Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

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Michael126unknown
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Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by Michael126unknown »

Hello,

It is an interesting question... The answer is probably somewhat obvious but I want to be sure. Is it true that the Buddha taught against killing beings in a lot of suffering, out of mercy? For example, euthanasia for a sick dog etc.?

Thank you.
Fortyeightvows
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by Fortyeightvows »

I think a good rule is ‘if you don’t know for sure where someone is going, then you shouldn’t kill them’

That being said, I killed a dog once. It was seriously injured so I didn’t wait for a vet and also I didn’t want to involve others in it.
Of course I had a monk do prayers over it’s body afterwards. And sponsored more prayers for both of us later.

One teacher told me I shouldn’t have done it. Another teacher told me that since my motivation wasn’t bad that it wasn’t too bad.
It still bothers me today and I don’t know if I made the right choice or not. But at the time I thought it was the right choice to end it quickly.

I don’t know why exactly you ask this, but those sorts of things are so personal, you know?
No matter what anyone tells you, ultimately you will have to make your own peace.
tkp67
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by tkp67 »

Fortyeightvows wrote: Tue Jul 21, 2020 11:13 pm I don’t know why exactly you ask this, but those sorts of things are so personal, you know?
No matter what anyone tells you, ultimately you will have to make your own peace.
One needs to come to terms with one's own ignorance to come to terms with one's own own ignorant actions. So for me it begs the question what is the value of correcting someone trying to be proactive in regards to understanding cause and effect?
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by Fortyeightvows »

tkp67 wrote: Tue Jul 21, 2020 11:18 pm One needs to come to terms with one's own ignorance to come to terms with one's own own ignorant actions. So for me it begs the question what is the value of correcting someone trying to be proactive in regards to understanding cause and effect?
Maybe i don't understand you but I don't think I was 'correcting', or at least I wasn't trying to.

I don't know the specifics of the situation the op.
And I understand getting general input into the matter, but without knowing the actual situation... and even if I did know the situation, I still would be slow to judge the decision a person makes. After all, it is them that will have to live with it.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

If it were me suffering in agony, and there was no saving me, or helping me, I’d want to be put out of my misery.
If you can avoid killing, it’s best.
The worst thing is wanting to kill, enjoying the act, feeling no remorse, and hoping to do it again.
The further you are away from those four motivations, the better.
We had to have our dog put down almost two years ago. It is better that he died happily, with a peaceful state of mind, than in agony, fear, and confusion. I think most teachers say this.
I was very torn up about it emotionally. Not because of some fear of creating bad karma for myself, but because animals are at our mercy.
Also, sometimes you may have to say “even though this may cause unfavorable results or an unfavorable rebirth for me, it is unfortunately the best choice, as far as I know”
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

On January 25 of this year, Kalu Rinpoche made this comment. Although the question was about abortion, I think he makes some points that apply here:

“ Well, from my perspective, because I heard this question a long time ago, before this “Facebook live” was even invented, way, way before. I was in this university and they asked that question. My clear answer on that is, taking life is wrong, and there’s no different explanation for that. Suffering is there, therefore it’s nothing new. Taking life is wrong, suffering is there. Whether you choose to keep it, or whether you choose not to keep it, suffering is there. Nothing is changed. Therefore, from the Buddhist perspective, of course we can try to make ourselves sound more and more modern, but taking a life is wrong. If I try to put it in a more narrative perspective, we always take life, every day in our life. We say that, “I’ve never killed any living beings.” We assume that just because we didn’t carry a knife in our hand, just because we didn’t carry a weapon. But we always kill animals when we are walking around in the summertime. When we are walking around in a forest, we kill animals. When we are driving a car we kill so many butterflies. We say, “Oh, I’m a vegetarian. Oh, I’m a pure Buddhist!” But then, they don’t count how many animals they kill when they are going in a train, when they are going in a car, when they are flying in an airplane. When you fly in an airplane you kill a lot of birds. When you are in the train you kill a lot of small insects along the high speed or low speed train, and then when you are driving a car, there is a lot of light that it shows from that, and the small insects, they are very much attracted to that and then they sacrifice by themself by hitting the car. You know, there’s so many life that we take every day. There’s not even a limit or number or days that you can count. Almost every few hours, actually.
So, making a one big issue just by a different perspective, I don’t think that is very much Buddhist view. The most important is that taking a life is wrong. If we can minimize that, that is good. But if you have no choice in terms of reality, that is also life. But suffering is there. Nothing new, it’s nothing old, it’s just the situation of the reality itself. So, there’s no such as the “Buddhist view”. Buddhist view is that taking a life is wrong. Whether it is in a human form, whether it is an animal form, doesn’t matter. Death is not dramatic. It is wrong to take someone’s life. I hope my answer is not too disrespectful for some individual. And I know I sound like I’m answering in two different group, but that’s what I see. That’s what I feel. That’s what I witness. “
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jimmi
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by jimmi »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:23 am If it were me suffering in agony, and there was no saving me, or helping me, I’d want to be put out of my misery.
If you can avoid killing, it’s best.
Would you rather someone smother, cut or bludgeon you
or comfort you, be with you, stay with you to the miserable end.
A pill or injection is not always an option.

