How bad is killing a mosquito?

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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Lazy_eye
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Lazy_eye » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:07 pm

Individual wrote: Science has also shown the same of plants and bacteria, though, too. Microbial intelligence is an example that springs to mind which is readily found on Google.
Yes, and that raises some interesting questions. Should Buddhists encourage the use of antibiotics?

Going back to what Dan suggested earlier, I'd say that common sense applies. This is not Jainism, but the "Middle Way". We do our best.

My point was simply that we can't use the "automaton" theory to excuse the heedless and frequently unnecessary killing of animal or insect life. For most of the 20th century, and much of the 19th, scientists confidently assured us that animals do not have intelligence or a meaningful experience of the cosmos (as defined by us, of course). This patently self-serving assumption has had dangerous consequences, and it has now been largely debunked.

LE

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Hanzze
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Hanzze » Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:21 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Hanzze
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Hanzze » Mon Oct 04, 2010 2:49 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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ground
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by ground » Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:09 pm

I don't think it is appropriate to ridicule ethical conduct. Better to strive to perfect it and encourage others to strive so too.

Kind regards

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Oct 04, 2010 4:16 pm

I'm not sure the previous poster was ridiculing anything. Tone can sometimes be misunderstood on discussion boards.

I think he's actually raising an critical point. Although we can strive to perfect sila, that goal actually can't be realized short of liberation. Because samsara by nature brings up ethical dilemmas (one being's gain is always at another's loss; subject/object relations are unavoidable) as long as we have any attachment to it, or to a sense of self, questions like this will inevitably arise.

As I understand it, Zen would advocate attention to the fundamental problem (self-construction) as opposed to endless wrangling over the meaning of precepts. Of course, we're not on a Zen forum...but it's not a frivolous idea.

Is it far-fetched to say that a bodhisattva could manifest as a mosquito (or any other being)?

Where do you draw the line, TMingyur? Should a Buddhist brush his/her teeth, use antibiotics, or put disinfectant on a wound? All these actions are done with the intent to kill tiny organisms that would otherwise harm us. Plants are not sentient life according to the dhamma; cats and lemurs and humans and wasps are. But there's a large gray area where it's a bit hard to tell.

Really an excellent illustration of the defects of samsara if you ask me.
Metta
LE

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Individual » Mon Oct 04, 2010 4:56 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Individual wrote: Science has also shown the same of plants and bacteria, though, too. Microbial intelligence is an example that springs to mind which is readily found on Google.
Yes, and that raises some interesting questions. Should Buddhists encourage the use of antibiotics?

Going back to what Dan suggested earlier, I'd say that common sense applies. This is not Jainism, but the "Middle Way". We do our best.

My point was simply that we can't use the "automaton" theory to excuse the heedless and frequently unnecessary killing of animal or insect life. For most of the 20th century, and much of the 19th, scientists confidently assured us that animals do not have intelligence or a meaningful experience of the cosmos (as defined by us, of course). This patently self-serving assumption has had dangerous consequences, and it has now been largely debunked.

LE
I agree with this point, but disagree that it is the Middle Way.

The Middle Way falls between anthropocentrism (regarding humans as the center of the universe, the only thing of value) and committing the anthropomorphic fallacy (regarding non-human, even inanimate objects as humans or equal in value to humans, merely because they have certain shared qualities or similarities).

Furthermore, in this discussion people focus so much on conduct without regard to intent. People do not necessarily kill insects merely out of malice, but also out of regard for their own well-being. In this sense, it is no more unethical than a carnivore hunting its prey. In other words, has anybody here thought to ask whether it's immoral for the mosquito to bite people or fly in people's houses, uninvited? If yes, then perhaps death is the fruit of that action. If no, then why is it wrong for HUMANS to also act skillfully, for one's own well-being?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Annapurna
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Annapurna » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:05 pm

Individual wrote:To clarify this, let's first discuss human suffering:

When you have any sensation, it is the result of receptors in your tissue. By "receptors," I mean actual tiny physical objects embedded in your tissue, that can be all kinds of funny shapes. And their specific shape and chemical make-up is what determines their function. So, for example, pressure-receptors are shaped like little bubbles, so that when your skin is compressed, the contents of the bubbles is also compressed, triggering a reaction which is detected by a neuron (receptors have neurons connected to them to communicate that reception has occurred). Receptors for temperature occur because their shape is altered by temperature and your taste & smell receptors are like little keyholes which only certain molecules fit into (sugars fit into sweet receptors, salts fit into salty receptors, etc.).

