SuttaCentral

Consciously knowing that microbes get killed while we live our day


#1

As i live my day, i walk, breathe and drive my car to work, i know that millions of microbes and insects are dying due to these actions, this has become an obsession and making me depressed that since i am aware of it only i will be accumulating the sin and not others. Does any of you have dealt with such situatuon and how do you cope up?? Please help.


#2

Hi RAGHAV022,

In Buddhism as i understand it, the concept of sin is irrelevant. The lord Buddha taught about Kamma which has to do with intentional actions. We don’t kill microbes intentionally hence it is not bad Kamma.

More generally, obsessing about anything is not an ideal mental state to hold into. If you consciously know that the act of living inevitably causes other beings to die, then the best you can do is not to make things worse by obsessing about things that you have no control over.


#3

Without all of these microbes, there wouldn’t be humans. There would have been no Gautama Buddha to teach us (and we wouldn’t be here in the first place). Stylized fact: for every human gene in your body, there are 360 microbial genes. In the end, nature “just is”, it follows its own laws. Why did a huge meteor crash into now-Chicxulub, wiping out the dinosaurs? Compassion supervenes on consciousness; atoms by themselves are incapable of compassion. But in acting compassionately we can only do so much. Yes, we can avoid eating meat, largely. But as beings carrying our own microbiome, we can’t avoid affecting the rise-and-fall of microbes, or in graver language, their birth and death, concepts which carry significant social and spiritual connotations. But aren’t we asking too much of these concepts when we try to apply them to bacteria? I won’t answer that question, but I think we will have to admit that some things are simply beyond our control. No matter if I like it or not, tomorrow more than one hundred thousand people will die. Similarly, tomorrow zillions of microbes will stop functioning and a zillion new ones will take their place. It’s all part of life.

For every human gene in your body there are 360 microbial genes.


#4

In debating the Jain philosophy, which meticulously avoids killing insects, the Buddha warns against loading oneself down with unobservable and unverifiable causes of kamma, indicating it would be excessive asceticism at variance with the middle way, and recommends focussing on removing the present hindrances which cause suffering, through exertion or equanimity, whichever is effective. Mental restlessness is the most pernicious of the five hindrances, and its antidote is the development of tranquillity:

"And how is striving fruitful, how is exertion fruitful? There is the case where a monk, when not loaded down, does not load himself down with pain, nor does he reject pleasure that accords with the Dhamma, although he is not fixated on that pleasure. He discerns that 'When I exert a [physical, verbal, or mental] fabrication against this cause of stress, then from the fabrication of exertion there is dispassion. When I look on with equanimity at that cause of stress, then from the development of equanimity there is dispassion.”—-MN 101


#5

Every life eventually ceases; knowing this, seeing the dukkha, extend metta in every direction. Do this often, interrupting those unskillful painful obsessive thoughts. This is something you can control, this is practice.

Extending metta to yourself as well, know that obsessive thinking can be a symptom of treatable bodily conditions. See a doctor for this. Persist in seeking and getting and using treatments for any bodily cause identified. Please, this would be a kindness to those who see you as a Kalyāṇa mittatā a spiritual friend.


#6

Dear Raghav022,

The internet is not the best place for receiving advice in situations such as this :slight_smile: No-one can appreciate the details of your circumstances, and as such, all advice is just a general, non-personalised opinion. So when reading the advice offered here, please keep this in mind! Only you and perhaps a teacher who knows you can offer the most appropriate direction.

With the Bushfires in Australia, I have been contemplating this subject and here are a few relevant points that I offer for your consideration.

Without death there cannot be life :slight_smile: It is the same with every living thing on the planet, and not exclusive to humans. In my personal opinion, this is one of the reasons that Samsara is such an unsatisfactory place. Dukha in samsara is inescapable. So one should feel no personal guilt for existing - Samsara is Dukha - it is nothing to do with any individual being.

So when one is on the path, one is striving to leave samsara behind :-). One has to stay alive to achieve this. It is the same as when the Buddha says that the desire to do wholesome things is necessary to engage on the path, and then at the very end it is let go of. In the same way, we as humans can’t stop existing (and harming some beings) until we are finally liberated. It is a necessary step to eventually achieving total harmlessness.

While this knowledge doesn’t get rid of the suffering, one can use it to develop further. Remember that you are one of the beings who is suffering, and have compassion for yourself.

I had some wise advice from a teacher recently, and that is to be careful about too much emphasis on compassion, as it is so closely related to suffering, and can lead to excessive suffering for oneself - which blocks progress on the path. Ultimately only wisdom can truly help other beings, so this gives extra impetus to practice well :slight_smile:

In order to progress along the path and not be crippled by doubt and guilt one needs to develop Right Attention. So in this case, one aspect is about realising the metta inherent in your wish to avoid causing any suffering. Focusing so intently on suffering can misdirect Right Attention, away from the Noble 8 fold path. Focusing on the metta frees one up to practice well.

