Should we avoid driving?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
tom_
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Should we avoid driving?

Post by tom_ »

As most of you will know, the first story in the Dhammapada tells of a blind Arhat who would walk in meditation at night. As he was blind he didn't know that he was stepping on insects and killing them. Other monks saw him killing insects and reported him to the Buddha, thinking he needed to be rebuked. The Buddha apparently said he had done nothing wrong, his intentions were pure, he had no intention to cause harm.

I am thinking of learning to drive, but I know from those around me that killing animals with your car is inevitable. On the one hand, I can tell myself the above story and say to myself that my intentions are fine, I'm not driving to cause harm, but for other, presumably good reasons. However, unlike the blind Arhat, I know that driving will inevitably lead to the suffering of animals, and so I can't seem to justify it to myself.

Unfortunately, the story mentioned above doesn't have a sequel as far as I know; what about if the blind Arhat is told that his nightly walking meditation inflicts death and suffering on sentient beings, if he continues to do it with pure intentions as before, but now also with the knowledge of what he's doing, would the Buddha have condoned that? Unfortunately, I don't know of an occasion where the Buddha clarified this point. Does anyone have any input here?
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DNS
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by DNS »

Do you live in a house, condo, or apartment? If so, then that was built with much soil preparation, leveling, pouring of concrete for the foundation, killing perhaps millions of insects. Yet, we all live in some kind of shelter anyway.

Intention is everything and also we have to live somewhere. The best we can do is limit our killing and harm, as much as possible.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by tom_ »

DNS wrote: Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:46 pm Do you live in a house, condo, or apartment? If so, then that was built with much soil preparation, leveling, pouring of concrete for the foundation, killing perhaps millions of insects. Yet, we all live in some kind of shelter anyway.
Yes, but I didn't pour the concrete and so on, so it's not on me. Just as the Buddha ate meat but didn't kill animals. If I was to built a house, then no doubt the first precept would be constantly on my mind, and I would be trying to simplify to a point where I could shelter myself without killing.
DNS wrote: Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:46 pm Intention is everything and also we have to live somewhere. The best we can do is limit our killing and harm, as much as possible.
Intention is one spoke on the wheel. The first precept is not 'limit your killing', it's 'do not kill'.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by DNS »

The purpose of driving is not to kill insects, although that will happen. The purpose of living in a home is not to kill insects, although that did happen and living in one means another has to be built for someone else. But I see you are only taking the notion of direct killing by yourself, not those indirect causal relationships. If so, then how do you go about your business and errands without a car? If you use a bicycle, that could also kill insects and as you noted, so does even walking.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by tom_ »

Yes, but I can be careful when I walk, maybe even I can be careful when I cycle. But if a squirrel runs out in front of you when you're driving, there's nothing you can do. Now in that moment you can tell yourself that you had no intention of killing the squirrel, which is true, but the fact is that if I drive a car, I do so knowing that animals will run in front of me, and I will not be able to stop. I know that the action of driving will eventually lead to death and suffering. I don't want to kill these animals. But I know it will happen. Being willing to drive, for someone who has thought about this, is starting to look like willful negligence at best.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by DarrenM »

tom_ wrote: Sat Sep 12, 2020 8:21 pm Yes, but I can be careful when I walk, maybe even I can be careful when I cycle. But if a squirrel runs out in front of you when you're driving, there's nothing you can do. Now in that moment you can tell yourself that you had no intention of killing the squirrel, which is true, but the fact is that if I drive a car, I do so knowing that animals will run in front of me, and I will not be able to stop. I know that the action of driving will eventually lead to death and suffering. I don't want to kill these animals. But I know it will happen. Being willing to drive, for someone who has thought about this, is starting to look like willful negligence at best.
Hi Tom. In the same way that you will not see the squirrel, you will not see the thousands of insects you kill while walking either because they are too small or for example when you walk around a corner and see one too late and cannot stop putting your foot down quick enough or are taking to someone as you are walking and not looking at the ground. You know the action of walking will eventually lead to death and suffering, but what are going to do? Do you think the Buddha or other Arahants never stood on an insect? Impossible, but in the same way as you seem to come across, their intentions were pure.

It’s been said many times, but as long as you are in this world and have a body and mind you will cause some sort of harm to others, intentionally or not. The Buddha said that intention is Kamma, therefore intention is what counts. That’s my take on it and how I read the Suttas.

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect."
— AN 6.63

See here for more on Intentional Action:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dha ... kamma.html
“Householder, you have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick, but you shouldn’t rest content with the thought, ‘We have provided the community of monks with robes, alms food, lodgings, & medicinal requisites for the sick.’ So you should train yourself, ‘Let’s periodically enter & remain in seclusion & rapture.’ That’s how you should train yourself.”
AN 5.176- Rapture
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Kim OHara
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by Kim OHara »

tom_ wrote: Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:56 pm ...The first precept is not 'limit your killing', it's 'do not kill'.
You might like to check that.
:thinking:

Remember, also, that the Precepts are guidelines aka good advice, not commandments.

:namaste:
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confusedlayman
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by confusedlayman »

the arhant might also know if i walk at night without vision i might kill isncets yet he still continue meditation
I may be slow learner but im at least learning...
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rightviewftw
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by rightviewftw »

I think it's obvious that one pursuing the path might want to avoid driving.

Drunk driving is blamed why?
Because it is a danger to oneself and others greater than that of one who does not DUI.
One who does not DUI is not blamed for DUI.

Driving in and by itself poses a danger to oneself and others greater than that of one who does not drive.
One who does not drive is not blamed for driving.

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Ducy?

It can be argued that walking poses a danger likewise but at that point one can argue that breathing poses a danger which is a point adressed in the buddhist texts.

