The Buddha Precepts, Part Two
Not Killing, I vow to respect and be kind to all forms of life.
The foundation of all precepts is our realization of non-duality. To kill others is to kill ourselves. Yet in that same absolute sense, there can be no “killing,”” as there is no “birth” or “death.” This is a koan.
We avoid taking life if at all possible. Life is precious. Each life has a right to itself and is part of the whole. We avoid killing an ant, invite the ant to be our teacher, and ask the ant to leave our home. Sometimes this is not possible and to protect and nurture our lives or the lives of others, we must take the life of that which is the threat, but only as a last possible resort and only if there are no other options. Our trouble today is that we do not think of other options and killing is presented in ways that are sterile and palatable: we reason ourselves into duality.
Shooting ourselves in our foot, we would not have trouble explaining that it hurts as we each understand pain as we are harmed. Likewise, to kill is to shoot ourselves in the foot, as the thought of killing arises out of the poison of a deluded mind.
Our reality is interconnection and interdependence. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed: everything literally, is one. Therefore, we should not think of killing, putting ourselves in the shadows of delusion. Yet, we must eat, and our very breathing, in effect, kills. But only in effect. The issue is our intention and the thoughts arising from it.
To eat, then, is not to kill. To breathe is not to kill. These are processes that when done mindfully, act as dharma gates. When we eat, we sustain ourselves, when we clean, “killing” billions of bacteria, we are cleaning and through this, supporting life. When mindful, we are in the flow of the process, in non-duality.
Choice takes on the most significance when it is considered. Choosing the buddha way is choosing life as it actually is, directly, and without separation. No killing.