Some advice needed please

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Ben
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Re: Some advice needed please

Post by Ben »

Hi poto

Yes, in this part of the world we see lots of whale and dolphin beachings. Whether they are the result of intentional action or the result of getting lost and trapped on shallow tidal flats - I don't know. I'm inclined towards the latter rather the former but I'm not a veterinarian or animal behaviouralist.
But I do know of family pets going away somewhere quiet to die. I tend to think that is the result of them suffering acute illness and trying to find a quiet comfortable place.
kind regards
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Mukunda
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Re: Some advice needed please

Post by Mukunda »

Pannapetar wrote:But what about the other argument of Adosa? He doesn't want to kill his cat; he wants to prevent senseless physical suffering. May the kamma theoretician evaluate that kind of intention please... I think euthanasia is acceptable under certain circumstances and the conditions that Adosa has described certainly fall into that category.

Things are rarely as simple as people would like to have them. The precepts are simple, but the specifics are tricky, including the first precept.

For example, what about killing millions and billions of bacteria, when you take antibiotics? What about killing pests? What about killing plants and insects for the purpose of establishing our habitat and providing food for ourselves? What about operating a vehicle that kills insects and risks accidents with mammals? Like it or not, there is no zero killing mode of life available to us. All life forms compete with each other and to a certain degree our life depends on denying other life forms.
I think you are confusing motivation with intent. Kamma is about intent, not motivation.

If one's intent is to take life, even if the motivation is to prevent or ease suffering, and they end that being's biological functions, they have engaged in the unwholesome kamma of killing. It really is that simple.

My experience is things are simple and run surprisingly well when I follow the precepts to the very best of my understanding and ability. When I try to carve out exceptions to make them more convenient to my personal likes and dislikes is when things start getting complicated and very confused.

When I take antibiotics, my intent is healing illness, not taking life. I do my very best to not intentionally kill pests (which is often a challenge, as I am an avid gardener). I do not eat meat or other animal products, so no killing there. Insects and other creatures are certainly killed in the cultivation of crops I eat, I'm sure I've accidentally killed insects by mindlessly stepping on them, and I have accidentally hit animals driving. But none of these actions involve INTENT. No intent, no kamma.
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Pannapetar
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Mukunda wrote:I think you are confusing motivation with intent. Kamma is about intent, not motivation.
Can you explain the difference between motivation and intent?

Although I have personally never found it necessary to kill a pet in order to prevent unnecessary suffering, I can imagine extreme scenarios where this might be the case. The intention/motivation is in this case -by definition- not to kill but to prevent unnecessary suffering.
Mukunda wrote:When I try to carve out exceptions to make them more convenient to my personal likes and dislikes is when things start getting complicated and very confused.
I could turn this around and argue that applying the precepts blindly is much more convenient. After all, it allows you to avoid deciding complicated issues by yourself. It is my conviction (and my experience) that it is impossible to phrase absolutely true moral statements that remain valid in all situations. However, it is possible to phrase moral statements that are true in almost all cases. The precepts are good examples. They are excellent advice in almost all situations, but they cannot replace wisdom.
Mukunda wrote:When I take antibiotics, my intent is healing illness, not taking life. I do my very best to not intentionally kill pests (which is often a challenge, as I am an avid gardener).
I am sorry, but in the case of antibiotics, "healing illness" means "killing germs". I think you are contradicting yourself, because you stated before: "If one's intent is to take life, even if the motivation is to prevent or ease suffering, [...] they have engaged in the unwholesome kamma of killing. It really is that simple." You can't have it both ways, Mukunda. If the intention determines kamma and if the intention is to prevent/ease suffering then that is what determines the kamma, isn't it?

And since you like gardening, you can probably understand that by the very act of gardening, you prefer certain life forms over other life forms, which involves killing and denying life. To maintain a lawned garden, for example, regular mowing is required which kills insects. You also need to remove weeds which means you advantage one plant species over others, and you would probably neither want to allow aphids, mold, or mealy bugs to take over your garden.

