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Thread: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

  1. #1

    How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I am really new here as far as posting but I try to read here everyday and really value everyone's opinion. I see myself as part of this community and TRY to sit zazen twice daily, and genuinely try my best to follow the precepts and be a good Buddhist. However I think my profession, which I love and have have a great passion for, is responsible for the death and destruction of many beings. I am a Nurseryman and a very good one if I might say so, and have made it a career and for which my family depends on my income from.

    I think I have put it out of my mind- all the insecticides that I sell to everyone to save their plants...I sell allot of destruction and death...

    I also kill tons of insects that are on the plants that we sell to keep them sellable...what am I to do?

    I thought that when I became a Buddhist and most recently a Zen Buddhist, that I had the perfect life for this...my job was Zen like in most respects as I saw it anyway...Now, almost like I had been ignoring it subconsiously I realized that im selling to customers a way for them to kill...

    We do sell organic insecticides, but that is still killing...we even sell lady bugs and praying mantids and beneficial nematodes and beneficial wasps to do the killing in a natural way...but that is a small percentage of total sales...

    This realization of mine is a big breakthrough In my practice but at the same time a brick wall. Im very confused as to how I can call myself a Buddhist now.

    If anyone has any opinions on this that would be great to hear...I value everyone's opinion here.

    Thank you very much,
    Mark

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    If anyone who had a job was disqualified from being a Buddhist, none of us would be Buddhists. Without your pesticides, how many more people would have insufficient food? How many of THEM would die or be prone to illness? There is no way to do absolutely no harm, but you have limited it by producing organic pesticides and therefore harming fewer.

  3. #3

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Hi Mark,

    This subject has come up a few time, often in connection with our annual reflection on the Precept of refraining from taking life for our Jukai. It was also a topic when Treeleaf's all wooden buildings were infested with termites in an earthquake zone. Please look here:

    viewtopic.php?p=42189#p42189

    You picked an appropriate morning to ask this question, as our Japanese gardener here at Treeleaf was, just this morning, spreading fertilizer and spraying for bugs in the garden. It is necessary, if we are to have a garden, as we already have lost a few trees ... including a 50 year old black matsu, a victim of hungry pine beetles.

    I have reservations about pesticides, for what they are doing to human health. I believe that we should minimize their use where possible, and I look forward to the day when science will find alternatives. However, these days, perhaps a necessary evil. The Jains in India wear masks to avoid inhaling even a single bug. Buddhists may try to minimize the harm. However, for most folks even in the Buddha's day, keeping insects from body, food and crops was daily reality.

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Hey Mark,

    I started this thread a while back. As far as right livelihood goes, it may be of some use to your situation.

    viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4615

    I see you have some real concerns. As Jundo said, it is a necessary evil in todays age. Personally, if I ever needed/required pestisides on my property, I would rather it be completed by someone who is present and caring, then someone who is simply trying to make a quick buck by killing anything that moves. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what is the right path. Perhaps if you want a livelihood which harms less, you might consider slowly looking into other career paths. You might also consider community service, or volunteering as a means to make up for some of the wrong you feel you are committing.

    I personally have a job which I have taken similar issue/struggled with. One that both creates happiness for some, and suffering for others. Someone in the world has to do that job...it might as well be a buddhist...

    Shawn

  5. #5

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    This is always a difficult topic. In brief, the Buddha stated that there were 5 major categories of Wrong Livelihood:

    "A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison."

    ó AN 5.177
    Of course, with such broad categories that leaves us a lot to work out for ourselves. I think it's important to remember that, whatever we do, we create the karma and will have to experience its results. Killing is akusala (unskillful) karma but we have all been in positions where we felt this was necessary. Being honest about this at least helps us to incline the mind towards harmlessness in the future. I, myself, recently had a run in with some bed bugs and we called in the exterminators despite my misgivings. I wish you all the best in whatever you decide! May you enjoy every good blessing!

