The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
jackson
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by jackson » Sun May 15, 2011 9:50 pm

Thrylix wrote:All interesting views.

I've thought about all of them. I can't truthfully say I've stopped terrorizing ants, but the comments here made me a bit kinder to smaller lifeforms. Instead of stepping on every individual ant in my vicinity, as I was wont to do a month ago, I give their little anthills a single firm kick or stomp, just because I enjoy viewing the chaos and panic that unfolds at my feet.

I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P

Greetings Thrylix,
I have many thoughts on your situation, hopefully they may be of some help to you. Respectfully, I think you are lacking in empathy and may find it to your and others benefit if you were to develop it a little. It is a skill that can be cultivated and it becomes easier and more natural the more one places oneself in another beings shoes. You could start by trying to feel the terror an ant feels as they try to escape being crushed, and as they watch other members of their colony die, just think of a time when you were terrified and try and relate it to what the ant may be feeling. Or you could think of an ant that has had a few of its limbs crushed but is still alive, visualize the feeling they have as they desperately try to walk, only to find that their body no longer functions the way they would like it to. You could think of a time where perhaps you had a broken bone or sprained joint, where you weren't able to function as you could in the past and the frustration that may have caused you. You could even relate to their anger as the home they worked so hard to build comes under attack, just think of how painful anger can be and how much hurt it causes the world. Anyway, I think you may find that if you get better at relating to others that you will naturally avoid causing harm to any being because you know how painful the hurt can be.

When I was a little boy I remember I was pestering a fly in a window, it kept trying to get away from me, until finally it flew straight into my face for a few seconds and then flew off. That memory left a strong impression on my mind. Years later I noticed a spiderweb in my bathroom, with either no spider, or a dead spider and there was a beetle trapped in the web. I freed it from the web and it flew up onto my shoulder, and I walked through my bedroom, through the living room, through the kitchen, and out the back door and then it flew off into the night. The reason I mention these two incidents is because they made me question what I thought about insects, perhaps there's more to them than most people believe, perhaps they even have unique personalities, but then we can only speculate.

Anyway, I'm reminded of the Buddha's saying "If you truly loved yourself you would never harm another." I think of the times I've caused others harm and realize that in doing so I harmed myself, the memories can be painful to recall, especially since my empathy has increased. Anyway I say this because one day you may look back on this period of your life and feel guilt, shame, and remorse for showing such disregard for life, but the choice is yours whether or not you continue to cause unnecessary harm. Bad habits can be hard to break, but once broken you can look back on them with a sense of relief that you're no longer caught in them.
Best wishes, :smile:
Jackson
"The heart of the path is quite easy. There’s no need to explain anything at length. Let go of love and hate and let things be. That’s all that I do in my own practice." - Ajahn Chah

Digity
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by Digity » Mon May 16, 2011 1:54 am

Thrylix wrote:All interesting views.

I've thought about all of them. I can't truthfully say I've stopped terrorizing ants, but the comments here made me a bit kinder to smaller lifeforms. Instead of stepping on every individual ant in my vicinity, as I was wont to do a month ago, I give their little anthills a single firm kick or stomp, just because I enjoy viewing the chaos and panic that unfolds at my feet.

I know some here don't approve, but what can I say? It's survival of the biggest. :P
Quit being a jerk.

Dan74
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by Dan74 » Mon May 16, 2011 12:56 pm

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icyteru
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by icyteru » Fri May 27, 2011 4:01 pm

of course there will be karmic consequence, but it will be less than killing a human.
don't do it ever again.
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Thrylix
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by Thrylix » Tue May 31, 2011 10:31 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
Its more likely hardwired into the human organism. Insects and arthropods are direct competitors for available food, carry parasites, sting, carry diseases and micro-organisms, and are themselves directly parasitical on the human organism.