Cheers, Thomas
Mukunda
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Pannapetar wrote:Can you explain the difference between motivation and intent?
Mukunda wrote:When I try to carve out exceptions to make them more convenient to my personal likes and dislikes is when things start getting complicated and very confused.
I could turn this around and argue that applying the precepts blindly is much more convenient. After all, it allows you to avoid deciding complicated issues by yourself. It is my conviction (and my experience) that it is impossible to phrase absolutely true moral statements that remain valid in all situations. However, it is possible to phrase moral statements that are true in almost all cases. The precepts are good examples. They are excellent advice in almost all situations, but they cannot replace wisdom.
Mukunda wrote:When I take antibiotics, my intent is healing illness, not taking life. I do my very best to not intentionally kill pests (which is often a challenge, as I am an avid gardener).
I am sorry, but in the case of antibiotics, "healing illness" means "killing germs". I think you are contradicting yourself, because you stated before: "If one's intent is to take life, even if the motivation is to prevent or ease suffering, [...] they have engaged in the unwholesome kamma of killing. It really is that simple." You can't have it both ways, Mukunda. If the intention determines kamma and if the intention is to prevent/ease suffering then that is what determines the kamma, isn't it?

And since you like gardening, you can probably understand that by the very act of gardening, you prefer certain life forms over other life forms, which involves killing and denying life. To maintain a lawned garden, for example, regular mowing is required which kills insects. You also need to remove weeds which means you advantage one plant species over others, and you would probably neither want to allow aphids, mold, or mealy bugs to take over your garden.

Cheers, Thomas
Intent is the plan of action. Motivation is WHY you plan the action.

I don't "blindly" follow the precepts. I see the wisdom in applying them and the problems that arise when they are not followed.

Healing illness is healing illness. Taking life is taking life. Because the two happen to coincide in the case of taking antibiotics does not mean they are the same thing. When I take antibiotics, my intention is taking a pill, my motivation is to feel better and be healthy. I do not set out to kill microbes.

I realize that my activities often have a negative impact on other life forms, and I strive to do all I can to minimize that impact. But the intent of mowing the grass is to cut the grass, and while other beings may be in the way, I did not set out to mow insects. Accidents are accidents, NOT kamma. Mold is not a sentient being, so I have no problem in treating for it. I do not use insecticides however. Since I do not use insecticides, beneficial insects usually keep the more harmfully ones in check.

Not all cause and effect is kamma. Kamma is volition (intent).
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cooran
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Re: Some advice needed please

Post by cooran »

Hello all,

Some reading around this:

Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion? The analysis of the act of killing in the Abhidhamma and Pali Commentaries
By Rupert Gethin, Centre for Buddhist Studies, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol
http://www.buddhistethics.org/11/geth0401.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Euthanasia: Buddhist Principles ~ Michael Barnes, Heythrop College, University of London, London U.K.
http://bmb.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/52/2/369.pdf" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

EUTHANASIA ~ [ A study in relation to original Theravada Buddhist thinking ] Bhikkhu Professor Dhammavihari
http://www.metta.lk/english/euthanasia.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Attitudes to Euthanasia in the Vinaya and Commentary ~ By Damien Keown
http://www.buddhistethics.org/6/keown993.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


and if you want to chase up more articles ~ look them up here:

Bibliography on Buddhist Ethics ~ By Peter Harvey
http://www.buddhistethics.org/7/harvey001.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

with metta
Chris
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Ben
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Re: Some advice needed please

Post by Ben »

Thank you Chris.
Excellent references as always.
metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: [email protected]..
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Pannapetar
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Mukunda wrote:Intent is the plan of action. Motivation is WHY you plan the action.
OK. You could indeed make that distinction. Unfortunately, this leads to a very deep question in ethics which revolves around whether the end justifies the means, or to put it into academic terms: consequentialism versus deontology. A comparable case would be the fourth precept and white lies. We could go on for hours debating about this, but instead of doing so let me just say that I don't think there are any "hard" rules. It's always a case by case decision.

