego and dominance are illusory, and no more so than in this case, where destroying the ants is of absolutely no consequence to your life other than your inner experience of domination.

If you eliminate that need to bolster your ego, then you'll eliminate the desire to destroy the ants (and who knows what other behavior you may be doing, subconsciously for that same reason!).
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Refugee » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:55 pm

ricketybridge wrote: .... .... .... I'd be curious how you guys would deal (or have dealt) with something like a termite infestation... I guess a householder should call an exterminator, right? So as to take care of his assets/family and all, but what about a Buddhist monastery? Do they just let the monastery crumble to the ground?

I try as much as possible not to kill ants and other insects, if at all possible. If ants, flies, tiny lizzards, etc... get into my house, I trap them in my "insect catcher" (see-through plastic bowl and sheet of paper) and deposit them in my garden. I just ignore insects I see outside my house. But when termites attacked my kitchen "built-in" furniture, I sprayed the infested areas with insectcide because there is no way of removing them alive. The same happened when a hord of very tiny ants invaded my kitchen. Try to catch them, you just squash them, or they just disappear into the cupboards and other hidden areas. Also, I am allergic to dust mites - my body itch all over and get red pimple-like eruptions on the skin. Dust mites are too tiny to see. So, I wash linen, curtains, etc... very often and leave them in the sun just so as to kill the dust mites. So, sometimes it's quite difficult to keep the first precept. Sometimes, almost impossible, like avoiding de-worming medicine if you or your family or pets gets infested. Despite all this, we try our best not to kill heedlessly. BTW, calling an exterminator to do the "unwholesome" task does not relieve you of the karmic consequences. I don't think it's very nice to pass the bad karma to others. If it must be done, do it yourself - unless it is a task beyond your capability.
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My practice is simply this: Avoid evil, do good, and purify the mind.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Thrylix » Sat May 14, 2011 4:10 am

All interesting views.

I've thought about all of them. I can't truthfully say I've stopped terrorizing ants, but the comments here made me a bit kinder to smaller lifeforms. Instead of stepping on every individual ant in my vicinity, as I was wont to do a month ago, I give their little anthills a single firm kick or stomp, just because I enjoy viewing the chaos and panic that unfolds at my feet.

I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Reductor » Sat May 14, 2011 4:52 am

If your character improves any more, youll almost be as ethical as my five year old.

Think of that while your knocking down your next hill.

Take care.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Kim OHara » Sat May 14, 2011 4:55 am

Thrylix wrote:All interesting views.

I've thought about all of them. I can't truthfully say I've stopped terrorizing ants, but the comments here made me a bit kinder to smaller lifeforms. Instead of stepping on every individual ant in my vicinity, as I was wont to do a month ago, I give their little anthills a single firm kick or stomp, just because I enjoy viewing the chaos and panic that unfolds at my feet.

I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P

If you're small enough to take pleasure in it, you're smaller than they are.
:namaste:
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby ground » Sat May 14, 2011 4:57 am

Thrylix wrote:I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P


May you experience the peaceful mind resulting from respecting and appreciating other beings.

Kind regards
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby andre9999 » Sat May 14, 2011 3:40 pm

Thrylix wrote:I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P


I doubt anyone here approves. You're a moron. My three year-old knows better than to act so foolishly.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby farmer » Sat May 14, 2011 6:42 pm

In my opinion/experience there is a link between not harming anything and a person's ability to nurture an attitude of universal good will. It isn't easy to develop a desire for all beings to be happy if you have been stomping on anthills. On the other hand, when you have been harmless, and even helpful to other creatures, good will flows naturally.

If you are interested in the karmic consequences of killing small creatures, why don't you do an experiment: resolve to abstain from any gratuitous killing for a month or a year, and watch to see whether the change has any effect. How does it feel to step around an anthill rather than on it? Do people look at you differently? Do you feel differently? Better yet, make a point of doing some small beneficial act for another creature or person every day, and see how that affects you.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun May 15, 2011 7:26 pm

Thrylix wrote:
Justsit wrote:
Thrylix wrote:...I never thought about why I do it it until recently.

Well, now that you've thought about it recently, why do you think you do it?


I'm going to venture a guess that it's a sort of subconscious display of dominance over other beings that I think don't matter. What better way of affirming your dominance over another being than by crushing the life out of it?

I don't think that's true so much now, but I think that might probably the function behind how the habit began. Now it just feels natural.


Its more likely hardwired into the human organism. Insects and arthropods are direct competitors for available food, carry parasites, sting, carry diseases and micro-organisms, and are themselves directly parasitical on the human organism.

From a survival trait standpoint, it would be surprising if there werent an immediate urge to kill small creepy crawlies. You are probably no more personally responsible for this urge than you are for the color of you hair.
Its ridiculous imo to try to even assign responsibility for an instinctive reaction of this kind and there is no agency or deity there to judge us. Karma is not a punishing avenger and there is no god.