You have to draw a line somewhere, i personally think driving is excessive and is obviously not necessary to sustain the development whereas walking and breathing kind of is.

Monks aren't allowed to ride horses or build excessive structures for dwelling.

Therefore i think it is kind of a moor point with driving, i don't have a categorical stance on it but i think it can definitely be blameworthy and not driving due to concern for the integrity of the training is imo admirable.
'Bhikkhus, possessing three qualities, a bhikkhu is practicing the unmistaken way and has laid the groundwork for the destruction of the taints. What three? Here, a bhikkhu guards the doors of the sense faculties, observes moderation in eating, and is intent on wakefulness. He should develop perception of unattractiveness so as to abandon lust... good will so as to abandon ill will... mindfulness of in-&-out breathing so as to cut off distractive thinking... the perception of inconstancy so as to uproot the conceit, 'I am.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by tom_ »

Kim OHara wrote: Sun Sep 13, 2020 2:10 am
tom_ wrote: Sat Sep 12, 2020 7:56 pm ...The first precept is not 'limit your killing', it's 'do not kill'.
You might like to check that.
:thinking:

Remember, also, that the Precepts are guidelines aka good advice, not commandments.
This is an interpretation, and a false one. From the Dhammika sutta:
He should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should he incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world.
This is not synonymous with 'limit your killing', it is synonymous with 'do not kill'. It is also not just advice, it is a commandment, i.e. 'a divine rule'. You may then want to say how difficult it is to follow the precepts without bending, which it is, but the Buddha was fully aware of the practical difficulties of following the precepts, and yet he offered no olive branch here: do not kill.
DarrenM wrote: Sat Sep 12, 2020 9:18 pm It’s been said many times, but as long as you are in this world and have a body and mind you will cause some sort of harm to others, intentionally or not. The Buddha said that intention is Kamma, therefore intention is what counts. That’s my take on it and how I read the Suttas.
It is certainly true that causing unintentional suffering is likely when we maintain a human body. Making sure our intentions are pure is important if we hope to be free from the karmic repercussions of this, but pure intentions are one spoke on the wheel.

If I want to get to the other side of a meadow, am I doing all I can to reduce suffering if I hop in a bulldozer and drive across? My intentions are pure, fine, but what about my actions? Are my actions the best they can be? Am I doing all I practically can to reduce suffering?

And what's more, I can only claim pure intentions if I don't know that driving the bulldozer will cause suffering, but if I know that there are likely many creatures in the meadow that will die, and I do it anyway, can I really claim to have even pure intentions? Or am I engaging in self deceit, telling myself a story in my head that makes me sound righteous, when in reality my actions speak louder, and say to everyone that I prioritise my own wellbeing above that of others. If instead I choose to walk across the meadow, carefully, without letting myself get distracted, then I am doing all I can to reduce suffering, and then that is Right Action.

And so, I suppose my question was not about the karma of accidently killing things with your car, but about whether it is Right Action to drive at all, when you know ahead of time that you will kill things with your car. I suppose there are going to be nuances here, so I think I agree with the stance of @rightviewftw on this.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by dharmacorps »

Do you breathe? When we breathe in, we inhale small beings sometimes. Should you stop breathing? Or become a jain ascetic and wear a mask everywhere?
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by tom_ »

dharmacorps wrote: Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:52 pm Do you breathe? When we breathe in, we inhale small beings sometimes. Should you stop breathing? Or become a jain ascetic and wear a mask everywhere?
From: https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... html#prec2
The first of the five precepts reads in Pali, Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami; in English, "I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life." Here the word pana, meaning that which breathes, denotes any living being that has breath and consciousness. It includes animals and insects as well as men, but does not include plants as they have only life but not breath or consciousness.
Do bacteria breathe? And are you sure that microscopic things are killed by being breathed in? Presumably they go into the lungs that way, and then back out again, or they stay in there. I doubt the lungs are particularly inhospitable for microscopic creatures. But all of this is speculation on both sides.

Regardless, if I stop breathing, I cause suffering to myself, so no that's not a solution to the problem of suffering. The solution is to look at the situation objectively, free from aversion and desire, and to find and follow the path that leads to the greatest reduction of suffering for all, including yourself.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by rhinoceroshorn »

Sometimes I feel like adopting the Jain way of life in regard to dealing with small insects, ie. brooming 🧹 before walking. I can't even bear accidentally killing ants.

I wonder if bacteria are part of tiryag. I never regarded them, protozoans, fungi, virus, or plants as sentient beings. 🤔
Without resistance in all four directions,
content with whatever you get,
enduring troubles with no dismay,
wander alone
like a rhinoceros.
Sutta Nipāta 1.3 - Khaggavisana Sutta
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But if they hit you with a stick...?"
"...I will think, 'These people are very civilized, in that they don't hit me with a knife.'..."
"But if they hit you with a knife...?"
"...I will think, 'These people are very civilized, in that they don't take my life with a sharp knife.'..."
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tom_
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

Post by tom_ »

rhinoceroshorn wrote: Mon Sep 14, 2020 8:07 pm Sometimes I feel like adopting the Jain way of life in regard to dealing with small insects, ie. brooming 🧹 before walking. I can't even bear accidentally killing ants.
I agree. There's a lot to be said for the care that they take.
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Re: Should we avoid driving?

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rhinoceroshorn wrote: Mon Sep 14, 2020 8:07 pm I wonder if bacteria are part of tiryag. I never regarded them, protozoans, fungi, virus, or plants as sentient beings. 🤔
No, according to Buddhism, they are not part of samsara. In Jainism, plants and fungi are part of samsara, but not viruses.
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