It gets even more problematic when you attach the notion of kamma to it. Does only intention produce kamma? Is motivation irrelevant to kamma? Does motivation perhaps "colour" intention and thus change kamma? Where exactly are the boundaries between them? It seems this class of questions can lead to some pretty serious headaches.
Mukunda wrote:I realize that my activities often have a negative impact on other life forms, and I strive to do all I can to minimize that impact. But the intent of mowing the grass is to cut the grass, and while other beings may be in the way, I did not set out to mow insects. Accidents are accidents, NOT kamma.
The thing is: you know about insects and mowing and driving and you consciously hazard the consequences. Although it is unintentional, it is quite impossible to avoid killing insects when mowing the lawn or driving a car. You know that insects will be killed and it is your choice. There's no way you can get around it. If unintentional killing or harming was completely excusable, then we would also have to excuse drunk drivers who kill pedestrians, or pharma companies who put untested products on the market.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Pannapetar wrote:OK. You could indeed make that distinction. Unfortunately, this leads to a very deep question in ethics which revolves around whether the end justifies the means, or to put it into academic terms: consequentialism versus deontology. A comparable case would be the fourth precept and white lies. We could go on for hours debating about this, but instead of doing so let me just say that I don't think there are any "hard" rules. It's always a case by case decision.

It gets even more problematic when you attach the notion of kamma to it. Does only intention produce kamma? Is motivation irrelevant to kamma? Does motivation perhaps "colour" intention and thus change kamma? Where exactly are the boundaries between them? It seems this class of questions can lead to some pretty serious headaches.

The thing is: you know about insects and mowing and driving and you consciously hazard the consequences. Although it is unintentional, it is quite impossible to avoid killing insects when mowing the lawn or driving a car. You know that insects will be killed and it is your choice. There's no way you can get around it. If unintentional killing or harming was completely excusable, then we would also have to excuse drunk drivers who kill pedestrians, or pharma companies who put untested products on the market.
Trying to decide things on "a case by case" is precisely what confuses things. One either sees the value of following the precepts, or they do not. How much simpler can it get? If one is trying to find exceptions and reasons for why the precepts don't apply, then they don't see the value in them.

If you don't accept the "notion of kamma", then I guess it doesn't make sense to follow the precepts when they don't suit you. I suffer no "headaches" over this "notion".

My choice and intent is to mow the lawn. It is the insects choice to stay or leave. You seem to be confusing the intended action with the untended effect. They are two separate things.

Societal laws are not kamma. A drunk driver charged with killing a pedestrian has violated societal law. By drinking, he has engaged in unwholesome kamma, but I'm not really sure of his kamma in the pedestrian's death. I'm guessing at the very least, he would experience a lot of fear and mental distress, which would be mental kamma, but beyond that, I'm not really prepared to say. But even societal law recognizes the importance of intent as evidenced by the fact that a drunk driver who accidentally kills some one is not charged with First degree murder, nor are they given the same penalty.

I really don't know any way to better explain it. :shrug: Sorry.
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Mukunda wrote:Trying to decide things on "a case by case" is precisely what confuses things.
Deciding on a case by case basis does not "confuse" things, but it makes them more complicated. Sorry, can't help that. Things are complicated, that is their nature. The development of societal law shows exactly the same tendency. The more developed a society becomes, the more comprehensive and complicated its laws become. The problem with laws is that they rely on codices and -while you can choose codices wisely- you cannot imbue the codices themselves with wisdom. In order to make up for this lack, codices become complicated.
Mukunda wrote:One either sees the value of following the precepts, or they do not. How much simpler can it get? If one is trying to find exceptions and reasons for why the precepts don't apply, then they don't see the value in them.
As previously mentioned, the precepts are usually excellent advice. However, like all moral statements they have no absolute validity. They may be applicable in almost all cases, but not in all cases. To state it more precisely, there are no moral statements that have binary mathematical truth values, including the precepts. Understanding the precepts as absolute truths would therefore constitute a naive misinterpretation.
Mukunda wrote:My choice and intent is to mow the lawn. It is the insects choice to stay or leave.
No, the insects don't have choice. They just get chopped up. I am not confusing anything here. I am aware that you don't intend to kill insects, but you accept the consequence of insects being chopped up. Unfortunately, that's life. That's samsara. Our own existence and prosperity is always at the expense of other beings. Samsara is competitive. You can reduce your negative impact, or respectively the negative impact of your actions on other life forms, but you cannot totally avoid it. And you certainly can't argue it away.

However, you can also have positive impact on other beings. Hence, it is perhaps of no much use splitting hairs over a few smashed insects.
But even societal law recognizes the importance of intent as evidenced by the fact that a drunk driver who accidentally kills some one is not charged with First degree murder, nor are they given the same penalty.
That is correct, however, societal law also recognises the importance of motivation, as in the case of "base motives". What I am saying is that your distinction between intent and motivation is somewhat artificial and difficult to apply in practice. It is as difficult to apply in law, as it is for theorising about kamma. My suggestion therefore is to disclaim the distinction between motivation and intention. It makes things more complex without offering any advantage.

