Well, yes. But if I have the choice not to kill, shouldn’t I take it? And might people eventually have choices of the kind I describe? I don’t understand why, if such choices exist, I should prefer to keep eating living creatures and causing them harm. Even plant agriculture kills many animals–but we need not rely on plant agriculture forever. Provided that they are harmless and sustainable, perhaps fully synthetic options are preferable, even if, for aesthetic reasons, we find the whole idea strange right now.
I also like the idea of (boldly) going even further than Star Trek style replicators and dispensing with the physical human body completely. Beam me up Scotty.
It is good to carefully examine our actions for any resulting harm, and adjust. Giving up a car can help slow far-reaching harms of pollution & climate collapse.
About killing of insects, a certain account from scripture helped set my mind at ease: the case of the blind monk trampling insects. The walking path outside his dwelling was strewn with dead bodies of small beings. Other monks complained to the Buddha that the blind monk killed living beings by continuing to do walking meditation. The Buddha said, “Did you see him kill these beings?” “No, Lord.” “Well, neither did he see it! He has done nothing wrong.”
This suggests that for an act of killing, it’s not enough to know that beings may be dying, but there must be awareness of the presence of beings and a wish to harm them.
–> I searched for this story but can’t seem to find it. Anyone?
[Edited bolded sentence for emphasis]
It’s the story of Cakkhupāla Thera in the Dhammapada Atthakathā
In the Tipiṭaka he is mentioned only in the Theragāthā, where he has one verse:
I’m blind, my eyes are ruined,
I’m traveling a desolate road.
Even if I have to crawl I’ll keep going—
though not with wicked companions.
Ah, that’s it - the Dhammapada Commentary. Thank you so much!
Of course saṃsāra is unstable! That’s its characteristic — It’s anicca. But it’s also infinite, so, unfortunately, we can’t just wait
Please don’t get me wrong, I think technological progress is great as far as it goes — when it allows more people to live healthier lives more efficiently, etc. Just this morning I was delighted to receive some TVP from a sympathetic lay supporter. I’m a vegetarian ex-engineer — no need to preach to me the gospel of Progress™️!
What I’m arguing against is specifically this idea you mentioned of “transhumanism” —which to me is the idea that eventually technology will advance to the point where it can liberate us from the world. This idea is a dead-end, waste of time because technology already has advanced to the point where it can free us from the world.
That magical, amazing psychotechnology is called “The Noble Eightfold Path” culminating in True Mindfulness and Immersion, True Liberation and Knowledge, unbinding, extinguishing.
So, to answer your question about the ultimate “point” of Buddhism: yes! But it’s even more radical than mere transhumanism — it’s a transany-kind-of-existentialism (human or otherwise).
I usually try and save animals trapped in my house, and teach my kids not to harm them and treat them as if they would like to be treated, by giants. They might be our relatives in a previous birth!
I’ve been mulling this over. I guess that there is not a wish to harm them, but there is a disregard for their welfare with what I’m doing. I’m at that stage now where my eyes are drawn to the front of almost every other car. As @sabbamitta said, there are very few on the windscreen, but if I cast my eyes further down towards the headlight area then there is often carnage. I’m not going to get overly scrupulous about this, but I feel some changes are required to my driving habits.
It’s sounds to me like you’re developing Right Intention, particularly harmlessness.
Yes, maybe. I blame the book ‘A flower called Metta’ by Ajahn Chatchai. It’s been at my side for some time now.
You can pick up a pdf here
I still have a few copies of the paperback version ( English and Thai) if anyone would like to PM me their address. @Dheerayupa
I wonder if I might pursue this with you a little further?
If samsara is infinite, then in that sense, is there not stability? The contents (if you will) of samsara are unstable, but as a whole samsara is always there, churning, endless. So maybe like the ocean (samsara) and the waves on the ocean (things of samsara).
I’m getting into the start of what might be regarded as old-age now and I’ve been through countless deaths - pets, both parents, friends, the ‘love of my life’ (well the one before the current ‘love of my life’). They are like the troughs of the waves. The grief follows a common pattern, and eventually, even in the deepest part of the trough, one gets the idea that it is just a process that will be ridden out. There seems a natural learning associated with simply living life. The same is true about the crests of the waves. The beautiful bliss states are just processes too that will be ridden out. Whether it is a trough of grief or a crest of bliss, the ocean stays the same. In a very non EBT sort of way ‘Samsara is Nirvana’ as they say. The processes seem to stay but they don’t have the bite they once had. Why the need for the Buddha to sit outside the wheel of life, EBT style? Or to put it from the other way, why is the blind arahant monk (who is still a living being) considered blameless when he steps on ants? How can he still maintain a life-force in the knowledge that his being causes the death of others?
Thank you for your sincere and deep questions. It would be my pleasure to pursue this further with you. If you (and the moderators!) will forgive me, I’ll simply go straight to it:
The only problem is that we forget.
It took many years, and many painful experiences, for you to come to this perspective, this wisdom you now enjoy. You’re able to ride the waves now, but it took a lot of pain to build that boat. And next lifetime… perhaps some of that wisdom will carry over… but from my observation of children, much is forgotten from one life to the next.
So the suffering is endless. And, indeed, even the crests aren’t all that nice compared to the bliss of nibbāna. Saṃsāra is, simply put, not Nibbāna. Nibbāna is a high much higher than you can possibly imagine. Try telling a fish about the International Space Station.
And saṃsāra has lower lows. If you look at the suffering of your life and think, “well, that was tough but, on the whole, I wouldn’t mind doing it again” then congratulations on having had a good and rich life! They won’t all be like that. Hell is real, and it sucks.
And if even the thought of hell doesn’t spur you, because, “hell! that’s temporary too!” then please do consider the ants.
The arahant is free to commit suicide blamelessly because he’s already finished his job. He won’t kill himself just to pick up a new body. He’s on his way out.
If he steps on a few ants accidentally on his way out, well at least he won’t step on any more soon enough! And in the meantime he can teach, set a good example, perhaps even inspire someone else to “go the good way” too. And if even one being is inspired to follow, think of all the ants that person won’t squish in their future! Many many lifetimes will have been saved of ant stepping and heart breaking and humiliating and middle school and war and …
So this is what the Buddha sits outside of: the pain and suffering he would cause others if he chose to be reborn.
As your post aludes to quite beautifully, we’re all vaguely aware that our lives aren’t really about us.
The only problem is that we forget.
Very well, put!
Stu, considering the suffering requires in-depth understanding, we must understand the shortcomings of becoming ‘ok’ with samsara and the killing field, that it is.
I have a rat infestation in my attic that could be very problematic for me in many respects. I considered any justification for killing them and ended up buying some little cage traps. I trapped one last night and one the night before and released them 1/4 mile away. I think they are resilient enough to survive the relocation. What does everybody else do about rats? What do monasteries do?