Ticks and fleas

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:35 am

mikenz66 wrote:Is there a case where killing is not described that way? I know there are descriptions of rescuing a child by pulling a stick out of its mouth, out of compassion:
"What do you think, prince: If this young boy, through your own negligence or that of the nurse, were to take a stick or a piece of gravel into its mouth, what would you do?"

"I would take it out, lord. If I couldn't get it out right away, then holding its head in my left hand and crooking a finger of my right, I would take it out, even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have sympathy for the young boy."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Are there any descriptions of killing out of compassion?
Probably not, but this text is suggestive. One time I hit a rabbit with my car. Do I leave it on the road, writhing and screaming in pain? It would eventually die from the injuries, meanwhile screaming in pain. I took it home and shot it. While I feel badly about the rabbit being hit by my car as it ran out into the road, I do not feel badly about ending its life, because I had sympathy for the rabbit.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby cioranfan » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:57 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Welcome to Dhamma Wheel. Great first post! :)


Thanks- I've lurked for a long time here, but usually haven't felt I had much to say. Also I feel a little unsure of participating in many discussions since I'm not technically a Buddhist, as I haven't taken refuge or precepts yet- long story there, but it basically comes down to only wanting to make that commitment when I'm sure I can live up to it, combined with the effects of being brought up and living in a secular Western culture (which does not lead to a mindset conducive to faith- doubt for me is one of the greatest hindrances)- still, barring unforeseen events, I think that a much more serious commitment is in my future, quite possibly to the level of ordination.

kc2dpt wrote:Still, any time a person claims killing is wholesome, leads to peace, sanctioned by the Buddha... to this I object.


I definitely am not saying that killing is wholesome, leads to peace, or is sanctioned by the Buddha- I'd absolutely agree that, if one accepts Theravada premises, it always creates dark kamma, and there's no wriggle room as far as that goes. I may be wrong in assuming that killing fleas to save an animal would be mixed dark and bright kamma- perhaps killing is always purely dark kamma. I certainly am not one who could say how kamma works. What I don't believe is that knowingly letting die is not also a form of killing- and if this is the case, then it becomes clear that there can be situations where there is essentially no possible course of action in which one does not accrue the kamma of killing (unless one has siddhis, which I think it is quite safe to say most of us don't.) It is not that this makes killing okay in a given circumstance, but what it does mean is that there can be certain situations where there simply are no okay options. And as for how one proceeds in such a situation- I don't feel I'm a spiritually advanced enough person to say much especially helpful, but the best I can figure is that if one cultivates the brahmaviharas and strives to rid oneself of the defilements, whatever action one takes will reflect that- even if there are no courses of action available which are not unwholesome, this will naturally lead one towards the least unwholesome course of action in any given case.

As far as the subject of this particular thread goes, if there is some way to neither kill the fleas, nor kill the animal through knowingly letting die, that is obviously best- if not, then it's a matter of coming to terms with the fact that there are no good options and determining which is the more compassionate choice. Every situation is different, but by and large I would be quite strongly inclined to see killing the fleas as the less unwholesome course of action than killing the animal through inaction in almost all cases, a position I base on a combination of general moral intuition and the fact that a distinction definitely seems to be made in the teachings between different classes of being, as David discussed earlier in the thread. That is certainly not to say that it's therefore a wholesome action- it is still killing- but in considering how we would proceed in such a case, that distinction is very relevant and important to keep in mind, I think, as are some of the implications of MN 58. Nothing about this, though, is easy, and as I said in my last post I'd consider situations like this to be examples of why we're trying to escape samsara in the first place.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Ben » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:02 am

tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Is there a case where killing is not described that way? I know there are descriptions of rescuing a child by pulling a stick out of its mouth, out of compassion:
"What do you think, prince: If this young boy, through your own negligence or that of the nurse, were to take a stick or a piece of gravel into its mouth, what would you do?"

"I would take it out, lord. If I couldn't get it out right away, then holding its head in my left hand and crooking a finger of my right, I would take it out, even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have sympathy for the young boy."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Are there any descriptions of killing out of compassion?
Probably not, but this text is suggestive. One time I hit a rabbit with my car. Do I leave it on the road, writhing and screaming in pain? It would eventually die from the injuries, meanwhile screaming in pain. I took it home and shot it. While I feel badly about the rabbit being hit by my car as it ran out into the road, I do not feel badly about ending its life, because I had sympathy for the rabbit.