From a survival trait standpoint, it would be surprising if there werent an immediate urge to kill small creepy crawlies. You are probably no more personally responsible for this urge than you are for the color of you hair.
Its ridiculous imo to try to even assign responsibility for an instinctive reaction of this kind and there is no agency or deity there to judge us. Karma is not a punishing avenger and there is no god.That said, just because you have the urge or reaction, doesnt necessarily mean you have to follow thru. Catching your self at it is great, probably means you are paying attention.

I think you may be on to something. It seems like you are solving a problem, when you swat a fly or step on a spider. At least that's how I usually viewed it.

I realize that holds true only when eliminating pests, but that motive is there all the same even when the insect is minding its own business. It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?

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ground
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by ground » Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:28 am

Thrylix wrote:It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?
Children sqash insects too. Perhaps they also like them. However there may be this utter lack of respect (or sort of "empathy") for what is other than oneself but a living being nevertheless. What children however do not is using their intellect to justify this utter lack.
It is strange that for some the intellect supports respect and empathy and for others its the opposite. So there seems to be a basic inclination either this way or the other. This certainly is not inherent in persons as "a given" but develops depending on the person's animate and inanimate environment.
Worldly ethics has no ground other than ego-centrism in the context of worldly rules. If there are no worldy rules that apply then there is no logical rationale for ethical conduct. There may be an experiential ground for ethical conduct but I would not assign this to the worldy sphere.

An extreme example:
E.g. Nazi facism did not prohibit and punish mistreating or even killing certain human beings. Therefore for many there was no rationale (no wordly rules applicable) to refrain from mistreating or killing these beings.


Kind regards

Pārasamgate
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by Pārasamgate » Wed Jun 01, 2011 12:50 am

Thrylix wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote:
Its more likely hardwired into the human organism. Insects and arthropods are direct competitors for available food, carry parasites, sting, carry diseases and micro-organisms, and are themselves directly parasitical on the human organism.

From a survival trait standpoint, it would be surprising if there werent an immediate urge to kill small creepy crawlies. You are probably no more personally responsible for this urge than you are for the color of you hair.
Its ridiculous imo to try to even assign responsibility for an instinctive reaction of this kind and there is no agency or deity there to judge us. Karma is not a punishing avenger and there is no god.That said, just because you have the urge or reaction, doesnt necessarily mean you have to follow thru. Catching your self at it is great, probably means you are paying attention.

I think you may be on to something. It seems like you are solving a problem, when you swat a fly or step on a spider. At least that's how I usually viewed it.

I realize that holds true only when eliminating pests, but that motive is there all the same even when the insect is minding its own business. It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?
Why not do yourself a favor and try to cultivate empathy for those ants with an eye to improving yourself? Why not try and exercise compassion with the understanding that if you can achieve a true feeling of compassion for these tiny creatures it will likely make you that much more compassionate toward your fellow human beings?

Compassion is a virtue. Empathy is a virtue. Do you agree? If so, then why not strengthen those virtues in yourself? You exercise your physical body to improve your physical well being, why not exercise your emotional faculties to improve your emotional well being?

So you see exercising compassion to those tiny ants is actually of benefit - not just for the ants - but for you yourself!

Thrylix
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by Thrylix » Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:45 pm

TMingyur wrote:
Thrylix wrote:It's still a potential nuisance and if it's almost effortless to squash it, why not squash it? Like I said before, I actually like insects. I love watching them. But just because I like them, does that preclude me from liking to step on some of them?
Children sqash insects too. Perhaps they also like them. However there may be this utter lack of respect (or sort of "empathy") for what is other than oneself but a living being nevertheless. What children however do not is using their intellect to justify this utter lack.
It is strange that for some the intellect supports respect and empathy and for others its the opposite. So there seems to be a basic inclination either this way or the other. This certainly is not inherent in persons as "a given" but develops depending on the person's animate and inanimate environment.
Worldly ethics has no ground other than ego-centrism in the context of worldly rules. If there are no worldy rules that apply then there is no logical rationale for ethical conduct. There may be an experiential ground for ethical conduct but I would not assign this to the worldy sphere.