One can choose how to use the experiences of Dukha, by directing attention (yonisomanisekara) to different aspects of it. Being aware of ones own conditioning also helps to direct Right Attention - one is aware of ones own habits of thinking, and consciously directs them to better areas for contemplation. EG if one is prone to see and feel the suffering of others, with a tendency toward depression, then one can see how ones conditioning can stop one from transcending samsara, by keeping the focus stuck. Instead if one focuses on Metta, which exists concurrently with suffering , then one has a means to keep practicing towards ultimate liberation. It is about balance and using experience to gain a broader perspective, gain in wisdom, and to begin to see things as they are :slight_smile:

I’ve always viewed every experience of suffering as an opportunity for progressing on the path. It works on 2 levels, firstly one uses the circumstances to further ones own practice and secondly, one becomes conditioned to associate appreciation with occurrences of suffering, ie one can immediately see a positive side to the experience no matter how horrible it is. This profoundly minimises the negative emotions and stops one from freezing or being stuck in the ‘suffering victim’ role, At least for me :slight_smile:
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With Regard to Right Attention Yonisomanisikara there is SN 46.32

Mendicants, whatever qualities are skillful, part of the skillful, on the side of the skillful, all of them are rooted in proper attention and meet at proper attention, and proper attention is said to be the best of them.

“Ye keci, bhikkhave, dhammā kusalā kusalabhāgiyā kusalapakkhikā, sabbe te yonisomanasikāramūlakā yonisomanasikārasamosaraṇā; yonisomanasikāro tesaṃ dhammānaṃ aggamakkhāyati.A mendicant accomplished in proper attention can expect to develop and cultivate the seven awakening factors.

As such, you could perhaps focus on both Metta and Right attention, while aiming for liberation for the benefit of ‘yourself’ and all beings :pray: :dharmawheel: :sparkling_heart:

If however, the depression has developed to such a stage as to interfere with your ordinary life, then I strongly suggest you seek some professional health. For this will ultimately help you get back to a balanced focus on the path.

With Metta and Karuna


#7

How do you know this?

Microbes may not be sentient beings, so killing them may not be consider harmful actions.

If you are aware of your intentional actions of killing insects or other such beings, which are sentient beings, then reflect on your actions and improve them accordingly!

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.061.than.html

Though repeated reflection, the Buddha claims, beings purify their bodily, verbal, and mental actions.

Thus, through repeated reflection, you may purify your own actions and be better able to live blamelessly and happily.

May you be happy.


#8

I read your comment on a post 2 year ago where you described being in same position, mowing lawn, driving etc. i would like to know where you aware of the fact while performed day today activity that insects and microbes are being killed as you mentioned in your post. And what measures you did to deal with it?


#9

Yes, that’s right. I am very aware of all the many ways that our existence impacts on others. This means that I’m aware of the harm and also of the benefit.
I used the above way of contemplating things as I described in my post. Also I focused on doing good. Really focusing on sila and metta for others :blush:
This is something we have control over, and can expend effort in kind actions.
As the distaste for living the worldly life increases, one can contemplate leaving it behind, to become a renunciate and devote ones life to the Dhamma. As a monastic, one is more protected from some of the day to day tasks, as lay supporters can deal with them. However,
But this isn’t necessary and one can live a very good and virtuous life as a lay person :slightly_smiling_face:. You will figure out what works best for you over time :slightly_smiling_face:

In my opinion it is a question of being kind to oneself, as one of the beings being caught in Samsara, and developing Right attention, so that one can practice as well as one is able.

Over time, as understanding grows, these things sort themselves out :slightly_smiling_face:
The important thing is to keep practicing, one step at a time, in the gradual training on the Buddhas Noble 8 fold path :pray:

Being part of a community of kalyanamittas definitely helps :slightly_smiling_face:

May we all be free of suffering and find liberation for the benefit of all beings. With mega metta :pray::thaibuddha: :dharmawheel: :sparkling_heart:


#10

You mean mostly your aware while you live through your day that your existence is causing harm to the living beings. Is it so??


#11

Personally I choose to direct my attention to more beneficial and skillful things to contemplate. For example, if the lawn needs to be mown, I will consider how I can be most kind, and set the lawn mower on a higher setting etc. When driving, in the country side I tend to drive slowly enough to minimize the chance of running over wildlife. I don’t use chemical poisons, and I don’t stress about flies, mosquitos and spiders. So the attention is how to reduce the damage. But again it is better to direct attention into how one can be kind, to all beings. Focusing on how one harms things, is only harming oneself and stops ones active work in following the Noble 8 fold path.

:pray:


#12

Also did you stop driving or always you wear a mask or carry a broom, as you were a bit obsessed or continuously aware that your existence are hurting other life forms.


#13

I still drive, don’t wear a mask or carry a broom. I believe that I have learned to see things in a more balanced and more skillful way. It is the mind that creates these situations, and it is within the mind that the solutions are to be found.

Now I have to let you know that this site isn’t really for discussion of personal practice. But I hope that the perspectives and dhamma that has been offered will give you a good start on how to move forward. :slightly_smiling_face:
Take your time and contemplate these things. It all takes time. Just focus on how the Buddha taught to decrease suffering through liberation. There is no better advice than that.


#14

Each inhalation introduces external microbes to internal microbes. Some live. Some die.
Each exhalation introduces internal microbes to external microbes. Some live. Some die.

Without breath, the internal microbes would certainly die. Perhaps it is better to breathe as they need.


#15

The way I look at it is, as far as we know today, microbes don’t feel pain; It is doubtful if even insects feel pain the same way we do; As for microbes, it is doubtful if they are sentient at all, let alone pain conscious;
So I don’t bother about microbes or insects, as killing them is either unintentional or to keep my health/environment unharmful for me;
I avoid intentional killing of other animals but I have the privilege of living in a city/concrete jungle; What would I do if I lived in a rural area/near forests - where I might have to deal with rodents, snakes etc… I reckon I would kill them if that’s unavoidable and feel bad about it - fill my mind with metta and carry on.


#16

Science doesnt know everything at present