Monday, October 4, 2010

Susan's Shuso Blog: Not Killing

Last week in our practice period class we discussed the precept “not killing.” Committed Buddhists don't kill intentionally, but nonetheless they kill every moment of every day in order to nourish themselves and stay alive.

Killing is unavoidable. Little ants and millipedes are squished when we walk down the garden path. We try to be humane when we kill rats and mice and little furry things but kill them we must. We can't tell them to leave the attic insulation and the boxes of memorabilia alone. They eat what they will.

Small animals like gophers and squirrels and possums can be trapped and released in the next county. Few of us have the will and the patience and the time to do this. Anyway, do we think about where they will go next? Will it be someone else's garden?

At Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm there are ceremonies to acknowledge the intentional and unintentional killing that is part of the gardening and farming activity there. (Reb Anderson; Being Upright p. 92).

Receiving this precept our hearts are opened to the painful dilemmas involved in supporting our lives.

Recent studies have shown that plants feel pain. A carrot pulled out of the ground is a dead carrot.

Soon the six chickens we have raised on our property will go to the soup pot. They are getting too old to lay well and caring for them is stretching our human resources to the limit. The thought of killing these animals brings pain.

I remember seeing a scene from a film about a farm in Tajikistan. In it, the farmer bows low before a sheep before he slaughters it. He asks the animal's forgiveness. Kill it he must, but he will do it with love.

Before our chickens leave on their final journey we will have a ritual of gratitude for delicious eggs they have given us. I will remember the sweet times when they were tiny chicks and my granddaughter would enjoy cuddling them on her bed. Then we will let them go and move on.

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