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).

Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:53 am

hom many of the survivalists here know it is easier to get flora than fauna? or which is and isn't edible?

there was a 'famine' in Sweden years ago and there was plenty of food, just no one knew what was edible from the land, so now there is still a program teaching people what is. well that is what my brothers Swedish wife told me!

EDIT - I remember that there is also eating natural death, animals who have died from natural causes or by accident, I have been told and I may of misunderstood, that in Sri Lanka meat from a natural death is actually more expensive? possibly because it is not associated with any black Kamma
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:45 am

Dugu wrote: 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 guess rat stew would be OK in an emergency. But it's really about doing the least harm we can, isn't it? Like damage limitation?

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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Fede » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:19 am

Dugu wrote: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.

Ok. well then, fair enough, i can see the relevance, to a certain extent.
But only to a certain extent.

I study Bushcraft as I plan to live in remote wilderness for some time and sail the sea.

if you study bushcraft and know Ray Mears, (Forget the other guy, he's a celeb-survivor....) you will also know that he has two skills which are invaluable:
Knowledge, and Preparation.
He never goes out on a walkabout without adequate supplies of what he knows will be essential. Knives, cooking pots, a flint, condoms - seriously. they're excellent water holders.
I recommend you study as much of his literature as you can, and become knowledgeable on flora and fauna.
even some plants we may not consider edible are extremely nutritious.... and if you're going to sea - then fish.
at least it gives the fish an even chance.....
I would still say however, that the chances of you finding yourself on an island where there are only rats and crabs....(and what are the rats living on? They're scavenging opportunists and go where the going is good..... they'd never survive on a barren island....!).... is a pretty far-fetched idea.

Thus I contemplate worst case scenarios as a means to prepare my journey.

That's a pretty pessimistic outlook.... make a mobile 'phone part of your kit and only ever use it as a complete and total emergency. that would be a good survival strategy.
The worst-case scenario is that you would do whatever it takes to survive. If plane-crash survivors in the Andes can make it by eating their dead fellow-passengers, i don't see where your problem lies.....
By all means plan for the worst. but don't bank on it happening.

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.

And We're telling you - or at least, I am - that it's a singular moral dilemma that only you can answer for yourself, should the situation arise.
and in this day and age, there's no reason why it should.

Very few parts of this globe are remotely and impossibly cut off from possible contact or rescue. And if you choose to go there, you'd deserve everything you got, if you went there with no back-up or without informing anyone of your intentions.... wouldn't you?
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

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 hermitwin » Mon Feb 06, 2012 4:51 pm

Based on your question, it is pretty obvious you
are willing to kill for your own survival.
You havent reached the stage where you
are able to stop killing altogether.
An arahant would never kill, period.
So, if you continue with your practice, maybe some
day, you wont need to ask these hypothetical questions
anymore.


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?
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Bankei » Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:03 am

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



What about the one where you are a transplant surgeon and just happen to be working as a doctor in a small town (maybe an island) with no other medical help. 4 people come in and each has one different organ which is failing and they need a transplant within 2 days or they will die. Then a healthy person walks in for an annual check up. He happens to have the same blood type as the other 4 and his organs and in great shape! What do you do?????????
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Sam Vara » Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:30 am

What is the point of these hypothetical questions?

My answer is that they are a very common way in which some educated people conceive of ethics and test out various scenarios to do with morals. The British philosopher Philippa Foot and what became known as "Trolleyology" is a good example. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

Some people are irritated by this type of approach, but then again many people who have been educated in a particular way have this type of mind-set. They value rules and consistency and the ability to deal with counter-factuals. I don't aspire to this type of ability, but I can see its beauty and utility, and it seems to me to be every bit as useful in itself as the ability to cultivate certain types of faith, for example.
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby Fede » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:36 pm

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



What about the one where you are a transplant surgeon and just happen to be working as a doctor in a small town (maybe an island) with no other medical help. 4 people come in and each has one different organ which is failing and they need a transplant within 2 days or they will die. Then a healthy person walks in for an annual check up. He happens to have the same blood type as the other 4 and his organs and in great shape! What do you do?????????


oh good grief....*slaps head*...
OK. I'll bite....
I give him his check-up and send him on his way.
It's not my job as a surgeon to be a moral compass, and coerce someone into sacrificing their lives for someone else's benefit. That would be unethical.
Neither am I a murderer.
And who's to say they deserve it?
They could be rapists, murderers, alcoholics or wife-beaters....
Jeesh! No-brainer.... :roll:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

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. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby thisisanoldrule » Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:52 pm

Haha, Fede your answer made me laugh.

... I am somewhat uncomfortable with knowing that it's possible I might go see a transplant doctor for a checkup who'd feel tempted to carve me up to save the other 4 people on the table :weep:
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Re: Can killing be acceptable in Buddhism?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Thu Feb 23, 2012 5:22 pm

To kill another animal in order to survive would be done out of clinging to your own life. Instead, why not sit down and meditate on your hunger while realizing the impermanence of living? You could become enlightened right then and there on that island if you confronted your fear and desire instead of breaking a precept in order to stave it off. The bhikkhu Godhika slit his own throat while meditating in order to achieve Nibbana. I think there are far more important things in Buddhism than just keeping yourself alive, even if you aren't enlightened. To place compassion towards a rat over your grasping to your own body would move you ten thousand times further towards dispassion and the mind of an Arahant than giving in to killing in order to escape and go on living.

With that said, I would never imagine criticizing someone who killed an animal in this situation; to not do so would take incredible spiritual development. I'm certain that if I was in that situation, I could not get a rat into my belly fast enough. But that's because of my own clinging and grasping and I'm sure it's not what a Buddha would 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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