How bad is killing a mosquito?

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

How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby DeeHarry » Sun Sep 26, 2010 7:58 am

Ok, before anyone gets any ideas let me explain. I killed a mosquito that was roaming around my 2 yo son and everyone jumped. The conversation went something like this:

Others: You shouldn’t have done that as a Buddhist. You should have used some preventive method.

Me: Isnt it the thought that matters? I didn’t wake up in the morning thinking I was going to kill a mosquito. In fact I didn’t think about it at all, up until the point that mosquito appeared around my son.

Others: You thought of killing it, You acted to kill it and carried out an action to do so. So your bad Karma is complete.

Me: My sole thought was to protect my son. And in my opinion that is my responsibility. If I didn’t do it I think I would be doing bigger crime. So it is correct in my book.

I can understand their side of it, but what about my side ?
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby cooran » Sun Sep 26, 2010 8:59 am

Hello DeeHarry, all,

There isn’t any wiggle room in Buddhism … the deliberate knowing killing another being is just that, and will have its results. The mosquito in this re-becoming, may well have been a human in a previous birth….

Getting The Message … Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ssage.html

Vipaka Sutta … Results
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

There was a previous thread on this subject:
About not kill any living being
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=4893

with metta
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Sep 26, 2010 11:43 am

Using a bit of common sense it is clear that killing a mosquito in this situation is not a serious misdemeanor (and hopefully our Dhamma/Dharma isn't divorced from common sense).

From what I understand intention is the key. Your prime intention was to avoid harm to your son, not to cause harm to the mosquito. Still you disregarded the mosquito's life in the process. That's where from what I can tell, the bad karma lies. But rather than agonizing over it and its results which we can't know, better simply to cultivate respect for all life.

This will surely yield good karmic fruits!

Mosquitos, simple as they may be, are alive, look for food, have babies, suffer in some ways and probably have rudimentary feelings. I found it useful to reflect how similar we are to all creatures and how we share this earth and its ecosystem.

For what it's worth I was in the same situation probably 4 years ago and it was my 3-year-old son (rather than Buddhist friends) who didn't let me live it down. So mosquitoes have since been trapped gently and released! :smile:
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Lazy_eye » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:31 pm

Excellent post, Dan!

While killing is never the right thing to do, there are passages in the scriptures which indicate -- at least to me -- that common sense applies and the weight of the kamma depends on the person's intent and overall frame of mind. In general, the suttas talk about those who are "murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings", and the Vipaka Sutta cited by Cooran above mentions "the taking of life — when indulged in, developed, & pursued". Most people are prone to impatience or anger in some situations; this doesn't make us 'murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows", etc.

I doubt that swatting a mosquito, out of an instinctive response to protect one's son, is on the same moral level as deliberately and cruelly setting out to inflict harm. It's still the taking of a life, though, and our willingness to kill the mosquito indicates that at some level we don't consider it worthy of our care and attention. None of us are perfect, so probably not something to agonize over -- more, like Dan suggested, an opportunity to rethink our behavior and look for more wholesome alternatives.
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby cooran » Sun Sep 26, 2010 1:37 pm

And yet another thread:

Hurting mosquito
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=5251&view=unread
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:19 pm

Hi again,

I just happened to be listening this afternoon to a talk by Bhikkhu Bodhi that touched on this issue (he gave the example of someone who swats an insect that is about to bite an infant), and I thought his remarks might be worth mentioning here. He points out that there is bright kamma, dark kamma and mixed kamma.

Choosing to kill a mosquito is obviously "dark kamma", but the intention to protect a child is "bright kamma", and so the situation is mixed. Whether it's more on the dark or bright side probably depends on the weight of intention -- i.e., if you weren't strongly motivated by a desire to kill the critter, but rather were just trying to get it away from a vulnerable toddler, then the kamma wouldn't be so negative.

By contrast, there are those who would use the kid mainly as an excuse for striking out at the insect. And my guess is that if you or i were to kill a mosquito just to protect ourselves from being bitten, it would be mostly dark kamma since the intention is selfish.

Just to throw that out there... It's in the "Ox-Duty Ascetic" sutta, in case you'd like to go back to the source.

LE
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby cooran » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:22 pm

Hello LE,

There were many other choices which could have been made. Simply catching the l'il fella in a computer disc case (or cupped hands) and releasing it outside springs to mind. Wearing repellents in a mosquito prone area is another.

with metta
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 28, 2010 8:34 pm

cooran wrote:Hello LE,

There were many other choices which could have been made. Simply catching the l'il fella in a computer disc case (or cupped hands) and releasing it outside springs to mind. Wearing repellents in a mosquito prone area is another.

with metta
Chris


Yes, absolutely. You're quite right. But the OP asked about the karmic implications, so it seemed worth mentioning that there is such a thing as mixed kamma.

There might be situations, too, where an insect or other animal is carrying a lethal disease and the primary intention is to protect public health. "Mixed" situations seem to be common in the human realm.

I had an experience yesterday with non-violent wasp removal! :shock:
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:45 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I had an experience yesterday with non-violent wasp removal! :shock:

Most wasps are actually non-violent, as are most spiders.
Leave them room to move and they won't bother anyone.
Be reasonable: would *you* willingly attack something 10,000 or 100,000 times your size if you had any other option?
The trick, of course, is to leave them room to move when they have gotten into what we reckon is the wrong place.
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Not bothering anyone - and doesn't want to :smile:
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby DeeHarry » Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:23 am

Hello Everyone,

Thank you for all your posts. I am not sure how many of you are born Bhuddists. I am and everyone I have been talking to is, but this post has been more enlighting that any hours of conversation I have been having on the subject. Thank you all so much. I get the point now. And yes it does help to reflect on being a human being.
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby ground » Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:36 am

cooran wrote:Hello DeeHarry, all,

There isn’t any wiggle room in Buddhism … the deliberate knowing killing another being is just that, and will have its results. The mosquito in this re-becoming, may well have been a human in a previous birth….


