+3 votes
by (1.8k points)
I once came across a dog that was in a mangled state along a motorway. It’s body was being hit And tossed by trucks and cars Travelling at speed and it would not have had long to live. It was in its last few minutes of life.  As my friends and I got out of our cars, I realised we had different ideas of how to deal with the situation as one of us was looking for a heavy object.

From a Buddhist perspective, do we:

1) help end it’s suffering? (It may want to fight for survival until it’s final breath)

2) prevent the friend from ending the dogs suffering, and allow Karma to take its course.(We May leave that person in a state of guilt)

3) drag the dog to the hard shoulder of the motorway, so that it dies with dignity? (But this would prolong or cause more suffering)

4) Stand and watch (and allow karma to take its course) - in which case would it not be better to turn a blind eye and drive away? And is this an act of selfishness? Would we feel guilty of inaction?
by (1.8k points)
Thanks for the comment.

I won’t go into detail about the dog, but it Most certainly had a few minutes to live, and a vet would not have been a viable option.

Interestingly, Phra Ajaan in the video above mentions that people who come across death more often  become desensitised to death.

Referring back to the scenario.  I saw doggy take its last breath, therefore Had a bit of a connection, So, I wanted to retrieve its body and give it some dignity After death, which would have been dangerous on a motorway.  Ultimately we left it.

But if it was a human, dead or alive, I’m sure people would pull up, get out of their cars, to attend to that person/body.

This makes me think when I first started driving in Thailand, I was often taught if you know you’re about to hit a dog, do not react. Just continue driving, as you can do nothing to help it, there are so many street dogs, and you will see dogs getting run over or injured on a regular basis.

So two things here..
1) Are humans  less sensitive to The well being of a dog to that of a human? Does it not deserve the same dignity as that of a human even after death?
I’ve been fortunate enough to observe street dogs in Asia, seeing their struggle and will to live...just like us. They are free spirited dogs, with no owner... So the thought occurred to me, Would we as humans like to be owned? And tagged? And our fate decided for us?

2)  I am often asked by Non Western friends familiar with the news on Black Lives Matter, why The West is racist? And as an Asian, am I in fear? My  response is, isn’t it the most wonderful thing to see a global “Black Lives Matter movement” To see that people have become ‘sensitive’ enough To care for one another regardless of colour, And above anything else, even over the fear of arrest? And isn’t it great to see Governments take a laxed approach to statues being torn down? For a few generations back, things were a little different, and even women could not attend University.  Was it not until the 1960s, That a woman’s place was in the home? And isn’t it fantastic that young Thai people are sensitive enough to care for another persons well being to, to pluck up the courage and go against the cultural flow, that only weeks ago nobody would dare talk about?

So this leads to a question? When we see in other lives,  be it a dog, human, mosquito, the same struggle, desires, or the will to live, ‘The same qualities that we see in ourselves’, do we not become more sensitive to their well being? In which case, What makes an industrial farmer that kills en mass unable to relate Themselves to the animals that they kill?
by (1.8k points)
Thank you for sharing Bhante’s teaching.
by (2.9k points)
1) I don't think that humans are less sensitive to the well being of a dog. Just take as an example the petitions and actions against the dog festivals each year performed in the East. Look at the vegan movement, and more.
Also, let's not forget that there is such a thing as modern slavery. There are still humans owned and have their fate decided for them (to use your words).

I also remember quite vividly something I saw years back on the news. A child lying in a ditch, unable to get out by itself. And people just walking by without helping out. It was truly heartbreaking. No, people don't necessarily automatically attend to the being in need of help when it's another human.

It's all not very clear cut.

2) I can also not agree with the statement that 'The West' is racist. There are a lot of people in the West that have a racial bias, that for sure. But I do think that you can this racial bias in the East as well.

Also don't really agree with the last alinea.
I think any kindness and compassion shouldn't be dependent on whether one sees a same quality or not. Kindness should be independent on whether one can relate to another being or not. Because as long as there is any dependency on 'being able to relate' or 'seeing same qualities' one will loose kindness and compassion as soon as a relationship can't be established, same qualities can't be seen.
In short: I think we should aim higher.

Hope this makes sense.
by (1.8k points)
Thank you for the insights.  So in your opinion, what is kindness? Is it an action? Or a feeling?
Is it possible to do a kind act, but not actually be kind hearted? Does it relate to how sensitive you are?
by (2.9k points)
Well, I think that sensitivity is a big part of it, yes. A larger role, however, plays wisdom, imho.
Kindness itself is a mental state. Pleasant feeling comes along with it. And kindness can lead to kind speech or kind actions.

So, one can do a kind act when the mental state of kindness is there in the mind. If that mental state is not there, then one will not act with kindness. Doesn't automatically mean that one will be rude or cruel, btw. It doesn't have to be one or the other. There are a lot of different mental states.

Anyway. The challenge is that mental states come and go. They fluctuate.
One can be frustrated one moment and then maybe bored, and happy the next day. As long as one is not totally free from (the possibility of) unwholesome states it's impossible to always be kind hearted. It would be unrealistic to expect this from oneself or another.

This is why it's so important to keep an eye on ones mental state moment by moment. And don't act out of unwholesome states because any speech or action will be rooted in mental states. It can't be otherwise. Meaning that if there is an unwholesome state in the mind any speech and/or action has to be unwholesome as well. (So, count to 10 and wait.)
One should try to only speak and/or act when there are wholesome states in the mind. Because speech and action rooted in those will be good for oneself and another. That's why the practice can't be limited to one hour sitting on a cushion a day, imho. But, I believe I digress now.

In short: kindness is a mental state. And when present in the mind can lead to kind speech and/or action.