Pain receptors -- called nocireceptors -- are receptors that transmit a signal when tissue has been damaged (literally drastically altered chemically or physically). When you feel pain, it travels up nerve fibers to your spine, travels up to the brain, and there, the pain is registered. Emotional anguish (which you may feel because of physical pain or just all by itself) is governed by the limbic system of the brain, called the "emotional center".

So, you understand me so far?

OK, now imagine you're an insect:
-You have no nocireceptors that detect pain
-Even if you did, you have no spine (insects are invertebrates) to carry the signal to the brain
-And even if you had a spine, your brain is not sophisticated enough to experience something like "emotional anguish".

Instead, insect intelligence is mechanical, like a venus fly-trap. When a fly lands in a venus fly-trap, it has receptors that detect something is there, causing the plant's leaves to close. But would anybody here say that a venus fly-trap is "aware", that trimming its leaves causes "suffering"?
Well, all these thoughts are clever, but redundant, when you look at the categories Buddha marked as sentient:

Humans and animals.

Is a mosquito an animal?

Yes.

Therefore, it is sentient.

If it is sentient, killing it is breaking the first precept.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

:anjali:

Annapurna

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Hanzze
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Hanzze » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:22 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Hanzze
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Hanzze » Mon Oct 04, 2010 5:36 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Sun Oct 31, 2010 5:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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ground
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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by ground » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:27 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Where do you draw the line, TMingyur?
Intention, correct perception of the object, affliction, performance and culmination of the action.
Lazy_eye wrote: Should a Buddhist brush his/her teeth, use antibiotics, or put disinfectant on a wound? All these actions are done with the intent to kill tiny organisms that would otherwise harm us. Plants are not sentient life according to the dhamma; cats and lemurs and humans and wasps are. But there's a large gray area where it's a bit hard to tell.
From a Mahayana point of view a buddhist should train to give his own life. But giving his own life should be compliant with wisdom and right purpose. Until wisdom is mature killing must be avoided considering the above criteria that determine what killing is and considering circumstances where there are alternatives to killing even if these cause additional burden and suffering for oneself.

Kind regards

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Annapurna » Mon Oct 04, 2010 8:43 pm

Hanzze wrote:
Annapurna wrote:
Well, all these thoughts are clever, but redundant, when you look at the categories Buddha marked as sentient:

Humans and animals.

Is a mosquito an animal?

Yes.

Therefore, it is sentient.

If it is sentient, killing it is breaking the first precept.

Quod erat demonstrandum.



:anjali:

Annapurna
I do not think that that catches the point. Taking life is taking life. Harming is harming. Do not look if it is a good being or a bad, an animal or something else. A plant or a ghost. Killing is killing. To think about if the being is sentient is dangerous.
Reduce your killing and harming. That is the practice at the very first beginning. Nothing else. As more complication are coming with the keeping of it you need to work on the roots of killing and harming. Mind. There is where you can handle it real. If they are uprooted, you will not need to decide anymore :-)
I do not think that that catches the point.
Of course it does.

I think you could use a bit more information on what constitutes sentience in Buddhism and what doesn't.

Plants are not sentient, in Buddhism, -and we're not Jains.

And so far I haven't met a ghost yet, have you? ... ;)
To think about if the being is sentient is dangerous.
No, it's not.

It's helpful and pivotal, -because you know that you can eat plants, and take antibiotics, and that you shouldn't kill animals and humans.

It really doesn't have to be any more complicated.
Mind. There is where you can handle it real.
Yes. With the facilities of the mind we can distinguish between plants and animals. ;)

It would be killing an animal, but it would not be killing a plant, according to Buddhist understanding of sentience.

Or what would be left to eat???

Annapurna

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:25 pm

Yes, practically speaking we have to draw a line somewhere or we would be Jains.

