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The First Precept (Harmlessness/Not Killing)

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  • #61
    Yes, gentleness towards tiny beings is a very beautiful quality.

    A good example of this is one of the girls at Santi. One night she went to bed and felt something crawling on her leg, for a moment she thought she might just ignore it and go to sleep, then she thought she might roll over in her sleep and crush it. So she got up and shook the sleeping bag, and a big spider fell out, she thought "no, surely not a funnelweb spider". She caught the spider in a bucket and took it to the main dwelling to identify it, and it looked just like the spider on the front cover of the "venomous snakes and spiders" book. She identified it as a sydney funnelweb spider (a relatively dangerous spider), took it outside, and released it in a safe place.

    Now while to some, it seemed like a close call - having a dangerously venomous spider in your sleeping bag with you - I think there was no chance at all that spider would have bitten her, no chance at all, because as a person she's so full of concern and sympathy for little creeping-crawly creatures and vigorously defends their lives. At a very mundane level, her concern that she might squash it in her sleep, turned out to protect her. But also I think, that at a deeper level, if you have that kind of very sincere heart of good-will towards a class of beings, those beings just can't hurt you. Call it the power of good-kamma or metta, but they know they don't need to be afraid around you.

    If you look into it, you'll see that people who don't have an issue with bugs, don't have any problems with them. Again at a very mundane level, if you don't have a problem with a bug crawling up your leg - then you don't have a problem. If you do kick up a big fuss, then it is a big problem, Waa! Panic!
    At Wat Pa Nanachat, one time a novice said "hold still, there's a big ant on you" and I just said "it's not a problem" and he said "they can sting" and I just said I wasn't worried, because I knew it had no reason at all to sting me. After a while this attitude can become very natural, and it's very peaceful.

    But I also think animals and bugs, just plain leave you alone if you have good-will towards them, but if you have bad-will they'll happily reciprocate. Again at Nanachat, there's a particularly viscous stinging ant, which forms big trials and large scale "war parties" over the paths - many meters swarming with ants, if you stepped on or near their trials they'd react and sting you and it hurt like bloody hell. During my four months at nanachat, I gradually made peace with these ants. In the end I stepped so softly and gently through their trials that they didn't react at all to my presence. Again part of it was just being soft and gentle so there was less impact/vibration for them to sense - but I couldn't step THAT gently, more importantly I'd developed sympathy for them, so they didn't have any hostility towards me.

    I remember when I was staying at Vimutti Monastery in New Zealand - there are a LOT of possums there. Possums are playful and mischievous creatures, they loved to play on Kuti's - for them the deck and railings was like a jungle gym and they'd make lots of noise and keep people awake at night and disturb meditation.
    But I saw how people had different levels of problems with the possums, and it seemed to be proportional to their level of ill-will and animosity towards the possums. One lay-man in particular was waging bloody war on the possums. He said one night a big possum peed on his tent. I'd believe that! Because he just had so much bad-will towards the possums.

    I on the other hand, would walk around the night and talk to the possums. There was one big tree in particular which was crawling with possums eating the berries. I'd go up to the tree and chat friendlily to a possum and it's be like "dude wtf I'm trying to eat here" and eventually retreat deeper into the tree.

    I never had a single problem with the possums. Even though they would certainly be around my Kuti, not a single one came and played on my kuti, not even once. I reckon I was so annoyingly friendly they wouldn't go near me!

    In one place, the Buddha describes the five precepts in terms of being a "great immeasurable gift to all beings of freedom from fear and danger", and I think this is the right attitude to take with the first precept. Don't just refrain from taking their lives, refrain from any kind of ill-will or cruelty and cultivate a heart of sympathy for their lives, and then the practice of harmlessness will really be fruitful.


    • #62
      Very inspiring Blake. I do try to rescue creepy crawlies from my house (my family are not so sympathetic) and would not kill them on purpose but I must say they still give me the "creeps"! I think it might be a few lifetimes before I develop enough metta to willingly have a funnel web share my sleeping bag!