    Metta,

    Mike

  6. #6
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Seriously guys - I don't think we have to be pre-occupied with the karma of killing mosquitos or protecting our agricultural labors from the savagery of weevils. But then, I'm a heartless bastard with a lot of karma, I guess.

    Chet

  7. #7

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I get your point but, if we are to help ourselves, let alone all sentient beings we can't afford to live negligently. Whenever I reflect on these seeming minutiae this verse from the Dhammapada always springs to mind:

    121. Think not lightly of evil, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the fool, gathering it little by little, fills himself with evil.
    The good thing is that it works the same way with all of our little good deeds:

    122. Think not lightly of good, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.
    Gassho,

    Mike

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Mark,

    I am no expert in what makes one a buddhist or not. I am simply a priest in training trying to live with the dilemmas in our daily lives just like everyone else. But I shall say that, in my own view, because you consider these issues and the effects on the world...you are a buddhist. I am very much against the use of pesticides, especially here in the U.S. with folks trying to achieve the perfect lawn, but the people who do the work are just trying to make a living and that isn't always easy in our economy. We do the best we can.

    I have used many words here, probably more than needed to say what I wanted to say. You are a buddhist if you feel it in your heart. That's my $0.02.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  9. #9

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I avoid pesticides and herbicides cause I fear they will make sick or cause cancer. I get along with most bugs and even save them but I kill ticks and mosquitos beacause they may give me disease. Oh and sometimes I kill termites and wood eating ants. I'm that kind of buddhist.

  10. #10

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    But I shall say that, in my own view, because you consider these issues and the effects on the world...you are a buddhist.
    Precisely. That you are thinking of these things and looking for a way to be mindful, caring, compassionate: that is it. All beings eat food and when one being eats another being dies. That is how it is. All of us, if we buy fruit at the grocery store or almost anywhere really, even organic, are in a similar position as you, you just happen to be closer to it. Thank you for sharing this and for your wonderful practice and don't be too hard on yourself.

    Gassho,
    Alan

  11. #11

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Seriously guys - I don't think we have to be pre-occupied with the karma of killing mosquitos or protecting our agricultural labors from the savagery of weevils. But then, I'm a heartless bastard with a lot of karma, I guess.

    Chet
    haahahha right on!

  12. #12

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I must say that I love everyone here. I feel 90 percent better about this whole subject and reading about Treeleaf's gardener was nice. I think that I just need to be more mindful when I recommend an insecticide to a customer and try to persuade them to go organic or natural animal predators. I am very greatful to be a part of this Sangha...

    Gassho,

    Mark

  13. #13
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I have three magnolias on my property, and had been living here for about a year when I noticed this crud which turned out to be "magnolia scale" on all of them. It's basically a sucking insect that lives on sap and poops syrup which bees and wasps like to eat--and which drips everywhere and causes a nasty mildew that kills the plants under the trees. The smallest of our trees had it so bad last year we had to have it taken out. The organic solution--spray everything with horticultural oil-- was of limited use.

    So basically I couldn't get my mind around what to do--ignore it and let the trees die (as well as make a stinking mess that kills other plants?) Kill the insects? Last year we found a pesticide you pour directly at the base of the trees. It worked fantastically--except it kills all the bugs it touches, and earthworms too. You could see them writhing out of the ground on impact. This year we chose not to use it, and so far the trees are clean. I just hope they stay that way. But yeah, what are you going to do? Something is going to die either way.

    Anyway, Mark, I'm glad you care and asked the big questions.

    Gassho

    Jen

    P.S. We replaced the one magnolia with a crabapple that is highly, highly resistant to pests and diseases and is more appropriate to our area.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by markkemark
    However I think my profession, which I love and have have a great passion for, is responsible for the death and destruction of many beings. I am a Nurseryman and a very good one if I might say so, and have made it a career and for which my family depends on my income from.
    The way I see it, you don't have to avoid calling yourself a Buddhist because of your current career. There are many sides to a lifestyle, and, especially in Zen, things are not always so black and white.

