Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hastening the death of an animal.

Question: (Unedited)

I had an experience yesterday that saddens me, and I needed to find a Buddhist to discuss this with. I live in Lincoln, Nebraska and there are no Buddhists here that I know of that I can discuss this with.

Yesterday, while working (I drive van to take individuals to a sheltered workshop and to their appointments all day) in the back of an alley I discovered a opposum that was dying, it was hunched and was missing its tail, and was clearly suffering and was obviously not going to live. I pitied the animal, but there was noone I could call for help.

I left the animal, and thought of it throughout the next two hours while I was picking up my individuals. When I dropped them off, I realized I had to do something to rid the animal of its suffering.

As I have no gun, nor any other weapon, I ran over the animal and killed it. I then placed the animal in a trash bag and put its body in a dumpster,as I thought it was a more humane and sanitary way of ridding of the body.

I felt sad all day yesterday over this event, and have talked to others who have assured me that I relieved the animal of great suffering.

I am not sure if I did the right thing, there was noone I could take it to relieve it suffering (I am, as usual, very broke and would not have had the money for euthanasia, if there was anyone I could bring the animal to).

Please let me know your thoughts on this, as I need to know if I did the right thing, or if there was another path I could have taken.

Thank you.

My comment:
Hi D,

Thank you for asking me.

First, I am assuming that you are a Buddhist, or one who is interested in Buddhism. Otherwise what I am going to comment will be a lost cause. Before discussing the unfortunate episode that you had encountered, let us review what the Buddha had expounded in the 4 Noble Truths. These truths form the basis of our understanding of the true nature of this existence. Having understood these truths one will bear with life's injustices, miseries, and sorrows. If we were to fly above the world and look down, we will witness a never-ending cycle of horrific scenario of millions of lives suffering in miseries. This has been going on since time immemorial, and will continue forever, so long as there is life in existence. This is the very nature of existence. This is the 1st Noble Truth of Suffering. Please remember that the very nature of existence is suffering. Let me give you 2 examples. The very nature of a hospital is to heal sick people. So if you go to a hospital, don't expect to see healthy patients. If they are healthy, they won't be there in the first place. We send criminals to jail. The very nature of a jail is to contain criminals. If they are not criminals, they won't be there. This world is for life to act out its kamma. It is the very nature of this world that those born are destined to suffer. If we have no kammic effect to settle, we would not have been born into this world to suffer.

Now coming back to your episode, it is just a minute enactment of what suffering is all about. Right at this very moment, millions of lives suffer in miseries for no apparent reasons, due to no fault of theirs. What we are witnessing is just a small scene of a never-ending play on the world stage. What had happened before, we do not realize. This is the work of the universal law of kamma. It may sound cruel and insensitive to hold this view, but this is the TRUTH, the first Noble Truth which the Buddha revealed. That's why I assume that you are a Buddhist or at least one who is interested in Buddhism in order to understand this explanation.

Having understood this 1st Noble Truth, instead of wallowing in the quagmire of miseries, we project our pity in the form of compassion for the other less fortunate. Having understood the cause of sorrows and miseries, we get down to help in whatever way we can. There is actually no remedy for all the sufferings in this world because (please remember) it is its very nature. Just like the hospital and the jail. The doctors can do just that much, that's all. The counsellors working in the jail can do just that much, that's all. You can do just that much to help, that's all. This is what Buddhism is all about....seeing the very real nature of things and be wise enough to behave ourselves and live a harmless life.

As for putting down the poor suffering animal, it is just being peculiar in Western society. Do you shoot a suffering human who has no chance of survival, just to put him out of his miseries? If one understands the law of kamma, one will avoid killing, for whatever reason. It is very difficult for a non-Buddhist to understand this concept of not terminating life.

May you have peace. This world is like this. There is actually nothing much that we can do, except to live a harmless life and to share the Buddha's teachings with those who care to listen.


PM said...

Good one, No one has the right to take another's it human or animal.

But what is you view on killing in war and crimes.

Justin Choo said...


You may like to read this post:

Anonymous said...

The Buddha taught us to use our common sense and diligence to determine the best course of action.

The man killed the animal out of compassion and yet killing occurred as the mind has the intention to kill; killing action was carried out and resulted in death.

What is the net wholesome/unwholesome effect of kamma?

I guess it is beyond us to precisely figure it out but what is your view and what would you do if you were the man?

(Please forward your reply to my email at Thanks from Soo Wan.

Justin Choo said...

Soo Wan,

The message is there in my comment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Justin,

I read your comment again.

What a powerful teaching you had expounded!

Learning Buddhism is all about learning the truth. I understand now why The 4 noble truth is the supreme truth. It is so simple, yet so powerful.

Thank you. Please keep up your good work in elaborating and explaining the Dharmma. Your blog helps to provide the support and guidance we need in our journey to Nibbana.

Saddhu! Saddhu! Saddhu!

Soo Wan

Justin Choo said...

Soo Wan,
Thank you for your encouragement.

I shall continue with this work until I die.

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