"Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

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tenyang
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"Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by tenyang » Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:38 am

A few weeks ago I was staying at my mother's place. Two couples of barn swallows had built their respective nests in the garage (there's a large opening they fly through to get inside), but one afternoon I found one of them lying on the ground, severely injured. I took it inside and fixed up a makeshift nest for it inside a bird cage my mother keeps for such emergencies. I spent perhaps a couple of hours with the swallow. The vet was closed and unavailable, so I cleaned up its wounds and realised how serious they were: not only was one wing broken but on the bird's side there was a large open wound as if the bird had been mauled by a predator. I tried to provide the bird with whatever comfort I could, but I understood it was dying. I chanted the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra for it for a while. By the time my mother returned, the bird breathing was laboured and its eyes closed. She asked me about its conditions and I said I thought it wouldn't make it. I told her about the wounds, stated the facts. I knew these news would sadden her, but I didn't want to lie and give her false hopes.

My mother has tried all my life to persuade me that a "mercy" killing is an act of compassion. While her intentions are motivated by compassion and just like her I do not want another being to suffer, I'm not sure what I should do in such circumstances and still refuse to take a life, even if, as she puts it, it's only to "speed up" the process for a being who is already dying so as to shorten its suffering.

She took the swallow to the garage, away from me (out of respect for my vows and views) to kill it, and then prepared a safe place for the body to be left undisturbed.

But part of me thinks this was even worse, because this way I'm responsible not only for causing the bird's death but also for my mother's act of killing it (because she did so because I wouldn't do it).

What are your views on this? Thanks in advance and I apologise if the content of this post may be distressing.

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Kunga Lhadzom
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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Kunga Lhadzom » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:10 pm

I think it's an act of compassion to put it out of its misery.

If I get old & suffer from horrible pain (although it's my kama to suffer ), i would want the option of euthanasia, instead of suffering to death.
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tenyang
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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by tenyang » Tue May 01, 2018 11:20 am

Thanks for taking the time to post your point of view, Kunga Lhadzom.

There have been a lot of views on this thread (despite no more answers), so here is something I found that might interest those who open it: Lama Zopa on animal euthanasia.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Marc » Tue May 01, 2018 12:20 pm

This is of course a very difficult and painful situation.  

I personnally find Ajahn Thanissaro Bikkhu's point of view (though Theravadin) quite compelling:

Unless endowed with the super-knowledge that allows to see the karma of beings, we have absolutely no idea what awaits beings after death. However painful their life may currently be, their rebirth may be in even worse conditions and foster even greater sufferings.

What is certain however, even from our limited scope of knowledge and perception, is that the first precept (not killing) would have been breeched.  Therefore from that point of view, this is a "no-go". It would not truly be an act of compassion, but only a way to ease one's discomfort in the face of others' suffering.

Hard truth indeed. But to the point it seem.

Anyone here has some authoritative Mahayana scriptures at hand to shed on light on these matters ?

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by KathyLauren » Tue May 01, 2018 1:45 pm

I do not think the prohibition on killing is absolute. It may be close to absolute, but not quite there.

It is true that we have no knowledge of what awaits another being after death. But whatever awaits it, we do not have the ability to influence it. You can't alter another being's karma. So what awaits it is out of the equation. The bird was going to leave this life soon for whatever future awaits it regardless.

Whether or not "mercy killing" actually helps that sentient being in the long run is something we cannot know. I think this is what Marc is saying. But we do know that we are ending THIS suffering.

So maybe it is a bit unskillful to take a short-term action when we do not know the long-term consequences. But that is a long way from saying that it is not an act of compassion. It is true that one must be vigilant that it is the other sentient being's suffering that we are attempting to address, not our own. We should not kill another being in order to put it out of OUR misery.

But, unlike trying to discern another being's fate in its next life, distinguishing concern for our own discomfort from compassion for another being's suffering does not take superhuman ability. It just takes some basic self-awareness.

The most I will say against mercy killing is that it may be unskillful. But I would never judge another person's compassion. And I will try to use as much self-awareness as I can when I am in that situation, to ensure that my compassion is real. As a pet owner, the situation is real for me.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Emmet » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:41 pm

Am I prolonging life, or am I prolonging needless suffering? I know nothing about past or future lives or the karmic debt of swallows, but I've seen an awful lot of suffering and death. I believe that sometimes under some circumstances my Mahayana vow to save all beings might be best practiced by saving them from any further suffering.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by amanitamusc » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:10 pm

I would make the choice according to each individual circumstance.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by kirtu » Mon Aug 20, 2018 11:49 pm

tenyang wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 11:38 am
But part of me thinks this was even worse, because this way I'm responsible not only for causing the bird's death but also for my mother's act of killing it (because she did so because I wouldn't do it).
These are always difficult questions. My main Zen teacher said that he would not give direct advice on these matters (this was for people to whom he had transmitted the precepts).