    There is also this dilemma: wouldn't there be greater suffering if you leave your occupation? I have no God's eye on the grand scheme of things, but the choice appears clear between killing bugs and putting your family in a difficult situation. Perhaps in time and with searching you will comfortably be able to move on to a different career path, but for now, this is your work.

    Quote Originally Posted by markkemark
    I think that I just need to be more mindful when I recommend an insecticide to a customer and try to persuade them to go organic or natural animal predators.
    And for now, that is as mindful as you can be. Therefore, in my opinion, you are behaving as a Buddhist.

  15. #15

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I just wanted to say how much I appreciate this conversation. You guys are all great.

  16. #16

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I have known a few Buddhists who are meticulous in their empathy for little animals, and who dwell in a rich (and sentimental) "oneness with all beings" , yet can be downright cruel to the intimate people that they take for granted. It is easier to be patient and kind with creatures that don't talk back and know all our crap..

  17. #17

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Hi,

    I thought to find out what some other flavors of Buddhist might have to say on the topic of killing insects. I found a couple of particularly interesting posts.

    Shravasti Dhammika is an Australian born Theravadan priest who has done some very honest writing on the realities of Buddhism in South Asia today. Here, he confesses to intentionally killing some bedbugs. What is most interesting to me is the diversity of responses in the comments to his posting, some taking a very hard line on the Karmic ramifications of his having done so.

    http://sdhammika.blogspot.jp/2010/03/ca ... ified.html

    also

    http://sdhammika.blogspot.jp/2010/03/mo ... -bugs.html

    A Tibetan teacher takes a very strict approach to not killing insects. All I can say is, remind me not to eat in the kitchen of their Buddhist Center! :shock:

    If you have cockroaches, you can do Sur offering for them. There is a reason why they have come to the center. Itís because you have a karmic debt with them. They didnít come intentionally; itís not like all the cockroaches had a meeting and decided to move into the center, it happened by the force of karma. So, you need to do Sur offering to repay your karmic debts with them. If you didnít have a karmic debt with them, they wouldnít come. Itís the same with mice or insects that eat crops and flowers, or woodworm in a house. Itís because there are some karmic debts. So, one thing you can do is to offer them what they want, offer charity to them, because we never get the opportunity to offer things to sentient beings. The other thing is to do Sur practice and the 100 torma offering. I can also give you mantras to recite.

    One of my students spoke to a mouse and asked it to move outside the house and it went. She also spoke to some insects and told them to leave and they went. There are some other stories like that. So, it seems that if you talk sincerely to these creatures, with some it works.

    You can put the cockroaches in a small part of the house. Otherwise, make a house out of a paper box, find out what they eat and put that in the box, and then after they have gone in the box, put the box outside. Then, sometimes, go and give them food. By putting them in the box they are protected. If food is given regularly, it becomes charity.
    Me, I am just one Buddhist offering my views on this. I simply do not see the killing of insects in the same light as the killing of dogs and horses, let along people. Apparently, the consensus in the Buddhist world is that, even if there are Karmic ramifications, the size of the animal matters.

    http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... st_control

    I believe that the vast majority of Buddhist clergy I know, anywhere in Asia in any Buddhist tradition, would kill insects in their bed or food ... even if they would not talk about it. I do not have a formal survey on the issue, but I am very sure.

    Gassho, J

  18. #18

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Generally, seeing karma as a cosmic ledger... with a one-to-one correspondence between doing something bad and getting something bad (killing bug, getting a sty).. It is too neat. Causality is murky, and I always saw karma and the fruit of karma in a less clockwork way.. more about the world we create and carry around. IMHO.



    Gassho, kojip.