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Mukunda wrote: I think you are confusing motivation with intent. Kamma is about intent, not motivation.

If one's intent is to take life, even if the motivation is to prevent or ease suffering, and they end that being's biological functions, they have engaged in the unwholesome kamma of killing. It really is that simple.
What does motivation mean in the context of the suttas? Is it volitional formation, or aka, kamma formation?

It seems to fit, because according to one of the suttas that I've read recently, the volitional formations seem to entail these: "What one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards." Going by this definition, it seems to encompass both the intention and the motivation.

I just wanted to make sure what you meant by the word motivation, because if we wanted to refer to what Buddha said, then we should remain consistent with the terminology that he used.
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Re: Some advice needed please

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beeblebrox wrote:I just wanted to make sure what you meant by the word motivation, because if we wanted to refer to what Buddha said, then we should remain consistent with the terminology that he used.
OK, let's remain consistent with what the Buddha taught. For 45 years he pretty much unequivocally taught that taking life was unskilled, unwholesome kamma. Can you provide a reference where the Buddha stated the conditions under which taking life was skilled or wholesome kamma? Using what terminology did the Buddha state "killing another being is ok under these circumstances"?
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Re: Some advice needed please

Post by beeblebrox »

I was just curious about the separation between motivation and intention, that's all... no worries, please.
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Re: Some advice needed please

Post by Mukunda »

Pannapetar wrote:Deciding on a case by case basis does not "confuse" things, but it makes them more complicated. Sorry, can't help that. Things are complicated, that is their nature
I disagree. It is not the "nature" of things to be complicated. It is our minds that makes them so. And that is the real beauty and value of living by the precepts, not having to succumb to the torturous mental mechanizations to complicate things and create rationalizations and justifications for actions that are not in our best interest. But again, one either sees and appreciates this, or they do not, in which case it is perfectly natural to try and fit the precepts in accord with their lifestyle as opposed to fitting their lifestyle in accord with the precepts.
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Re: Some advice needed please

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:thumbsup:
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Annapurna
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Re: Some advice needed please

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Ben wrote:I was in a very similar situation over a year ago. One of our beloved pets had an accident and became parlyzed from the hip down. He was in perpetual agony, lost control of his bowels and bladder and was immobile. Eventually, we had to take him to the vet to have him euthanased. It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to go through. At the time, I consulted Ajahn Dhammanando who gave me some advice.
The fact of the matter is that in life you are going to be faced with hard ethical dilemmas but as a Buddhist you do so mindfully, with compassion and a sense of remorse. I chose what I did and I take full responsibility for the kamma as a result of that decision.
When you put your pet down, extend loving kindness and compassion towards it. Then at the earliest opportunity retake tiritana.
My response to him was "I understand the taking of life to ALWAYS be unwholesome kamma, nor do I believe we alleviate any beings suffering by ending it's life. However, you do what you need to do, I'll still be here for you."
This is good advice. I don't know how familiar you are with your neighbour but if it was someone I knew well, I would offer to attend the vet with him/her to give my support.
metta

Ben
Ben, :hug:

It reminded me of the day when I was a young schoolgirl, and found a young bunny on a freshly mowed meadow. The bunny had the hind legs cut off by the machine and appeared dazed from the injuries. Still it tried to crawl away from the dangerous place. Oh, my. :weep:

I carried it home to my father, who was a doctor.
I hoped so much he could help and cure it!

But my father said there was no hope for it. He recommended we end the suffering with a narcotic.

He painted a picture of the days to come that was horrifying.

Finally I gave in. The bunny was so dazed anyhow. I held it in my arms tenderly while he silently gave it lethal dose of something.

I held it and stroked it until it fell asleep.
We were both very sad, and didn't speak. Perhaps I prayed.

After that, when I saw that a meadow was being moved near my home I often stopped farmers and asked if they had checked for baby animals. When they said no, I said: Can you please wait til I'm done checking and drive slowly....? :(

A memory that is really sad.

My Dad was the finest guy a girl could hope for as her father.
Last edited by Annapurna on Sat May 29, 2010 12:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
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