I concur.

The only thing to do is to regret form the depth of one's heart, openly admit one's misdeed, practice the teachings as never did before and consequently abstain from any further killing in the future.

The worst thing to do is to justify or seek justifications.

kind regards
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby ground » Sat Oct 02, 2010 5:52 am

If I may add how it is defined in my tradition:

Killing comprises:
1. The "basis" which is another living sentient being
2. The "thought" which covers correct perception of this other being, the motivation to kill and the accompanying obscuring affliction.
3. The "performance" which is the deed of killing
4. The "culmination" which is the result of oneself being alive and the other being being killed and the awareness of that.

This is full-fledged killing.

Killing that is not full-fledged may be done e.g. unconsciously or the like.

kind regards
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby fabianfred » Sat Oct 02, 2010 9:47 am

Rather than start a new thread...can I ask here.....
A fellow monk told me that masturbation is wrong because we are killing living beings (sperm)...but I thought only sentient beings were considered..... and I thought sperm would be like viruses or microbes which are not classed as sentient.
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Sat Oct 02, 2010 10:52 am

Hi Fabianfred,As far as my understanding is rebirth in the human realm would take place at the point where the sperm and the egg come together and not before hand.I mean there was an add in Britain that had a Tibetan monk blowing his nose with some kind of anti bacterial wipe and as the voice over says something about this wipe killing x amount of germs the monk gets a guilty look on his face.Anyway the act of killing involves intent.The thought"I am going to kill this must be present".
I am not sure this thought is going through the average guys mind as he is busy :quote: spanking the monkey. :quote:
:focus: If where you live then the mozzie may be carrying malaria or dengue fever,in this case while it may still be unskilful to kill the mozzie your intention may have been to protect the child and not to kill the critter.If you don't live in a country with these diseases then catching the little critter and taking it outside it definately the way to go.
P.S Fred got your PM thanks
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Annapurna » Sat Oct 02, 2010 11:40 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
I doubt that swatting a mosquito, out of an instinctive response to protect one's son, is on the same moral level as deliberately and cruelly setting out to inflict harm. It's still the taking of a life, though, and our willingness to kill the mosquito indicates that at some level we don't consider it worthy of our care and attention. None of us are perfect, so probably not something to agonize over -- more, like Dan suggested, an opportunity to rethink our behavior and look for more wholesome alternatives.


Hi, Lazy eye.

Buddhist Practice wipes out instinctive automatisms.

If they are instincts. I think they are 'learned reflexes' and as such, can be unlearned. :toilet:
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Sanghamitta » Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:52 pm

TMingyur wrote:
cooran wrote:Hello DeeHarry, all,

There isn’t any wiggle room in Buddhism … the deliberate knowing killing another being is just that, and will have its results. The mosquito in this re-becoming, may well have been a human in a previous birth….


I concur.

The only thing to do is to regret form the depth of one's heart, openly admit one's misdeed, practice the teachings as never did before and consequently abstain from any further killing in the future.

The worst thing to do is to justify or seek justifications.

kind regards

The idea that a mosquito has been a human being in a previous birth, or that a mosquito has been a mosquito, or a human being a human being in previous births... is completely at odds with the concept of Punarbhava as found in the Suttas.
It is in fact a variation of the idea of an atta.
The kammic implications of intentional killing are not made more clear by an over simplistic presentation of kamma vipaka and punarbhava. Neither are the moral aspects which underpin the First Precept. And it is vital that the morality which underpin the precepts is understood in their complexity. Not reduced to easily digested formulae.
The subtle teachings of the Buddha are ill served by reducing them to nursery tales.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby bodom » Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:08 pm

The idea... is completely at odds with the concept of Punarbhava as found in the Suttas.


Why?

"Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me. "This is the greater: the blood you have shed from having your heads cut off while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time, not the water in the four great oceans."The blood you have shed when, being cows, you had your cow-heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans."The blood you have shed when, being water buffaloes, you had your water buffalo-heads cut off... when, being rams, you had your ram-heads cut off... when, being goats, you had your goat-heads cut off... when, being deer, you had your deer-heads cut off... when, being chickens, you had your chicken-heads cut off... when, being pigs... - SN 15.13


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby bodom » Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:16 pm

It seems from this sutta and others that the Buddha had no qualms about speaking of rebirth in mundane terms. If we have been goats, sheep, cows, as the Buddha clearly and explicitly states, why not a mosquito?

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Sanghamitta » Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:24 pm

Because Bodom what the Buddha is describing is a series of arisings due to kamma vipika....not a discrete entity which becomes another discrete entity.
There may indeed be kammic implications in intentional killing...but that does not mean that one sentient being BECOMES another sentient being. Rather that conditions arise in accord with kamma , and that those conditions may be both impossible to predict and varied.
This is not simply a matter of semantics. It goes to the heart of the Buddhas actual teaching on Punarbhava that sets it apart from the ideas of Hindu reincarnation.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Postby Sanghamitta » Sat Oct 02, 2010 4:26 pm

bodom wrote:It seems from this sutta and others that the Buddha had no qualms about speaking of rebirth in mundane terms. If we have been goats, sheep, cows, as the Buddha clearly and explicitly states, why not a mosquito?

:anjali:

We havent. and he doesnt.
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