Karma of Killing

Karma of Killing

Date Posted:
November 2005

Rinpoche gave the following advice to a student who had a pet snake, to whom he fed live mice.

My very dear Martin,
I have something to talk to you about, heart to heart, dealing with the suffering of animals. I heard that you have a pet snake, and that you have to feed the snake with mice. As you love the snake, of course you also have to love the mouse. The mouse is also looking for happiness and doesn't want to suffer. The mouse needs love from you, and wants help from you.

Also, it is mentioned in the teachings of the Buddha about the karma of killing. If you kill one sentient being, then for 500 lifetimes you will be killed by others. This is the result of one negative karma of killing. This is also explained by the fact that karma is expandable. If you plant one Bodhi tree seed the size of the tip of your finger, then from that comes many thousands of branches. All of that comes from one seed. Huge trees all grow from small seeds. So, you can get extremely large results from one small cause. In terms of our inner evolution, the effect is much greater. Not only does one suffer for many lifetimes, but the negative karma of killing obscures the mind. It becomes an obstacle to developing loving kindness and compassion for living beings, to developing the altruistic mind to attain enlightenment in order to liberate sentient beings, and to achieving liberation by removing the gross and subtle obscurations and therefore to achieving enlightenment. Therefore, we can’t do perfect work for sentient beings by freeing them from suffering and bringing them to enlightenment.

All of this comes from negativity such as killing. Because the motivation is non-virtuous, then the action becomes non-virtuous, negative karma. This obscures the mind, and then it is difficult to see the reality, the ultimate nature of the “I,” and the nature of one’s own mind. One is unable to realize this. Without the wisdom realizing that nature, there is no other realization that can illuminate the root of the sufferings of samsara, and the root of delusion and karma, that ignorance not knowing the nature of the self and mind. Without that wisdom, you can’t cut the root of samsaric suffering, the cause and there is no way to liberate yourself from delusion and karma—no end to samsara. You have to suffer endlessly. Then, you can’t liberate others from samsaric suffering and its cause.

So, if you have to take care of the snake, and the snake doesn’t eat vegetarian food, you have to engage in killing. That is discriminating. You give love to the snake but not to the mouse. They all want happiness and do not want to suffer, and they all want you to give them love. If you let the snake go, it will kill other animals. The solution, either way, is problematic.

The solution is to develop your mind on the path as quickly as possible, to liberate yourself from karma and delusion, enter the Mahayana path, and eliminate the subtle defilements so you have omniscient mind and are able to read all sentient beings’ minds. You are able to see their karma, wishes, characteristics, level of intelligence, and are able to see directly all the methods to help them. You have perfect power, and compassion for all living beings without discrimination. You can do perfect work for all sentient beings. You can liberate them by having all the means, especially bringing them from happiness to happiness, up to full enlightenment. You don’t have to reincarnate again and again in samsara and experience so much suffering of hunger, thirst, hot, and cold. Meditate on the fact that all happiness depends on so many sentient beings. For example, when a house is built, many worms and ants have to be killed. Many hardships are experienced by those beings. Again, for food and clothing, many beings have to be killed. For one plate of rice, so many beings have to be killed. It is the same with our clothes made of silk or animal skins. Many beings have to suffer for our comfort and survival. If you liberate yourself and don’t have to reincarnate, then there is so much relief for sentient beings, so many sentient beings don’t have to suffer. You are liberated from samsara, and you are freeing other beings from having to suffer. By revealing methods, especially by revealing Dharma, you can liberate many beings and bring them to enlightenment.

The conclusion is that we can do practices now to liberate these animals from the realms of suffering. It is the same for hell beings and hungry ghosts. This is the solution, so that they don’t have to suffer for a long time through killing each other. We should focus on this method to liberate these beings as much as possible, so they don’t have to suffer. This is only through practicing Dharma. This is my advice to you.

Probably the best thing is to let the animals go and pray for their higher rebirth. You can do meditation practice to purify negative karma and pray for higher rebirths. You can chant the five powerful mantras and dedicate them to their higher rebirth and to meeting the Dharma. This is one small example of how you can benefit them.

Practice not harming others, and benefiting them as much as one can. You can reveal the wisdom of Dharma and educate other people in this way. This brings peace and happiness to oneself and others. You and others don’t have to be born in the lower realms. Even if they aren’t liberated from suffering and its causes and don’t get enlightened in this lifetime, they can still achieve all the causes enlightenment in the future.

So, please practice compassion for others. From that comes not harming others, and the thought to benefit others. Since you are a good-hearted, good-natured person, this is my humble advice to you.