An extreme example:
E.g. Nazi facism did not prohibit and punish mistreating or even killing certain human beings. Therefore for many there was no rationale (no wordly rules applicable) to refrain from mistreating or killing these beings.


Kind regards
I empathize with humans. I find it unnatural to empathize with ants. The rationale of "I do it because I can" might be the one used by bullies, and it holds true somewhat. Does that mean I view bugs as less significant than me? Well, yeah I guess I do. But is that necessarily untrue? Compared to them, I'm a giant.

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Kim OHara
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:18 am

Thrylix wrote:I empathize with humans. I find it unnatural to empathize with ants. The rationale of "I do it because I can" might be the one used by bullies, and it holds true somewhat. Does that mean I view bugs as less significant than me? Well, yeah I guess I do. But is that necessarily untrue? Compared to them, I'm a giant.
Hi, thrylix,
It doesn't look like you have learned anything at all in the nine months since your OP here. That makes me wonder why you're back - just to poke the Buddhist ant-hill again and watch the silly little critters run round in circles trying to work out what happened?
Seriously, you are welcome if you want to learn, but if you say what you said before you'll only get the responses you got before.

:namaste:
Kim

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manas
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by manas » Sat Jan 14, 2012 12:24 am

Hi again, thrylix, good to see you still around. But I think your original post has been exhaustively dealt with already...what more do you wish to know?

Killing living beings, who (like us) feel pain and/or want life and fear death, is wrong, whether that being is an ant, a dog or a human. Sure, the more complex the nervous and emotional system is, the more suffering you cause and the worse the kamma is, but that doesn't mean that even the tiniest creatures are unworthy of our compassion. It's actually such a basic knowledge (and an important one) that I suggest you reflect on it, study it, imbibe it, and live by it, asap. This will be for your long term benefit, and will also spare many other beings needless pain and suffering. Some things really are just that simple.

There is a 'discovering theravada' forum, I believe, if you go there you might find info relating to such very basic, yet crucial, points of dhamma. Might be worth visiting.

In peace.
Like a merchant with a small
but well-laden caravan
–a dangerous road,

like a person who loves life
–a poison,

one should avoid
–evil deeds.

(Dhammapada 123)


befriend
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by befriend » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:27 am

the first thing you think of when you kill many innocent beings is what will my karma be? hahahaha no wonder society thinks your a good person.
i dont care what anyone says to me about this. societies ethics. thats an oxymoron. you mean the people who cant decide wether or not its negative to
kill a fetus, or kill someone in a coma because they dont pay taxes, the people who think your a saint because you gave a bum a ticket to the red sox. dont give me that there is no person. yes in conventional reality there is good and bad. so in ultamite reality there are no people. but in conventional reality there is good and bad. including people. if society calls you a good person take that as in insult. society doesnt give a shit, they daydream all day, and your considered spiritual if you took a reiki class, and your religious if you go to church every other month. let alone if you told them your weaning off music, stopped drinking, celibate, and beat yourself up for about 30 minutes so you make sure you dont grumble a mean word under your breath again.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

befriend
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Re: The ethics of minimizing suffering and being a "good person"

Post by befriend » Sat Jan 14, 2012 2:43 am

you feel no shame for killing many innocent sentient beings you killed them for no reason. you feel unnatural to feel empathy for these beings. and you do this a lot. after you visualize you being an ant, you still like to cause chaos for them. so because your a nice person who kills other beings you think you have a get out of jail free card. i dont know what to say except yes YOU BROKE THE FIRST THE FIRST PRECEPT MANY MANY TIMES, taking the lives of beings is heavy karma. and you will suffer so thats all you care about. you never cared about the ants. you just care about going to hell. you should be concerned with the ants, not yourself, not yourself at all, all you should care about is the ants.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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