“In Pali, the first precept is Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami; “I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.” According to Theravadin teacher Bikkhu Bodhi, the word pana refers to breathing or any living being that has breath and consciousness.” - ThoughtCo.
I remember a lovely teaching I heard many years ago about putting pets to sleep. The teacher said it might be a good idea to ask the pet - if it was in so-much difficulty - if it would like the dying/struggling process to end.
I was caring for a cat and watching its steady decline. It reached the point where the cat was in a really bad way and we spent some time just looking into each others eyes. As a consequence of this communion an intention arose to help the cat to die so it would not have to struggle any longer.
I took the cat to a vet and the cat was assisted to die by very caring people and I was there transmitting merit until the end. I did not feel as if the vet, the vets assistant or, myself had any unwholesome/akusala intention at any point in this situation.
I didn’t feel the cat was troubled in any way, resentful or, in any pain when it received a lethal injection. We were stroking the cat and it was peaceful and quiet and then it stopped living.
If the time comes, if I am in a similar situation, I would appreciate it if someone were to offer me the assistance required to end a pointless struggle to survive. I would understand, from personal experience, why they may feel inclined to help me - my dear ones - when faced with this situation. I would feel grateful as a consequence. I am not saying that this is applicable to everyone. I can only speak for myself when it comes to euthanasia.
What life experience tells me is, its not always an unwholesome negative intention to end the life of a sentient being.
Therefore, in some instances, the precept ‘not to intentionally take the life of a sentient being’ is not a wise, skilful, kind or, compassionate ‘intention’ (kamma), motivation, precept or, whatever else you wish to call it.
We may not be acting with clarity and kindness if there’s an inability to respond to suffering because a holy-book has threatened a punishment to those who don’t conform. We have to keep our thinking-caps on!
If we wish to gain Dhamma clarity when it comes to kamma, which I believe is the motivation that drives intentional behaviour, we have to be sensitive to the influence of the 3 roots.
I can imagine a scenario where some god-fearers - and Buddhists - may have let the cat suffer. Not as a consequence of compassion but, out of a fear of negative repercussions.
The Buddha-to-be saw through fear and terror on the way to final release. If our motivations are driven by fear then, when we get scared we may act irresponsibly.
We may become vulnerable to manipulation by others and be motivated to behave in an unwholesome way out of fear and loathing. However, if we are motivated by wholesome intentions we need not worry or be filled with misgivings.
We may be mistreated or killed - experience pain - and be filled with love and goodwill because our is in the right place - come what may.
Some may hate the idea of their own suffering and, are less concerned when it comes to the suffering of other beings. Due to greed or aversion/hatred they are motivated to behave in a way that lacks compassion.
The suffering of every sentient being is as important as our own. I was not motivated to help the cat to die out of the hatred of pain or, a desire for a reward for doing a good deed. I understood why the cat had reached the end of the line and out of compassion I was motivated to help.
I believe we are ‘enabled’ to act in a wholesome way when we are aware of the forces driving our intentions and, not when we merely conform to a religious belief - that is driven by a desire for reward or fear of what ‘might’ happen. The question becomes: not what the sufferer may need - an end of their pointless suffering. Instead, we may be motivated by an aversion to pain - for any reason.
To act without checking-in on what is driving our motivations and intentions means we are not acting mindfully with clear comprehension.
I believe we should be willing to experience pain sometimes if it’s the result of a good intention. Pain can result from a wholesome motivation but it does not have to be something we suffer over - mentally.
Physical pain is unavoidable, even the Buddha had back pain and, painful feelings as a consequence of old age and, food poisoning. We can be kind and compassionate around pain and not succumb to hatred.
The Buddha taught the eternal law: that hatred never ceases by hatred. Its only through love that hatred ends.