Helping Sentient Beings?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby aumbrock » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:38 am

A question arose in my mind after caring for several crickets my roommate is keeping in his room to (eventually) feed to his pet lizard. I had noticed they were not eating the specified "cricket food" my roommate put in their aquarium, and with no alternative sources for food or water, several had subsequently died. I brought the remaining little guys leaves and water soaked in a paper towel and all of them almost immediately began eating and drinking! I imagined they were pretty happy. So my question is this: Does taking a sentient being, insect or otherwise, away from otherwise hostile conditions (in nature, or in this case already in captivity) and giving them optimal conditions ultimately help them towards obtaining rebirth as a higher form? My guess is that in this case, it would- but if I were to take a sentient being from a harmful situation in nature away from that harm and give it optimal causes and conditions for happiness, is that really a good thing or should nature "run its course?" Can we, as conscious beings, really intervene and assist other less-conscious beings on their path? Or do beings need to suffer at the hand of nature to evolve in consciousness? Thanks for your input! :namaste:
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Feb 16, 2010 2:11 am

As a wild guess, I would say that this sort of questioning is pretty speculative and what the Buddha advised against.

Instead just caring and paying attention, helping out where you can and being there with it when you can't, is the best approach and I suspect will be best for the crickets too.

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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby appicchato » Tue Feb 16, 2010 3:03 am

I would agree with Dan...if a living being can be helped, help...not just 'stand by...'

ps. I believe in this case it's a terrarium...not aquarium... :smile:
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby baratgab » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:17 pm

appicchato wrote:I would agree with Dan...if a living being can be helped, help...not just 'stand by...'

ps. I believe in this case it's a terrarium...not aquarium... :smile:


:thumbsup:

Also, I have a distinctive feeling that one can directly "help" other, non-human sentient beings; mainly birds and mammals. Not by words, but simply by exemplary conduct: conditioning them to skillful habit patterns like calmness (though, I often feel that in this respect maybe we, modern people, are the ones who should learn from the wild animals). Even with humans, I think that this form of teaching can often be more effective than speaking. In the case of speaking, one has to deal with all that rubbish of the mind, debating and explaining... and the end of the day, what we mainly want to influence are just, similarly, their inclinations. Or am I wrong? :?

By the way, are there any others who have seen dogs who seemingly acted in a way that is very similar to their guardian's conduct? For example, old woman's dogs who seemed interestingly timid, slow and hesitating... :smile:
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby appicchato » Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:24 pm

baratgab wrote:I often feel that...maybe we, modern people, are the ones who should learn from the wild animals).


(Ahem)...Amen...
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby aumbrock » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:16 am

Thanks for the replies. I know this instance is very speculative and may seem unimportant when contrasted with all the "human issues" we are facing now, but as I see it, the intention with which we interact with all beings - even in the smaller ways - ripples out into greater effects through time, especially when you apply that ripple theory to how our intentions change through our interactions. That is why I feel nothing should be left out in noticing how and why we relate to others sharing this system of life. It could be crickets now, but maybe a species facing extinction tomorrow. Almost undoubtedly our role here towards other species will evolve as our consciousness evolves...
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby aumbrock » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:25 am

I have a distinctive feeling that one can directly "help" other, non-human sentient beings; mainly birds and mammals. Not by words, but simply by exemplary conduct: conditioning them to skillful habit patterns like calmness


I'm glad you mentioned this! I absolutely agree. An owner of a dog (even some birds I've met!) who is agitated, anxious and hostile tends to inadvertently transmit those same qualities in the animal. It seems animals really sense more the energy of the person rather than nonsensical words they are saying to them. Likewise, if you've ever traveled in a country where your language isn't understood, your body language, expressions, and how you carry yourself can have a lot of sway in how you are received by other people. Or even with a younger child who can't speak yet- they still react to how you "exemplify" behavior! If you pay attention to these things, I think it can have a lot of effect in how communicative you are... silence and nonreactive-ness *can* in a way, communicate dhamma in the right context.
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:28 am

Greetings aumbrock,

What you say is, by and large, pretty accurate.

Just be careful not to turn this "ripple theory" into some sort of metaphysical hocus pocus.

Better to stick with what the Buddha taught, and what can be observed here-and-now... namely that wholesome mindstates (generosity, lovingkindness, wisdom) are conducive to pleasant results, and that unwholesome mindstates (greed, aversion, delusion) are conducive to unpleasant results.

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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby Dan74 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:52 am

aumbrock wrote:the intention with which we interact with all beings - even in the smaller ways - ripples out into greater effects through time, especially when you apply that ripple theory to how our intentions change through our interactions. That is why I feel nothing should be left out in noticing how and why we relate to others sharing this system of life.


:thumbsup:

For me (and perhaps for you too) the important thing is to stay with the interaction and not drift off into theories about it (like retro says). The trouble with theories like this is that they tend to distract us from what we are doing right now and end up appropriating positive impulses as another feather in (ego's) cap rather than genuine compassionate action.
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby aumbrock » Wed Feb 24, 2010 6:10 am

Thank you for the advice. My mind certainly does love to try to capture nature and reality into worded concepts and theories for purposes of intellectual understanding or interpretation, which perhaps can lead my attention away from the formless, unexplainable present. Although, dhamma as the Buddha taught is formed and conditioned to lead to the formless, unconditioned. As depeche mode put it, "words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm..." haha :thanks: :heart:
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby Clueless Git » Thu Feb 25, 2010 9:12 am

aumbrock wrote:Does taking a sentient being, insect or otherwise, away from otherwise hostile conditions (in nature, or in this case already in captivity) and giving them optimal conditions ultimately help them ...

'Lo aumbrock :)

My personal observation is that no sentient being, insect or otherwise, chooses captivity, under any condition, over the 'hostilities' that come with the freedom to follow it's nature.
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Re: Helping Sentient Beings?

Postby Stuart » Sun Mar 07, 2010 7:22 pm

aumbrock :anjali:

aumbrock wrote:So my question is this: Does taking a sentient being, insect or otherwise, away from otherwise hostile conditions (in nature, or in this case already in captivity) and giving them optimal conditions ultimately help them towards obtaining rebirth as a higher form?


My understanding is: No - The crickets previous karma is responsible for landing it in the position of being cared for by a nice, kind, Dhamma Wheel contributor in the present - it's present karma (along with past karma) is responsible for the crickets future rebirths.

aumbrock wrote:My guess is that in this case, it would- but if I were to take a sentient being from a harmful situation in nature away from that harm and give it optimal causes and conditions for happiness, is that really a good thing or should nature "run its course?" Can we, as conscious beings, really intervene and assist other less-conscious beings on their path? Or do beings need to suffer at the hand of nature to evolve in consciousness? Thanks for your input! :namaste:


You seem to be saying that you are outside of nature, but I would say that you, your compassion and your kindness are all part of nature. Of course, we have to be very careful that what we are doing (or about to do) is best for the creature and not what is best for ourselves or what we think would be best for the creature.

I think that the Buddha advised that when we make decisions we should not act out of personal desire, ill will, lack of knowledge on the subject or fear.

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