That said, just because you have the urge or reaction, doesnt necessarily mean you have to follow thru. Catching your self at it is great, probably means you are paying attention.
There is no comfort without pain; thus
we define salvation through suffering.
-- Cato
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby jackson » Sun May 15, 2011 9:50 pm

Thrylix wrote:All interesting views.

I've thought about all of them. I can't truthfully say I've stopped terrorizing ants, but the comments here made me a bit kinder to smaller lifeforms. Instead of stepping on every individual ant in my vicinity, as I was wont to do a month ago, I give their little anthills a single firm kick or stomp, just because I enjoy viewing the chaos and panic that unfolds at my feet.

I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P



Greetings Thrylix,
I have many thoughts on your situation, hopefully they may be of some help to you. Respectfully, I think you are lacking in empathy and may find it to your and others benefit if you were to develop it a little. It is a skill that can be cultivated and it becomes easier and more natural the more one places oneself in another beings shoes. You could start by trying to feel the terror an ant feels as they try to escape being crushed, and as they watch other members of their colony die, just think of a time when you were terrified and try and relate it to what the ant may be feeling. Or you could think of an ant that has had a few of its limbs crushed but is still alive, visualize the feeling they have as they desperately try to walk, only to find that their body no longer functions the way they would like it to. You could think of a time where perhaps you had a broken bone or sprained joint, where you weren't able to function as you could in the past and the frustration that may have caused you. You could even relate to their anger as the home they worked so hard to build comes under attack, just think of how painful anger can be and how much hurt it causes the world. Anyway, I think you may find that if you get better at relating to others that you will naturally avoid causing harm to any being because you know how painful the hurt can be.

When I was a little boy I remember I was pestering a fly in a window, it kept trying to get away from me, until finally it flew straight into my face for a few seconds and then flew off. That memory left a strong impression on my mind. Years later I noticed a spiderweb in my bathroom, with either no spider, or a dead spider and there was a beetle trapped in the web. I freed it from the web and it flew up onto my shoulder, and I walked through my bedroom, through the living room, through the kitchen, and out the back door and then it flew off into the night. The reason I mention these two incidents is because they made me question what I thought about insects, perhaps there's more to them than most people believe, perhaps they even have unique personalities, but then we can only speculate.

Anyway, I'm reminded of the Buddha's saying "If you truly loved yourself you would never harm another." I think of the times I've caused others harm and realize that in doing so I harmed myself, the memories can be painful to recall, especially since my empathy has increased. Anyway I say this because one day you may look back on this period of your life and feel guilt, shame, and remorse for showing such disregard for life, but the choice is yours whether or not you continue to cause unnecessary harm. Bad habits can be hard to break, but once broken you can look back on them with a sense of relief that you're no longer caught in them.
Best wishes, :smile:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Digity » Mon May 16, 2011 1:54 am

Thrylix wrote:All interesting views.

I've thought about all of them. I can't truthfully say I've stopped terrorizing ants, but the comments here made me a bit kinder to smaller lifeforms. Instead of stepping on every individual ant in my vicinity, as I was wont to do a month ago, I give their little anthills a single firm kick or stomp, just because I enjoy viewing the chaos and panic that unfolds at my feet.

I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P


Quit being a jerk.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 16, 2011 12:56 pm

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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby icyteru » Fri May 27, 2011 4:01 pm

of course there will be karmic consequence, but it will be less than killing a human.
don't do it ever again.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Thrylix » Tue May 31, 2011 10:31 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
Its more likely hardwired into the human organism. Insects and arthropods are direct competitors for available food, carry parasites, sting, carry diseases and micro-organisms, and are themselves directly parasitical on the human organism.

From a survival trait standpoint, it would be surprising if there werent an immediate urge to kill small creepy crawlies. You are probably no more personally responsible for this urge than you are for the color of you hair.
Its ridiculous imo to try to even assign responsibility for an instinctive reaction of this kind and there is no agency or deity there to judge us. Karma is not a punishing avenger and there is no god.That said, just because you have the urge or reaction, doesnt necessarily mean you have to follow thru. Catching your self at it is great, probably means you are paying attention.



I think you may be on to something. It seems like you are solving a problem, when you swat a fly or step on a spider. At least that's how I usually viewed it.

I realize that holds true only when eliminating pests, but that motive is there all the same even when the insect is minding its own business. It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby ground » Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:28 am

Thrylix wrote:It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?