EDIT: I see that I have misread and misunderstood your statement, reading that there is no one to save or help you. In my mind’s eye you were quite mangled up following an accident of some sort, with no real expectation of survival.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

jimmi wrote: Wed Jul 22, 2020 3:37 am
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Jul 22, 2020 2:23 am If it were me suffering in agony, and there was no saving me, or helping me, I’d want to be put out of my misery.
If you can avoid killing, it’s best.
Would you rather someone smother, cut or bludgeon you
or comfort you, be with you, stay with you to the miserable end.
A pill or injection is not always an option.

EDIT: I see that I have misread and misunderstood your statement, reading that there is no one to save or help you. In my mind’s eye you were quite mangled up following an accident of some sort, with no real expectation of survival.
A blunt instrument would suffice.
No need to make things too complicated.
Thanks for asking!
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jimmi
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by jimmi »

Life and death considerations, especially those involving someone else, even in the abstract, have always been complicated for me.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

One of my teachers did a whole public teaching on this once, it ended up being controversial in some people's eyes.

By my reading the gist of what he said was that there may be times where Euthanasia is morally justifiable, but that he thinks in modernity people will often just use it because death is unpleasant and they want to avoid it, which from a Buddhist perspective would be counterproductive. He did also say something like "maybe I'll change my mind when I'm dying and in incredible pain". The final word of the talk was that there was no final word, and that motivation was very important to discerning the right thing to do.

It's also worth considering that the modern age makes a kind of prolonged death possible that simply was not as possible at one time, it's a complicated question.

IIRC it's explicitly banned in the Vinaya, though maybe someone can verify that. Not that that helps much when you have such a decision to make, frankly.
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Michael126unknown
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by Michael126unknown »

Thanks for the responses, everyone. This is quite a bit to consider..

Johnny Dangerous, I think your point makes a lot of sense, all things considered - In the case you mentioned, people using it to ignore the discomfort of seeing death, it’s just about a pity that makes you depressed rather than genuine compassion and love. But I don’t know.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by shaunc »

From a Buddhist perspective the taking of any life generates a certain amount of bad karma.
Having said that the fact remains that watching an animal suffer needlessly must also generate a certain amount of bad karma.
I put down a dog about a year ago, well I paid a vet to do it and yes, no doubt I will suffer a certain amount of bad karma for doing that.
Just own it. What else can you do.
He had 13 good years where he was fed, exercised and housed quite well. Maybe there's also a certain amount of good karma coming my way for doing that.
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PeterC
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by PeterC »

People often bring up the story of the Bodhisattva on the boat, who knew someone was going to kill many people, so he killed that person and assumed the negative karma from the act so as to prevent the deaths of more people.

Some people read this and conclude - it's ok to take life if it's justified by a larger cost-benefit analysis. That is the wrong conclusion. The Bodhisattva created and suffered negative karma from these actions. That is inescapable when you take life. Since he was a Bodhisattva he could perceive accurately the harm that the person would cause, and perceive the negative karma he himself would have to take on. If you're not a Bodhisattva then you have no way of knowing what harm you will cause by killing a person, a dog, even the smallest insect. So you should avoid it if at all possible.

This isn't a very intuitively satisfactory answer. If we have, say, a chronically ill or mortally injured pet, who will only suffer increasing pain and clearly will not improve, our intuition says that we should put them out of their misery. But we don't know the karmic effects of this. Kalu R's comment is probably the simplest rule to follow - that we shouldn't take life. In any situation where we do, we should know that we are creating negative karma. That's the beginning and end of it.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by seeker242 »

A good question to ask here is: Did the Buddha require what goes on at a Jain animal shelter? No animals are ever euthanized at a Jain animal shelter. Doesn't matter how much they are suffering. A rabid dog for example, it will be put in a cage until it slowly dies a natural death, which could take weeks, meanwhile it's literally chewing off it's own legs. Is that compassionate? Is that kind?
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: Did the Buddha teach against killing a being quickly out of mercy?

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

One of the things someone exploring Buddhism might pick up from all of this, which is kind of important I think, is that Buddhism doesn’t rely too much on moral absolutes and strict rules strictly for their own sake. You are not being judged by a god. Of course, depending on whether you have taken certain precepts or vows makes some difference, but you can’t break them if you haven’t taken them. In short, we are each on a path. All the guidelines are just that.

They are meant to keep us on that path. Sure, you can step off and plummet a thousand feet, and spend a few lifetimes climbing your way back up, which, supposedly, we have all done countless times, and yet, here we are, all of us fortunate to be able to practice Dharma in this life, at this time, and now, so very very close to reaching our destination (compared with how long it has taken to get this far).

I think, The Buddhist answer to almost everything basically comes down to doing your best to stay on the path, and doing what you think you have to do to benefit others. Nobody is perfect. We aren’t realized Buddhas yet.
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