  19. #19

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kojip
    Generally, seeing karma as a cosmic ledger... with a one-to-one correspondence between doing something bad and getting something bad (killing bug, getting a sty).. It is too neat. Causality is murky, and I always saw karma and the fruit of karma in a less clockwork way.. more about the world we create and carry around. IMHO.
    Yeah, I agree. Otherwise, Karma is just Santa: do good, get a present, do bad, get a coal. I think Karma has to do with our mind states. If one kills in a state of anger, violence, hatred, well, that is a seed and that seed grows, that mind state is planted there and will grow again and the more it happens, the more powerful it becomes. The angrier one is internally, the more that person encounters anger externally, brings out anger in others, hurts others, creates tension. Another way of looking at it: this is why, for many people who may be power hungry or "greedy" or something, these people can be terribly "successful" or something, in their own minds and even from the perspective of others. Yet ever more things are needed to fulfill that greed, that mind state, and often there is a huge fall from a place of power built by greed, but sometimes there isn't, and yet the mind is still certainly poisoned in some way, addicted. Likewise, if one approaches others with openness and a caring attitude, that same thing is often returned. It's really very beautiful, too, when that happens. It's weird and really lovely. Like openness greeting openness.

    I've heard a monk say, to a friend who was having some cats spayed (they were producing kittens upon kittens and many of those kittens were getting run over), that my friend would be castrated in the next life, and all I could think was: he's doing this out of kindness, compassion, and to reduce suffering, that can't possibly be. I could be wrong, but it seems to be the mind state, the intention, coupled with the action that is of utmost importance.

    Gassho,
    Alan

  20. #20

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Hi !

    This topic made me think about something :

    How about the samurais ?

    They were killing people. They had to do it.

    They were in charge of the death penalties.

    They were practicing zen buddhism.

    They called themselves buddhists.


    Sometimes we have to be like the samurais.




    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_Sh%C5%8Dsan

  21. #21

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Hi everyone,

    While I certainly agree that killing a bed bug is nowhere near as heavy an act of kamma as killing a human the first precept is pretty clear about killing any being. I also agree that our vihimsa has to extend to all the beings in our lives and, as lay people with families, we should be practicing the paramitas just as much with our loved ones as with insects. I guess I'm trying to get a hold on how this community views the training rules as my involvement and commitment deepen. Metta.

    Gassho,

    Mike

  22. #22

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by Khalil Bodhi
    Hi everyone,

    While I certainly agree that killing a bed bug is nowhere near as heavy an act of kamma as killing a human the first precept is pretty clear about killing any being. I also agree that our vihimsa has to extend to all the beings in our lives and, as lay people with families, we should be practicing the paramitas just as much with our loved ones as with insects. I guess I'm trying to get a hold on how this community views the training rules as my involvement and commitment deepen. Metta.

    Gassho,

    Mike
    Hi,

    Well, I certainly don't view my wife as equivalent to a bedbug (how she feels about me is another story! :? )

    However, I certainly agree that we should reflect on all the harms we cause in this life, both those avoidable and those not, even the small. We should reflect, seek to do better, atone ... and 'at one' in a moment of Zazen.

    If that is insufficient, may I be reborn as a Kafkaesque cockroach in a future life.

    Gassho, Jundo

  23. #23

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Gassho _()_

  24. #24

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Our dear Ryokan, the Zen poet and wanderer, used to cover his whole body with a net just putting a leg out so mosquitoes could feast on it...This is a compromise, I would say.

    I humbly have to admit not having that kind of compassion. Every time I can I free the insect, moth, spider or anything creeping and flying. When it is not possible I kill. My compromise. Could do better.
    Because I eat meat it is just fair that they make a meal of my blood every so often.

    gassho


    Taigu

  25. #25

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Wonderful views we are getting here. I know for myself that I try to ensure I have good intensions not to kill those little bugs ... but I know walking, driving my car, working in the garden, etc those bugs might get killed ... but I try my best not too.

    Hope this helped.

    Gassho,
    Michael

  26. #26

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Everyone kills.

    Some do it as a simple byproduct of living.