The problem is that it remains something of a gray area whether micro-organisms fall under the category "sentient life" or not. As Individual pointed out, they also display evidence of intelligent behavior. So the fact that they are microscopic and require a host body as an ecosystem doesn't, in itself, settle the question.

As far as I know, the Buddha didn't say anything about this category of beings, so we have to extrapolate from what he did say. (If there' s a relevant sutta passage, hope someone will share it!)

If you or I take an antibiotic, then it seems we are actually fulfilling the criteria stated by TMingyur:

Intention: I want to remove the bacteria from my body
Correct perception: I know it is a living organism in there.
Affliction: it does not want to be removed (microorganisms have defensive and evasive behaviors)
Performance: I take the antibiotic
Culmniation: Bacteria is gone, I am better

I don't want to make too much of this topic since, as Anna said, it's probably not so important practically speaking. Still, if we are going to justify taking antibiotics, then why not kill mosquitoes that carry a disease? Why not put down a rabid dog? etc etc.

And the only answer I can come up with right now is that, as ordinary beings in samsara, we are going to face dilemmas like this from time to time. We may not be able to find a clear-cut answer, and we may not avoid generating kamma. Absolute purity/perfection is only feasible for those who have completely severed their attachment to samsara. Maybe someone like Dipa Ma could do it.

The rest of us, well, we just have to work on it to the best of our capacities.

LE
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by beeblebrox » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:48 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I don't want to make too much of this topic since, as Anna said, it's probably not so important practically speaking. Still, if we are going to justify taking antibiotics, then why not kill mosquitoes that carry a disease? Why not put down a rabid dog? etc etc.
The way I understand it, one shouldn't try to make any justification for what he/she does. This only leads to deluding oneself. Killing is killing, doing is doing, etc.

Everyone does that one way or another, of course... the only difference is that the people who practice the Dhamma should try to see it for what it is: try to think about it; see how it can be improved; or if it can't, then move on. Don't feel bad about it... it's part of saṃsāra. (But that doesn't mean you should try to make excuses for it, in an attempt to make yourself feel good about it.)

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Individual » Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:06 am

Annapurna wrote:
Hanzze wrote:
Annapurna wrote:
Well, all these thoughts are clever, but redundant, when you look at the categories Buddha marked as sentient:

Humans and animals.

Is a mosquito an animal?

Yes.

Therefore, it is sentient.

If it is sentient, killing it is breaking the first precept.

Quod erat demonstrandum.



:anjali:

Annapurna
I do not think that that catches the point. Taking life is taking life. Harming is harming. Do not look if it is a good being or a bad, an animal or something else. A plant or a ghost. Killing is killing. To think about if the being is sentient is dangerous.
Reduce your killing and harming. That is the practice at the very first beginning. Nothing else. As more complication are coming with the keeping of it you need to work on the roots of killing and harming. Mind. There is where you can handle it real. If they are uprooted, you will not need to decide anymore :-)
I do not think that that catches the point.
Of course it does.

I think you could use a bit more information on what constitutes sentience in Buddhism and what doesn't.

Plants are not sentient, in Buddhism, -and we're not Jains.

And so far I haven't met a ghost yet, have you? ... ;)
To think about if the being is sentient is dangerous.
No, it's not.

It's helpful and pivotal, -because you know that you can eat plants, and take antibiotics, and that you shouldn't kill animals and humans.

It really doesn't have to be any more complicated.
Mind. There is where you can handle it real.
Yes. With the facilities of the mind we can distinguish between plants and animals. ;)

It would be killing an animal, but it would not be killing a plant, according to Buddhist understanding of sentience.

Or what would be left to eat???

Annapurna
Annapurna wins. Hanzze loses. :popcorn:
Lazy_eye wrote:Yes, practically speaking we have to draw a line somewhere or we would be Jains.
I think the Jains draw a line too, at "life".

You could be more extreme and have compassion for ALL animate objects: "I abstain from interfering with all molecular interactions."

If a photon wants to go this way or that way, why should I interfere?
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra

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Re: How bad is killing a mosquito?

Post by Annapurna » Wed Oct 06, 2010 9:15 pm

Individual wrote:"I abstain from interfering with all molecular interactions."

If a photon wants to go this way or that way, why should I interfere?
:rofl:

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