Yes.
Samsara sucks!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:27 am

Ben wrote:Samsara sucks!
Sometimes.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Feathers » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:26 am

Ben wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Probably not, but this text is suggestive. One time I hit a rabbit with my car. Do I leave it on the road, writhing and screaming in pain? It would eventually die from the injuries, meanwhile screaming in pain. I took it home and shot it. While I feel badly about the rabbit being hit by my car as it ran out into the road, I do not feel badly about ending its life, because I had sympathy for the rabbit.


Yes.
Samsara sucks!


Just to clarify, are you saying yes he should have left it to die slowly in pain?

Cioranfan, great posts!

And someone mentioned earlier about the possibility of generating karma through not intervening when we could help - I'd be interested to hear more about the Buddhist position on this? In Christianity I recall there is a prayer where you ask forgiveness which includes the lines:

"We have left undone those things
that we ought to have done;
and we have done those things
that we ought not to have done;"
(http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/daily2/formsofpenitence.aspx)

So for someone raised with a Christian background (like me) I suspect there is a pretty well-ingrained feeling that moral behaviour includes not only refraining from doing evil but also actively doing the right thing. I know there is the idea of making merit in Buddhism, but how about more generally the importance of acting for good?
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:03 am

Feathers wrote:
Just to clarify, are you saying yes he should have left it to die slowly in pain?
Ben is clearly expressing empathy/sympathy for me in my having to deal with a diffucult, painful situation.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Feathers » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:16 am

Ah k . . . I thought the blunt 'yes' seemed a little out of character, but you can see how it could be read that way? Hence why I wanted to clarify :smile:
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:36 pm

If we do take a life though I'm not sure if we can ever say it was the "right" thing to do. Taking a life is always at odds with the ideal. At best a lesser wrong.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:55 pm

Mr Man wrote:If we do take a life though I'm not sure if we can ever say it was the "right" thing to do. Taking a life is always at odds with the ideal. At best a lesser wrong.
Does the ideal actually exist?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Anagarika » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:03 pm

Mr Man wrote:If we do take a life though I'm not sure if we can ever say it was the "right" thing to do. Taking a life is always at odds with the ideal. At best a lesser wrong.


In my view, taking a life that is reduced to severe, intractable pain and suffering, and a hopeless prognosis, may in fact make merit. To stand on idealistic grounds and suggest that never assisting in a death is the ideal means that one may not have faced a situation where a sentient being is approaching certain death in great pain and suffering. These are not easy ethical questions, but the keen reality of these situations suggests to me that there are cases where assisting in a death generates positive kamma. I can't prove this, nor is there Canon authority for this view, but I'm willing to accept the kamma that comes from supporting euthanasia (for example) in limited cases.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:37 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Mr Man wrote:If we do take a life though I'm not sure if we can ever say it was the "right" thing to do. Taking a life is always at odds with the ideal. At best a lesser wrong.
Does the ideal actually exist?


Well from a Theravada point of view I would say that the ideal is the first precept.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:39 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:In my view, taking a life that is reduced to severe, intractable pain and suffering, and a hopeless prognosis, may in fact make merit.

I think that is a rather dangerous view to hold.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Anagarika » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:41 pm

Mr Man wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:In my view, taking a life that is reduced to severe, intractable pain and suffering, and a hopeless prognosis, may in fact make merit.

I think that is a rather dangerous view to hold.


As I mentioned earlier, so long as they serve beer in hell, I will be OK. :)

Not to be glib, but as Buddhists we also seem to be inclined toward science, toward ethics issues, and toward using intellect over dogma. To quote the much used and abused Kalama Sutta, I try to seek the counsel of kalayana mitta, of recognized experts, of the wise, and try to see what is occurring in the world that is successful, is useful, and is perceived as proper and ethical. Then, I apply these tests to a fact pattern and use it to guide me in ethical decision making.

To take the First Precept as a "Ten Commandment" is a misapplication, in my view. My view may be Wrong View, but this is my kamma to accept. I found this quote which, to me, is helpful:

"Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a professor of theology and a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, explains,

"There are no moral absolutes in Buddhism and it is recognized that ethical decision-making involves a complex nexus of causes and conditions. ... When making moral choices, individuals are advised to examine their motivation--whether aversion, attachment, ignorance, wisdom, or compassion--and to weigh the consequences of their actions in light of the Buddha's teachings."
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Virgo » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:44 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
Mr Man wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:In my view, taking a life that is reduced to severe, intractable pain and suffering, and a hopeless prognosis, may in fact make merit.

I think that is a rather dangerous view to hold.