      • #63
        Beautifully described thanks so much Blake. It puts a whole new meaning on "to tread softly on the earth".
        I am sure the animals etc can pick up our vibes, they know with whom they are safe and with whom they aren't.
        I try to also do the same as the girl with the spider, spiders are incredibly beautiful if you stop long enough to look at them.

        I laughed one day when a huge big male kangaroo came into our back garden and was eating our plants and food and water and occupying a large space right outside our back door. When I mean big I mean 70 kgs and much taller than me and with claws capable of ripping open a person's chest. This was a wild animal. I wanted to go into the garden and fill the bird bath so my instinct was to yell at it and make a whole lot of noise and try and frighten it away. He just looked at me. A close friend (non Buddhist) was with me and he sat down on the step and started talking kindly to the big fellow and just asked him kindly to move away so we felt safer, and explained to him in a gentle voice that much as we admired him we'd like him to leave. The kangaroo walked away.

        That was a brilliant lesson in metta.


        • #64
          Hello all. I have been advised to repost this thread. My apologies Rachel.
          I have been a practising Buddhist now for four years and during that time I believe I've had a good understanding of the five precepts, particularly the first. To abstain from the taking of life. But what about simulating that? Let me explain. A few months ago I joined an archery club whose disciplines include target and field archery. For those of you who don't know, target archery is the sort you see at the olympic games, field archery is shooting at either pictures or three dimensional lifesize models of animals (simulated hunting). Now, for a number of weeks some of the field archers have been asking me to join them shooting at the 3D's, which is something I'm not entirely comfortable with. I keep asking them if they would feel comfortable shooting at photo's of loved ones and most of them agree that they wouldn't, yet there are those who still think I'm nuts. So my question is, am I taking the first precept too literally or should I go along with the few on one occasion just to appease them? (Even as I write this a whole plethora of questions are arising, but one step at a time hey).Any feedback on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks. John.

          Metta to all.


          • #65
            What a thoughtful question John, thanks so much for adding it here - I thought you might get even more comments. I think you have the answer within your question, you say:

            Originally posted by John Stephen View Post
            For a number of weeks some of the field archers have been asking me to join them shooting at the 3D's, which is something I'm not entirely comfortable with. I keep asking them if they would feel comfortable shooting at photo's of loved ones and most of them agree that they wouldn't, yet there are those who still think I'm nuts.

            Metta to all.
            I would take your own discomfort as your guide, your heart and mind knows. Trust this. The fact that others think you are nuts is irrelevant. All of the precepts are swimming against the stream of general society so it isn't an uncommon reaction from others!


            • #66
              It won't make you a better archer to train with different types of targets if they all remain static targets and of roughly the same size and ranges. If you train to hit a target, a target is a target. Rachel is very wise when she says to take your own feelings as your guide. In fact, her whole last paragraph of the preceding post really makes it redundant for me to comment at all! LOL

              Be well,

              Jerrod : )


              • #67
                Very impressed by Blake's generosity and kindness.


                • #68
                  I like to keep monitoring how I am going with this precept each day, it reminds me I am a long way from refraining from killing any living being.

                  Here is my progress and otherwise this week. Well we got a big surprise on Weds a scorpion about 12 cm in length (that's big!) arrived in our bedroom next to the bed where my husband walks in bare feet on getting in and out of bed. The scorpion had a fair pair of pincers and a big tail complete with sting. He was calmly covered with a plastic container and removed outside. That was all easy and calm, no worries.

                  So how come is it when I am sitting at my desk and I feel the tiniest of tiny nips from a small sugar ant my instinct is to zap it. Yes, despite years of practice when "things" arrive on my body my first instinct is still to get rid of them pronto ... and ask questions later. I will keep practising! Maybe I will set myself up and have a special target this week of preserving very single ant in my study nip and no nip! I will report back on my progress. Wish me luck, there are a lot of then at the moment and they appear into sorts of places on my body.

                  Anyone else find their ability to keep the precept varies?