What you did was not worse. You did what you could and you chanted mantra for the bird. Based on your statement the bird was going to die no matter what. You acted out of lovingkindness and compassion for the bird. From the bird's perspective they met with a Buddha at the end of their life in your actions (one can make this case based on your compassion and the mantra chanting).

The Third Jamgon Kongtrul was in a position like this and remained with the animal until they naturally died. However no one in his entourage would override him. We usually don't have these same options.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:25 am

This is such a hard one simply because nobody knows.

I have heard it argued that a being must be allowed to work out all of its karma, and that to end its life prematurely interrupts that process.
But, being "put out of its misery" is also its karma, is it not?

In a related situation, and perhaps one that many people can relate to, I recently had to deal with the issue of having to have the family dog "put to sleep". It was a very painful time for everyone in my family, probably more so for us than for the dog, whose condition was growing noticeably worse daily. Although he wasn't that old, a spinal condition was causing him to lose control of his body. He wasn't all that happy about it either. We did all we could for him up until then, saw many doctors, etc.

What we realized (and perhaps this point will have bearing on the original post) is that it was better to help him leave this life in a happy, calm, and clear state of mind, even though it was so hard to do. We realized that had we waited, that this would actually be selfish on our part because we were so attached to our beloved furry family member. If we had waited until the last possible moment, the dog would have left this life in pain and perhaps fear, and that is not the state of mind one should be in when dying. Am I correct?

When the vet administered the sedative, we massaged the dog's face, which was his favorite thing, and also "scratched" the top of his head, in order to draw his attention to that place on his body. I had contacted some lama friends who had given me visualization practices and mantras to recite at this time. I was also informed of the importance of having consciousness leave through the top of the head, so directing the animal's attention there seemed to make sense...if any of it does!

I guess, the point of this, is that I think we should do what we can for a suffering animal, even at the risk of getting it wrong, and then, at least dedicate the merit from our good intentions to their benefit. Whether we should actually kill a suffering animal or not... I look at it this way: Maybe I am breaking a vow against killing. But It is not my hope to kill, nor do I enjoy the act, nor look forward to doing it again, and these are all part of breaking a vow.

Are you willing to be wrong? Are you willing to say, "Okay, I will suffer the karmic consequences of my actions (of quickly killing this suffering bird or whatever) so that the suffering I see now will be over!" ...would you risk that?
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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Grigoris » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:59 am

Don't you love Judaeo-Christian guilt conditioning? Gets you every time!
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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Grigoris » Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:36 am

Marc wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 12:20 pm
I personnally find Ajahn Thanissaro Bikkhu's point of view (though Theravadin) quite compelling:
That is what is known as a Hinayana approach: ie the motivation to guarantee one's personal liberation, leads one to not take actions that could well reduce the suffering of others.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by amanitamusc » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:36 am

Grigoris wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:59 am
Don't you love Judaeo-Christian guilt conditioning? Gets you every time!
How do you feell about it?

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by shaunc » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:59 am

Where I live it's law to get veterinary care for an animal that requires it and sometimes that veterinary care will be euthanasia.
Yes, there's no doubt a certain amount of bad karma accrued through putting an animal down, there's also a certain amount of bad karma involved in watching an animal suffer needlessly. So pick which bad karma you reckon you can live with.
No one gets out of this life without accruing a certain amount of karma, both good and bad.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Grigoris » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:15 am

amanitamusc wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:36 am
Grigoris wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:59 am
Don't you love Judaeo-Christian guilt conditioning? Gets you every time!
How do you feell about it?
I have put down animals (or had them put down) when it was obvious there was no real salvation for them. I feel sadness for the animal, for it's suffering and that is why I do it.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Miroku » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:28 am

Mother Teresa refused to give people medicine or painkillers because she thought that it will bring them closer to god. Some Hindus believe that people suffering have to suffer because it is their "karma" and if the go through with it next live will be better.

Those are quite effed up things to do. Most people here have vows of bodhisattva. Probably everybody here contempletes bodhicitta daily. Ofc when we see something like that we have to try to do sth. Be it taking the poor animal to a proffesional or just ... ending it if there is no other way really. Ofc prolonging the life and nursing them back to health would be the best, but if that is not possible what is really the point of letting them suffer? Putting them down and doing practice like shitro or chenrezig will probably benefit them more than leaving them in pain. Not mentioning that before helping them die you can help those animals to go to pure land (if you know phowa) or help them have a cause of liberation in the future (through mantras and blessed objects and substances). That is the most compassionate thing to do. They will suffer in future life, but by creating a contact with dharma for them will surely lead them to liberation sooner or later.