As I mentioned earlier, so long as they serve beer in hell, I will be OK. :)


If you put a lit match to your finger (I don't suggest you or anyone else actually do this) even for a single second, you will find you are not able to bear the pain. The pain in hell is much worse than this, is unremitting, and lasts for extremely long amounts of time - potentially last for aeons. Just imagine the length of your human life lived there. How unbearable would that be for you? I doubt you will be able to enjoy your beer there, sorry. :namaste:

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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:49 pm

Virgo wrote:
If you put a lit match to your finger (I don't suggest you or anyone else actually do this) even for a single second, you will find you are not able to bear the pain. The pain in hell is much worse than this, is unremitting, and lasts for extremely long amounts of time - potentially last for aeons. Just imagine the length of your human life lived there. How unbearable would that be for you? I doubt you will be able to enjoy your beer there, sorry. :namaste:

Kevin
Oh, my. Buddhist fire and brimstone.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:09 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
To take the First Precept as a "Ten Commandment" is a misapplication, in my view. My view may be Wrong View, but this is my kamma to accept. I found this quote which, to me, is helpful:

"Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a professor of theology and a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, explains,

"There are no moral absolutes in Buddhism and it is recognized that ethical decision-making involves a complex nexus of causes and conditions. ... When making moral choices, individuals are advised to examine their motivation--whether aversion, attachment, ignorance, wisdom, or compassion--and to weigh the consequences of their actions in light of the Buddha's teachings."


Okay, but to suggest taking a life may in fact make merit goes some what beyond.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Aloka » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:44 pm

Virgo wrote: If you put a lit match to your finger (I don't suggest you or anyone else actually do this) even for a single second, you will find you are not able to bear the pain. The pain in hell is much worse than this, is unremitting, and lasts for extremely long amounts of time - potentially last for aeons. Just imagine the length of your human life lived there. How unbearable would that be for you? I doubt you will be able to enjoy your beer there, sorry. :namaste:

Kevin


Been there and done that, have you Kevin ?

:)
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Anagarika » Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:26 pm

Mr Man wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:

Okay, but to suggest taking a life may in fact make merit goes some what beyond.


What you say may be true.

My own sense is that by applying the standard so well articulated by Ven. Tsomo "whether aversion, attachment, ignorance, wisdom, or compassion--and to weigh the consequences of their actions in light of the Buddha's teachings," ending the life of an animal that one accidentally runs over seems to me to be an act imbued with compassion and wisdom. Are all acts that are driven by wisdom and compassion merit making? Can some kammas be neutral, or have the quality of being innately negative yet counterblanced by wisdom and compassion?

One of the posters on DW has an avatar/ photo of a monk self immolating. If I'm in the market square, and see a monk dousing herself with fuel, I'm looking for a bucket of water or a firehose. No matter how noble some ideas may be, they may not be wise and compassionate. Ethical responses may run counter to firmly held beliefs. The example of self-immolation is a severe analogy and maybe not spot on to the present discussion, but so long as we continue to discuss and argue these issues, we as Buddhists get a chance to expand our understanding of Buddhist ethics. Iron sharpens iron, as they say.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby Mr Man » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:49 pm

If I were to run over an animal and decided to end it's life I know my mind would be full of turmoil. There would be aversion and grief and remorse. I'm not sure if compassion would be there even though most would consider it a compassionate act.

Do dying beings open to death? Do they want to die or do they want to live even though the suffering is intense? Is that my decision?

I can kill ticks and fleas (although I prefer not to) because to me their life is not so important.
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Re: Ticks and fleas

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:44 pm

Here's an old post by Ven Dhammanando that may be of interest:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... &start=240

And the article that he links to by Rupert Gethin: Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion? The analysis of the act of killing in the Abhidhamma and Pali Commentaries? http://www.urbandharma.org/pdf/geth0401.pdf has some detailed analysis, concluding, in part:
Gethin wrote:In the particular case of killing a living being, I have argued that for
Theravada Buddhist thought — and probably mainstream Indian Buddhist
thought — intentionally killing a living being can never be considered wholly
an act of compassion. Although the Abhidhamma model of the way in which
the mind works can accommodate a set of circumstances where genuine
compassion might play some part in an act of killing a living being, it does
not allow that the decisive intention leading to the killing of a living can
ever be other than unwholesome and associated with some form of aversion
(dosa).

I have suggested two reasons why such an outlook should be character-
istic of the Buddhist perspective on ”mercy killing.” The first is that the
very idea that killing a living being might be the solution to the problem
of suffering runs counter to the Buddhist emphasis on dukkha as the first
f the four truths. As the first truth, its reality must be fully understood
(parinneyya). The second is that the cultivation of friendliness and com-
passion in the face of suffering is seen as an appropriate and even practical
alternative that can bring beneficial effects for self and others in a situation
where it might seem that compassion should lead one to kill.


:anjali:
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