Carrying snails across the gravel path

Alleviating worldly suffering along the way.

Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby a_human_being » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:45 pm

When I take nature walks I often see snails that are about to, or on their way of, trying to cross the gravel path where I am walking. Since this path most often have people walking, running or biking there, it feels like these snails face a very big risk of (if not even being doomed to) getting smashed on their no doubt hard and draining struggle to cross this dry "desert" to the green grass on the other side. Almost every time I see a snail here, I get an impulse inside telling me that the right thing to do, would be to just stop and pick this snail up and carry it safely to the other side, in the direction it was going, which I quite often do.

No matter how many snails I help this way, I feel guilty for not helping every single snail that I see. Why should I be allowed to differentiate and judge this way based on my sheer laziness to decide not to take every single snail I see across? Which snail deserves to be saved if I can, and which does not? All of them deserves to get safely across. I can't explain it further but my inside tells me: "By helping them across, you help all of us across."

1) Is stopping and picking a snail up and carry it safely across the the gravel path to the other side to prevent it from getting smashed by other people, a skillful, neutral or unskillful act, and why?

2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?

3) Is it unskillful because we ...interrupt ... events unfolding... that is not our business (even if we would like to make it our business) ?

4) If this is skillful, does that mean that ideally we should stop and help EVERY snail across? How do I know where to draw the line? (I guess I should think of "the middle way" here and that helping a few is better than none)

5) What are your other thoughts if any on this?
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:53 pm

Not just snails, but worms have a knack of heading towards death by crushing or drying out on the road. I try to pick them up in time to help.

Helping them benefits them directly but also helps you - not just through good karma but also simply by you feeling compassion and exercising it.

These acts of compassion have a compounding effect in embedding that feeling more and more deeply in our minds.
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby underthetree » Sun Aug 05, 2012 10:16 pm

I just do it because I don't want the creature to come to harm, and I can help. It seems that, if you see something in danger and you can help, why would you choose not to? The decision not to act is far more momentous than just acting and moving on. If I remember, and especially if I find even a glimmer of self-satisfaction inside myself, I dedicate what merit there might be for the benefit of all beings.
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby waimengwan » Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:01 pm

Do that but don't just stop at snails.

Slowly expand your scope of help to more complex creatures, people and society. If we have so much love for others how can we not be happy?
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby seeker242 » Mon Aug 06, 2012 10:15 pm

a_human_being wrote:When I take nature walks I often see snails that are about to, or on their way of, trying to cross the gravel path where I am walking. Since this path most often have people walking, running or biking there, it feels like these snails face a very big risk of (if not even being doomed to) getting smashed on their no doubt hard and draining struggle to cross this dry "desert" to the green grass on the other side. Almost every time I see a snail here, I get an impulse inside telling me that the right thing to do, would be to just stop and pick this snail up and carry it safely to the other side, in the direction it was going, which I quite often do.

No matter how many snails I help this way, I feel guilty for not helping every single snail that I see. Why should I be allowed to differentiate and judge this way based on my sheer laziness to decide not to take every single snail I see across? Which snail deserves to be saved if I can, and which does not? All of them deserves to get safely across. I can't explain it further but my inside tells me: "By helping them across, you help all of us across."

1) Is stopping and picking a snail up and carry it safely across the the gravel path to the other side to prevent it from getting smashed by other people, a skillful, neutral or unskillful act, and why?


Skillful because the cause of the action is compassion. :)

2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?


Yes. :)

3) Is it unskillful because we ...interrupt ... events unfolding... that is not our business (even if we would like to make it our business) ?


No. You would not just stand by and watch a person get hit by a car if you could stop it. That would, itself, be unskillful. :)

4) If this is skillful, does that mean that ideally we should stop and help EVERY snail across? How do I know where to draw the line? (I guess I should think of "the middle way" here and that helping a few is better than none)



But to think you can save every person from being hit by every car, so to speak, it not really possible. The middle way is definitely the way to go here I think. :) You really can't quit your job and leave your family behind so you can be out there all day, every day, just helping snails cross a gravel path. Ideally, you can't save every one from dying, that is just the nature of Samsara. ALL living beings are "doomed to die", including us! It's just a matter how and when, it can't be stopped. But of course it is skillful to help when presented with the opportunity to help. Not even the Buddha himself could stop living beings from dying. :anjali:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Inge » Wed Aug 08, 2012 11:12 pm

a_human_being wrote:When I take nature walks I often see snails that are about to, or on their way of, trying to cross the gravel path where I am walking. Since this path most often have people walking, running or biking there, it feels like these snails face a very big risk of (if not even being doomed to) getting smashed on their no doubt hard and draining struggle to cross this dry "desert" to the green grass on the other side. Almost every time I see a snail here, I get an impulse inside telling me that the right thing to do, would be to just stop and pick this snail up and carry it safely to the other side, in the direction it was going, which I quite often do.

No matter how many snails I help this way, I feel guilty for not helping every single snail that I see. Why should I be allowed to differentiate and judge this way based on my sheer laziness to decide not to take every single snail I see across? Which snail deserves to be saved if I can, and which does not? All of them deserves to get safely across. I can't explain it further but my inside tells me: "By helping them across, you help all of us across."

1) Is stopping and picking a snail up and carry it safely across the the gravel path to the other side to prevent it from getting smashed by other people, a skillful, neutral or unskillful act, and why?

2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?

3) Is it unskillful because we ...interrupt ... events unfolding... that is not our business (even if we would like to make it our business) ?

4) If this is skillful, does that mean that ideally we should stop and help EVERY snail across? How do I know where to draw the line? (I guess I should think of "the middle way" here and that helping a few is better than none)

5) What are your other thoughts if any on this?