                  • #69

                    I do find my ability to keep the precept varies. Just yesterday I was working for a client repairing a wooden fence that had fallen down. I discovered a colony of ants living in the post that had broken, when I started knocking it with a hammer. They came running out, all over my arms! I initially wanted to swat them all but ended up blowing them off instead. It took a while, and toward the end I admit I was a little tired of being so considerate toward them. I didn't kill any that I know of. The significant part was in noticing my eventual loss of enthusiasm for being compassionate to them. Why? Because they were wasting "my" time. I was busy being careful to save them and not getting my work done. Selfishness. Not to mention I wasn't real fond of the sensation of several hundred ants crawling all over my arms. There again... had I not had an opinion about the sensations of them crawling on me, that part wouldn't have been an issue. Eventually I just let the random ant here and there crawl on me while I continued my work. Maybe you could try finding one (maybe a variety that doesn't bite) and just give it a minute to crawl on your hand or arm. Interestingly enough; the unusually large black widow spider that later crawled right where my left hand had just been didn't bother me near as much as usual. Still a creature to be given much respect, but my usual fear was quite diminished. They really are a very beautiful spider after all. I regarded it as a visit from a friend. Sounds silly, I know. But it works for me.

                    Jerrod : )


                    • #70
                      Wow you did so well Jerrod - what an inspiration you are. There is an issue with time - it does take a lot more time to be careful and our society is very time pressured and yes the fatigue of being so careful can kick in especially at work. I hadn't thought about it being an issue of thinking of it as "my" time - good point!

                      I also think the kindness once practised on one creature can flow to another hence your kindness to the spider. For me it is sometimes easier with a big creature I can see (hence a big spider) than a smaller thing creeping on me! It is all such good learning and quite fun to practice really!


                      • #71
                        Couldn't agree more Michael, the thought of creepy crawlies still gives me the creeps, although I have been using the tapping method to try to help get rid of my aversion and keep telling myself they are much smaller than me. I may have improved marginally, but have to admit that I have not come up against any creature that would put me to the test!


                        • #72
                          Wow, yes Rachel, that scorpion was big. Lucky it didn't migrate to the bed while you were in it!

                          I guess it is an involuntary reaction to swipe at something crawling on you, particularly if you are distracted, ie working at your desk. Last night I was reading my book in bed, felt a tickle on my cheek, and without thinking whacked it. Turned out to be a small harmless creature the size of a fat mosquito, just going about his business. I was deep into my reading matter and not concentrating on what I was doing. Sometimes one forgets to be mindful I guess!

                          Good luck Rachel.


                          • #73
                            I was at the monastery near my home a couple of days ago, sitting under a tree and "kind of meditating". I felt a slight little thump on my shoulder and looked to see this tiny fly-type creature. He just landed there it seemed for no reason and sat on my shoulder. I struck up a conversation with him. I know that small talk is not really considered right-speech, but I wanted to be cordial. It's just that I find that dealing with these guys on a more personal level, as opposed to dominant species versus subordinate species, it is much easier to keep the precept and even cultivate some happiness at a visit from one of these little friends. I'm no arahant, but this really works for me. Just some food for thought.

                            Jerrod : )

                            PS I realize in retrospect that I really did get some joy and a smile out of this unexpected visit from my little fly friend. Funny,no?
                            Last edited by Jerrod Lopes; 13th-March-2011, 01:10 PM. Reason: Afterthoughts, lack of mindfulness. lol


                            • #74
                              Nice one Jerrod, yes I often talk to creatures big and small, makes it easy to care for them. I just removed a sergeant ant (very big with horrible sting) from our bathroom this morning and managed to talk kindly to him/her as I coaxed it into a container and then released him a VERY long way from the house. Great thanks to scorpions and sergeant ants for giving me so much practice this week!!

                              Last night we were walking on the road and saw a huge wolf spider carrying its egg sac behind it. My husband kindly removed her from the road so she wouldn't be run over - I had a chat to her admiring her features - gorgeous.

                              I can do all the talking when things don't land on me, but I am with Anne there is an inbuilt response to brush things off if they suddenly land on me in case they are about to bite me. A survival instinct. I will work on this though and just try and insert a pause first.


                              • #75
                                [QUOTE=Bhante Nandiya;877]
                                I have just seen Blake is now Bhante Nandiya. How wonderful. Congratulations and much metta to you on your continuing spiritual life Bhante Nandiya.



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