ChNN said (if I remember correctly) that some practitioners who feel strong connection with Tara could have been ants that she has stepped on when she was still just a bodhisattva with a body, or through one of her infinite emanations.
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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by seeker242 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:41 am

I would not do it myself but I would allow a veterinarian to do it if that is what they decided was best for the animal. If it is to be done it should be done humanely. Ordinary non-medical people do not have a method to perform it humanely. It should only be done by a medical professional in the appropriate manner.
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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by amanitamusc » Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:55 am

Miroku wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 11:28 am
Mother Teresa refused to give people medicine or painkillers because she thought that it will bring them closer to god. Some Hindus believe that people suffering have to suffer because it is their "karma" and if the go through with it next live will be better.

Those are quite effed up things to do. Most people here have vows of bodhisattva. Probably everybody here contempletes bodhicitta daily. Ofc when we see something like that we have to try to do sth. Be it taking the poor animal to a proffesional or just ... ending it if there is no other way really. Ofc prolonging the life and nursing them back to health would be the best, but if that is not possible what is really the point of letting them suffer? Putting them down and doing practice like shitro or chenrezig will probably benefit them more than leaving them in pain. Not mentioning that before helping them die you can help those animals to go to pure land (if you know phowa) or help them have a cause of liberation in the future (through mantras and blessed objects and substances). That is the most compassionate thing to do. They will suffer in future life, but by creating a contact with dharma for them will surely lead them to liberation sooner or later.

ChNN said (if I remember correctly) that some practitioners who feel strong connection with Tara could have been ants that she has stepped on when she was still just a bodhisattva with a body, or through one of her infinite emanations.
I could picture Mother T with a dilaudid drip in her last days.

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Marc » Fri Aug 24, 2018 11:20 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Tue Aug 21, 2018 7:36 am
Marc wrote:
Tue May 01, 2018 12:20 pm
I personnally find Ajahn Thanissaro Bikkhu's point of view (though Theravadin) quite compelling:
That is what is known as a Hinayana approach: ie the motivation to guarantee one's personal liberation, leads one to not take actions that could well reduce the suffering of others.
Hi Greg,
Hmmm... Sorry but, first of all, this is a bit of a simplistic / charicatural “cathechism”, and it simply misses the point.
I am not pondering this pov out of some selfish cowardise, in order to avoid some bad karma...
I genuinely worry that if I don’t know what is going to happen to the animal whose suffering I want to end, then the only suffering I’m really easing is that of my consicousness...

A little anecdote:
I remember a little pet rabit I had many years ago. She was so sick and agonizing one night that I thought that I to do something. But I remembered that I had simply no clue of the intricacies of Karma and did nothing of that sort, but simply prayed for her. Miraculously the day after, she was just fine... (I’m not saying my prayers did anything) And a year later, she made the joy of a little girl who had just lost her mom and found some solace caring for another being...

Karma is complex. I’m not advocating a “Pyrrhonist inaction”, but am just reflecting outloud and saying that we ought to be careful with so-called good intentions that may sometimes merely be ways for us to ease our consciousness or feel good about ourselves...

Have a nice week-end,  
Cheers
M

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Grigoris » Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:06 am

Marc wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 11:20 pm
Hi Greg,
Hmmm... Sorry but, first of all, this is a bit of a simplistic / charicatural “cathechism”, and it simply misses the point.
1. I did not say that your view was Hinayana, I was referring to the quoted view. 2. It is a Hinayana view to focus on your own liberation and ignore the suffering of other beings. That's the way it is.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: "Mercy" killing of a dying animal - moral doubts

Post by Bundokji » Sat Aug 25, 2018 12:19 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Sat Aug 25, 2018 9:06 am
Marc wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 11:20 pm
Hi Greg,
Hmmm... Sorry but, first of all, this is a bit of a simplistic / charicatural “cathechism”, and it simply misses the point.
1. I did not say that your view was Hinayana, I was referring to the quoted view. 2. It is a Hinayana view to focus on your own liberation and ignore the suffering of other beings. That's the way it is.
The suttas encourage focusing on ones own liberation, but it also encourage practicing the Brahmavihara, hence i fail to understand how your claim about ignoring the suffering of other beings can be accurate.

Thanks

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