Here are some things to consider before moving snails:

Some species of snails are meat eaters and cannibals, and they enter roads/paths attracted by the smell of snails etc. that have been run over/stepped on, in order to eat their flesh. So moving such individuals out of the road is often of no help, as they just return, tempted by the smell.

Also, snails often follow their slime track back to their hiding place/home, so if you lift them up and move them somewhere else, they might be lost, and not find their way back home.


I personally have found that there are some snails that are very sticky, so when I try to get them of the ground, often sand, gravel and other dirt gets stuck to their bodies, so this kind of snails I now leave, as I feel I'm harming them. Also those that are very small is it difficult to move without hurting, whether they have snail house (or what it is called in english), or not. Also, the cannibals I just let be. Also at the places where there are always very many snails, there I mostly do nothing. So those that I try to help are generally only those that are obviously lost, and who are of such types and sizes that are not hurt by being lifted.

I wonder about ants. I have heard that they navigate by smell, and that if they are moved off their trail, they are lost, and then they are sure to die. For that reason I don't move ants. Does anybody of you know if this is correct?

As to whether moving snails or other animals out of the road is skillfull or not, I don't know. Often I feel I do more harm than help. Except maybe for earthworms.

And also if there are dead animals in the road, I think it is useful to move them away, as many kinds of animals come to feed on their carcasses, and end up being killed.
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby Doko » Thu Aug 09, 2012 10:09 pm

I do believe that at least some ants follow a smell trail. (I have heard that some ants don't even have eyes because they follow smell so well) I have ants in my kitchen now and I am unsure how to help them at this point. If I move them, as you say with the snails, they may loose their way. However climbing around in my sink is risky too. My sink is very clean and so is the disposal unit but they are still attracted to it every now and again.

~ So far I stay out of there way and try not to harm any of the cute little guys. I guess the sink belongs to the ants until they decide to move on; I can wash dishes elsewhere.
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Re: Carrying snails across the gravel path

Postby oldbob » Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:30 am

a_human_being wrote:When I take nature walks I often see snails that are about to, or on their way of, trying to cross the gravel path where I am walking. Since this path most often have people walking, running or biking there, it feels like these snails face a very big risk of (if not even being doomed to) getting smashed on their no doubt hard and draining struggle to cross this dry "desert" to the green grass on the other side. Almost every time I see a snail here, I get an impulse inside telling me that the right thing to do, would be to just stop and pick this snail up and carry it safely to the other side, in the direction it was going, which I quite often do.

No matter how many snails I help this way, I feel guilty for not helping every single snail that I see. Why should I be allowed to differentiate and judge this way based on my sheer laziness to decide not to take every single snail I see across? Which snail deserves to be saved if I can, and which does not? All of them deserves to get safely across. I can't explain it further but my inside tells me: "By helping them across, you help all of us across."

1) Is stopping and picking a snail up and carry it safely across the the gravel path to the other side to prevent it from getting smashed by other people, a skillful, neutral or unskillful act, and why?

Skillful because you earn relative merit for acting on a compassionate thought. Also skillful because you can make a wish / cause with that snail so that maybe it can have the opportunity to be born as a Dharma student, in its' next life. This is made stronger if you visualize your tongue as a flat, golden, three pointed vajra and say the Mani mantra (with Hrih) and blow on the snail. (Helps if you have accomplished the creative visualization / absorption of Chenrezig, but it is also ok without this.)

2) Is this skillful because we know that the snail will be smashed and we can prevent this from happening by carrying it across?

See above.

3) Is it unskillful because we ...interrupt ... events unfolding... that is not our business (even if we would like to make it our business) ?

Skillful because free will exists. If something is in my face, and my intervention can be helpful, I deal with it. That is where I draw the line, otherwise there is no end to involvement with the sufferings of the world. There are many snails, crossing many roads.

4) If this is skillful, does that mean that ideally we should stop and help EVERY snail across? How do I know where to draw the line? (I guess I should think of "the middle way" here and that helping a few is better than none)

Ideally yes. See above.


5) What are your other thoughts if any on this?


Saving lives is unequivocally virtuous. All the great Tibetan Masters practice this. I have happily gone on several "ransom" adventures. My first was an assignment to let loose 108 large crabs, one at a time, into Long Island Sound while saying a mani and blowing on each one. I bought the crabs at 5AM, from a Chinese grocer in Chinatown, NYC, and then drove to Long Island. Then I had to open the crate, dip one hand, protected with a welding glove into the crate, have one crab grab the glove, the remove the crab from the crate, then use my un-gloved hand to remove the little wooden sticks that had been placed in the claws to make them safe, then say the mani and blow on the crab, then lower the crab into the water and wish it well as it floated away, then repeat 107 times.

I also went on several "ransoms" with the great Yogi, Lama Sang, Ku Sum Ling Pa. We had a caravan of rented vans that picked up a menagerie at wholesale markets in Brooklyn, and then drove to a lake and let 100s of creatures loose: fish, ducks, frogs, eels, and birds. It was beneficial to be present while Lama Sang gave his blessings.

In general I take the little creatures outside, when I find them in my house. Sometimes I shnupf them up with a special "soft" battery operated vacuum that does not hurt them, and then immediately take them outside, and put them in the garbage can, with a wish that they should make it to garbage heaven.

I think that building relative merit is good for my practice and has the very useful side effect that I am not shy with strangers and in general get on well with all types of people.

Maybe I rescued them in a past life. When I meet someone who doesn't like me, I think that maybe I was mean to them in a past life. Karma matters.

There are many good posts, and some of the less obvious unintended consequences were helpfully pointed out.

That said, I think it is GOOD to save lives :twothumbsup: : hopefully with full presence and awareness of the triple empty.

Hope this helps.
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