    Some do it wantonly, gleefully.

    I think you are safely in the first category! If you look through the Precepts threads, you'll see that in Zen the precepts are not seen as black-and-white. Life is not black-and-white. Rigidity will lead you straight into the face of suffering. The precepts are to be taken seriously, but as a lifelong dance and not a set of commandments sent down from the mountain.

    All the best!

  27. #27
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Hi Mark

    Being alive means to take life, even if you are a vegetarian. In my opinion you are a Buddhist from the moment you even think about life forms we normally wouldn't even consider.

    You are mindful. And that's a lot.

    I think you are a Buddhist when you live and experiment with the dharma and the precepts. But most of all, you are a Buddhist when you just let go and let go attachments, even if it's really difficult.

    Quote Originally Posted by markkemark
    I am really new here as far as posting but I try to read here everyday and really value everyone's opinion. I see myself as part of this community and TRY to sit zazen twice daily, and genuinely try my best to follow the precepts and be a good Buddhist. However I think my profession, which I love and have have a great passion for, is responsible for the death and destruction of many beings. I am a Nurseryman and a very good one if I might say so, and have made it a career and for which my family depends on my income from.

    I think I have put it out of my mind- all the insecticides that I sell to everyone to save their plants...I sell allot of destruction and death...

    I also kill tons of insects that are on the plants that we sell to keep them sellable...what am I to do?

    I thought that when I became a Buddhist and most recently a Zen Buddhist, that I had the perfect life for this...my job was Zen like in most respects as I saw it anyway...Now, almost like I had been ignoring it subconsiously I realized that im selling to customers a way for them to kill...

    We do sell organic insecticides, but that is still killing...we even sell lady bugs and praying mantids and beneficial nematodes and beneficial wasps to do the killing in a natural way...but that is a small percentage of total sales...

    This realization of mine is a big breakthrough In my practice but at the same time a brick wall. Im very confused as to how I can call myself a Buddhist now.

    If anyone has any opinions on this that would be great to hear...I value everyone's opinion here.

    Thank you very much,
    Mark

  28. #28

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Being alive means to take life, even if you are a vegetarian. In my opinion you are a Buddhist from the moment you even think about life forms we normally wouldn't even consider.

    You are mindful. And that's a lot.

    I think you are a Buddhist when you live and experiment with the dharma and the precepts. But most of all, you are a Buddhist when you just let go and let go attachments, even if it's really difficult.
    Nicely put Kyonin ... I am a vegetarian and someone once said to me. "Even when you dig up the veggies from the ground, you are taking life. Be kind, mindful, and thankful for the great opportunity to practice.

    Gassho,
    Michael

  29. #29

    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    Quote Originally Posted by ecoist
    Being alive means to take life, even if you are a vegetarian. In my opinion you are a Buddhist from the moment you even think about life forms we normally wouldn't even consider.

    You are mindful. And that's a lot.

    I think you are a Buddhist when you live and experiment with the dharma and the precepts. But most of all, you are a Buddhist when you just let go and let go attachments, even if it's really difficult.
    Nicely put Kyonin ... I am a vegetarian and someone once said to me. "Even when you dig up the veggies from the ground, you are taking life. Be kind, mindful, and thankful for the great opportunity to practice.

    Gassho,
    Michael
    Even though, on the one hand, Dogen and various other Mahayana Buddhists said "everything is a sentient being" when seen with a Buddha's eyes ... from the mountains to the stars to the trees to you and me ...

    ... in fact, most Buddhists do not really think of carrots as sentient beings, and that we "kill" them in the same way as self-aware animals or people. No, killing a head of lettuce is not the same as killing your wife ,,, in either the criminal law or Buddha's law.

    Bedbugs, earhtworms, termites ... somewhere in between, but not really considered a sentient being either.

    But, yes, we should be mindful and thankful for the fruits and vegetables we receive even if not sentient.

    Gassho, J

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