It is good to know more how to benefit others, how to fully liberate them, how to achieve a good rebirth in your next life, liberation from samsara, and also full enlightenment. You can recite prayers and mantras so that animals can hear them. It would be good, according to my observations, to recite the mantra of Maitreya Buddha. The benefits of reciting this mantra are:

  1. You are never born in the lower realms.
  2. You will have continuous material and mental prosperity.
  3. You will be born as a wheel turning king in future lives for thousands of eons (according to the life of a deva, which is much longer than a human life). A wheel turning king has the most power and wealth in one universe. He is unique in that universe, the only one.
  4. You will abide in the 10 virtuous actions.
  5. Even if you are not enlightened during Buddha Shakyamuni’s time, you will be born as one of the first disciples at the time of Maitreya Buddha. You will receive a prediction of your enlightenment from Maitreya Buddha. Sooner or later you will achieve enlightenment.

Reciting this mantra would be most beneficial for all beings, not just your snake.

Another mantra to recite is the Stainless Pinnacle mantra. It is extremely powerful and also a great healing mantra. If a fully ordained monk broke his root vows and was destined to go to the lower realms, this mantra would release him from the lower realms.

Buddha Shakymuni told Ananda that anyone who hears the Medicine Buddha mantra would not be born in the lower realms. Reciting it every day frees you from all suffering and brings every benefit, including success in this life, up to enlightenment.

The essence of the Buddha’s 84,000 teachings are the teachings of the Prajñaparamita—this is the heart of the Buddha’s teachings. There are many volumes in the Prajñaparamita, the elaborate version which has 12 volumes, the middle version which has 3 volumes, and the short version which has 80,000 stanzas. The very heart of it is called the Heart of the Wisdom. This is the teaching that Buddha cherishes the most because it is the method to release sentient beings from the suffering of samsara, and its root: ignorance. When you have time it is good to recite the whole prayer. If not, then just recite the mantra.

Also, to help guide you on the foundation of the path to liberation and enlightenment, it is good to read any of the short lam-rim prayers, to plant the seed of the whole path.

Another way to benefit animals is to take them around holy objects, such as statues, stupas, and scriptures, especially those containing relics and mantras. Take your snake around these holy objects as much as you can. Make prayers to achieve bodhicitta for the snake and all sentient beings. Make a prayer to realize emptiness.

“In all my lives, may I never be separated from the victorious one, Lama Tsongkhapa, acting in person as the Mahayana guru,
May I, my family, friends, and all other sentient beings never turn aside, even for an instant,
From the excellent path praised by the victorious ones.”

Pray that the snakes and all beings, when they die, are immediately born in a Pure Land or obtain a precious human rebirth, meet a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru, practice the path, and obtain all realizations. It is good to do this for anyone for whom you want to pray. Then it is excellent to dedicate in the following way:

“Due to the merits of the three times created by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas, and all other sentient beings, wherever I am—whatever universe, world, country, area, or place, just by my being there in that universe, world, country, area, or place, may those beings purify their negative karma and never be born in the evil realms. May this cause them to have faith in refuge and karma, and to generate loving kindness, compassion, and bodhicitta immediately in their hearts, and immediately heal all their sickness and free them from spirit harm. May it cause great bliss in the hearts of those affected by depression, and people suffering from relationship problems. May it fill up their hearts with incredible joy, and all peace and happiness. And may it cause them to have a most meaningful life by actualizing the path. May suffering be pacified, and those needing money find wealth. May they realize that the purpose of their lives is to actualize the path to enlightenment. May those looking for a guru find a most qualified guru and those wanting teachings receive perfect teachings and achieve realizations. May those wishing to do retreat find a place to meditate and achieve all realizations. May they never experience war, disease, torture, poverty, the dangers of fire, water, earthquakes, and all natural disasters. May I become wish-fulfilling for all sentient beings.

May nothing become negative karma, and everything become Dharma. May all beings achieve enlightenment quickly, by actualizing the path.

Due to the merits of the three times created by me, buddhas, bodhisattvas, and all other sentient beings, which exist, but do not exist from their own side, may I, who exists, but does not exist from my own side, achieve Guru Shakymuni Buddha’s enlightenment, which exists, but does not exist from its own side, and lead all sentient beings, who exist, but do not exist from their own side, to enlightenment by myself alone.

Just as the brave Manjushri and Samantabhadra too,
Realized things as they are,
I, too, dedicate all these merits in the best way,
That I may follow their perfect example.

May the teachings spread in all directions and flourish in this world, in my mind and in the minds of all sentient beings.”

By circumambulating animals around holy objects and reciting mantras to them, we help them achieve good rebirths, meet the teachings, achieve liberation and then enlightenment. They can purify every trace of negativity, the seeds and their imprints. They are able to complete all the realizations of love, wisdom, and power, and so do perfect work for others.

You should recite prayers and mantras verbally, aloud, so that they leave positive imprints on their minds, to help them achieve enlightenment—that which is the cessation of all stains of the mind, gross and subtle, and completes all the realizations—the fully perfected state of mind, peerless happiness.

It would be much better to buy meat from a shop for your snake. You could try to disguise it is a mouse, and although the snake still has some karma of killing, it would not be complete. Also, if you give a toy mouse to your snake, he might learn that mice are no longer edible, and maybe he will not want to eat them any more.

I hope you don’t collapse or faint, overwhelmed with all this advice.

With much love and prayer...