Children sqash insects too. Perhaps they also like them. However there may be this utter lack of respect (or sort of "empathy") for what is other than oneself but a living being nevertheless. What children however do not is using their intellect to justify this utter lack.
It is strange that for some the intellect supports respect and empathy and for others its the opposite. So there seems to be a basic inclination either this way or the other. This certainly is not inherent in persons as "a given" but develops depending on the person's animate and inanimate environment.
Worldly ethics has no ground other than ego-centrism in the context of worldly rules. If there are no worldy rules that apply then there is no logical rationale for ethical conduct. There may be an experiential ground for ethical conduct but I would not assign this to the worldy sphere.

An extreme example:
E.g. Nazi facism did not prohibit and punish mistreating or even killing certain human beings. Therefore for many there was no rationale (no wordly rules applicable) to refrain from mistreating or killing these beings.


Kind regards
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Pārasamgate » Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:50 am

Thrylix wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:
Its more likely hardwired into the human organism. Insects and arthropods are direct competitors for available food, carry parasites, sting, carry diseases and micro-organisms, and are themselves directly parasitical on the human organism.

From a survival trait standpoint, it would be surprising if there werent an immediate urge to kill small creepy crawlies. You are probably no more personally responsible for this urge than you are for the color of you hair.
Its ridiculous imo to try to even assign responsibility for an instinctive reaction of this kind and there is no agency or deity there to judge us. Karma is not a punishing avenger and there is no god.That said, just because you have the urge or reaction, doesnt necessarily mean you have to follow thru. Catching your self at it is great, probably means you are paying attention.



I think you may be on to something. It seems like you are solving a problem, when you swat a fly or step on a spider. At least that's how I usually viewed it.

I realize that holds true only when eliminating pests, but that motive is there all the same even when the insect is minding its own business. It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?


Why not do yourself a favor and try to cultivate empathy for those ants with an eye to improving yourself? Why not try and exercise compassion with the understanding that if you can achieve a true feeling of compassion for these tiny creatures it will likely make you that much more compassionate toward your fellow human beings?

Compassion is a virtue. Empathy is a virtue. Do you agree? If so, then why not strengthen those virtues in yourself? You exercise your physical body to improve your physical well being, why not exercise your emotional faculties to improve your emotional well being?

So you see exercising compassion to those tiny ants is actually of benefit - not just for the ants - but for you yourself!
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Thrylix » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:45 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Thrylix wrote:It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?


Children sqash insects too. Perhaps they also like them. However there may be this utter lack of respect (or sort of "empathy") for what is other than oneself but a living being nevertheless. What children however do not is using their intellect to justify this utter lack.
It is strange that for some the intellect supports respect and empathy and for others its the opposite. So there seems to be a basic inclination either this way or the other. This certainly is not inherent in persons as "a given" but develops depending on the person's animate and inanimate environment.
Worldly ethics has no ground other than ego-centrism in the context of worldly rules. If there are no worldy rules that apply then there is no logical rationale for ethical conduct. There may be an experiential ground for ethical conduct but I would not assign this to the worldy sphere.

An extreme example:
E.g. Nazi facism did not prohibit and punish mistreating or even killing certain human beings. Therefore for many there was no rationale (no wordly rules applicable) to refrain from mistreating or killing these beings.


Kind regards


I empathize with humans. I find it unnatural to empathize with ants. The rationale of "I do it because I can" might be the one used by bullies, and it holds true somewhat. Does that mean I view bugs as less significant than me? Well, yeah I guess I do. But is that necessarily untrue? Compared to them, I'm a giant.
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:18 am

Thrylix wrote:I empathize with humans. I find it unnatural to empathize with ants. The rationale of "I do it because I can" might be the one used by bullies, and it holds true somewhat. Does that mean I view bugs as less significant than me? Well, yeah I guess I do. But is that necessarily untrue? Compared to them, I'm a giant.

Hi, thrylix,
It doesn't look like you have learned anything at all in the nine months since your OP here. That makes me wonder why you're back - just to poke the Buddhist ant-hill again and watch the silly little critters run round in circles trying to work out what happened?
Seriously, you are welcome if you want to learn, but if you say what you said before you'll only get the responses you got before.

:namaste:
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Postby manas » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:24 am

Hi again, thrylix, good to see you still around. But I think your original post has been exhaustively dealt with already...what more do you wish to know?

Killing living beings, who (like us) feel pain and/or want life and fear death, is wrong, whether that being is an ant, a dog or a human. Sure, the more complex the nervous and emotional system is, the more suffering you cause and the worse the kamma is, but that doesn't mean that even the tiniest creatures are unworthy of our compassion. It's actually such a basic knowledge (and an important one) that I suggest you reflect on it, study it, imbibe it, and live by it, asap. This will be for your long term benefit, and will also spare many other beings needless pain and suffering. Some things really are just that simple.

There is a 'discovering theravada' forum, I believe, if you go there you might find info relating to such very basic, yet crucial, points of dhamma. Might be worth visiting.

In peace.
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