2 Answers

+2 votes
by (260 points)
Harming or killing the animal would break the first precept, so mercy killing is not something a Buddhist would do, and wouldn't encourage others to do. I think it is appropriate to help animals if we can, but there are many cases where we cannot and there is no need to dwell on it.

Bhante has a video on the topic of euthanasia if you are interested:

Be well
by (1.8k points)
Thank you for sharing Bhante’s teaching.
0 votes
by (2.9k points)
There are always more options. Like: Why not bring it to the nearest vet?

In the example you gave there are three beings with each their own kamma. I think it's useful to look at them each on it's own. There is the dog's kamma. That's not yours nor your friends. Then there is the kamma of your friend. Again, not yours. It is on him to decide what he wants to do. It's not up to you.

And lastly there is your own kamma. Since 'a live or death decision' is not up to you, all you can do is thinking of other ways you can help. Bringing it to the vet, being with the dog is maybe all you actually can do.
by (1.8k points)
Thanks for the comment.

I won’t go into detail about the dog, but it Most certainly had a few minutes to live, and a vet would not have been a viable option.

Interestingly, Phra Ajaan in the video above mentions that people who come across death more often  become desensitised to death.

Referring back to the scenario.  I saw doggy take its last breath, therefore Had a bit of a connection, So, I wanted to retrieve its body and give it some dignity After death, which would have been dangerous on a motorway.  Ultimately we left it.

But if it was a human, dead or alive, I’m sure people would pull up, get out of their cars, to attend to that person/body.

This makes me think when I first started driving in Thailand, I was often taught if you know you’re about to hit a dog, do not react. Just continue driving, as you can do nothing to help it, there are so many street dogs, and you will see dogs getting run over or injured on a regular basis.

So two things here..
1) Are humans  less sensitive to The well being of a dog to that of a human? Does it not deserve the same dignity as that of a human even after death?
I’ve been fortunate enough to observe street dogs in Asia, seeing their struggle and will to live...just like us. They are free spirited dogs, with no owner... So the thought occurred to me, Would we as humans like to be owned? And tagged? And our fate decided for us?

2)  I am often asked by Non Western friends familiar with the news on Black Lives Matter, why The West is racist? And as an Asian, am I in fear? My  response is, isn’t it the most wonderful thing to see a global “Black Lives Matter movement” To see that people have become ‘sensitive’ enough To care for one another regardless of colour, And above anything else, even over the fear of arrest? And isn’t it great to see Governments take a laxed approach to statues being torn down? For a few generations back, things were a little different, and even women could not attend University.  Was it not until the 1960s, That a woman’s place was in the home? And isn’t it fantastic that young Thai people are sensitive enough to care for another persons well being to, to pluck up the courage and go against the cultural flow, that only weeks ago nobody would dare talk about?

So this leads to a question? When we see in other lives,  be it a dog, human, mosquito, the same struggle, desires, or the will to live, ‘The same qualities that we see in ourselves’, do we not become more sensitive to their well being? In which case, What makes an industrial farmer that kills en mass unable to relate Themselves to the animals that they kill?
by (2.9k points)
1) I don't think that humans are less sensitive to the well being of a dog. Just take as an example the petitions and actions against the dog festivals each year performed in the East. Look at the vegan movement, and more.
Also, let's not forget that there is such a thing as modern slavery. There are still humans owned and have their fate decided for them (to use your words).

I also remember quite vividly something I saw years back on the news. A child lying in a ditch, unable to get out by itself. And people just walking by without helping out. It was truly heartbreaking. No, people don't necessarily automatically attend to the being in need of help when it's another human.

It's all not very clear cut.

2) I can also not agree with the statement that 'The West' is racist. There are a lot of people in the West that have a racial bias, that for sure. But I do think that you can this racial bias in the East as well.

Also don't really agree with the last alinea.
I think any kindness and compassion shouldn't be dependent on whether one sees a same quality or not. Kindness should be independent on whether one can relate to another being or not. Because as long as there is any dependency on 'being able to relate' or 'seeing same qualities' one will loose kindness and compassion as soon as a relationship can't be established, same qualities can't be seen.
In short: I think we should aim higher.

Hope this makes sense.
by (1.8k points)
Thank you for the insights.  So in your opinion, what is kindness? Is it an action? Or a feeling?
Is it possible to do a kind act, but not actually be kind hearted? Does it relate to how sensitive you are?
by (2.9k points)
Well, I think that sensitivity is a big part of it, yes. A larger role, however, plays wisdom, imho.
Kindness itself is a mental state. Pleasant feeling comes along with it. And kindness can lead to kind speech or kind actions.

So, one can do a kind act when the mental state of kindness is there in the mind. If that mental state is not there, then one will not act with kindness. Doesn't automatically mean that one will be rude or cruel, btw. It doesn't have to be one or the other. There are a lot of different mental states.

Anyway. The challenge is that mental states come and go. They fluctuate.
One can be frustrated one moment and then maybe bored, and happy the next day. As long as one is not totally free from (the possibility of) unwholesome states it's impossible to always be kind hearted. It would be unrealistic to expect this from oneself or another.

This is why it's so important to keep an eye on ones mental state moment by moment. And don't act out of unwholesome states because any speech or action will be rooted in mental states. It can't be otherwise. Meaning that if there is an unwholesome state in the mind any speech and/or action has to be unwholesome as well. (So, count to 10 and wait.)
One should try to only speak and/or act when there are wholesome states in the mind. Because speech and action rooted in those will be good for oneself and another. That's why the practice can't be limited to one hour sitting on a cushion a day, imho. But, I believe I digress now.

In short: kindness is a mental state. And when present in the mind can lead to kind speech and/or action.
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