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A surprising number of people whom I know, who are generally kind and compassionate, are also avid hunters or at least enthusiastically support hunting by others. They feel hunting is a healthy activity and a good way to provide food. They site biblical references to man having dominion over animals. They feel hunting is part of a tradition that should be upheld. There are also a couple who feel it's a necessary skill to learn for the inevitable doomsday; but that's a whole other thing. ;-)

So these are people who feel good about hunting. At least in theory. But there is a phenomena called Buck Fever which is described as intense nervousness by inexperienced (and sometimes very experienced) hunters. There is a video circulating around the internet now showing a little girl experiencing this "buck fever" and while it's being shared by hunting enthusiasts who think it's great, I couldn't help but feeling disturbed watching it. To me it looks like horror in the guise of exhilaration.

In Buddhism, we understand that any intentional killing will have consequences sooner or later and this is not something to be taken lightly. I wonder if this intense mind and body reaction to killing (or the intention to kill) can be explained by anything in the Abhidhamma or Buddhist theory in general. It's really intellectual curiosity about whether the mind can cause the body to malfunction when the mind perceives something on a deeper level than a person's logical reasoning. Or perhaps it's something else entirely. But I'm interested if Buddhism has anything to teach us about this. Thank you.

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    Thanks for the video. Though I've had an interest in guns since I was a kid, I only shot air rifles. When I finally got to fire real weapons at a shooting range I expected to be thrilled but instead was horrified by the brutality of guns. I shot a solid 600 pound steel block with a military rifle and watched it get thrown back. I instantly imagined a human body there, I could see the damage possible, and my hands started to shake a bit, and I've never fired a gun since. – Buddho Jul 28 '15 at 16:21
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    I grew up in just such an environment. I completely relate (no need to view the video). The cultural practices youngsters can be encouraged to adopt can be disturbing. One would hope that there can be a subconscious (store consciousness?) reaction to this experience ... "whether the mind can cause the body to malfunction when the mind perceives something on a deeper level" ... some innate human inclination toward revulsion with violence against "creatures". I would eagerly listen to a Dhamma talk on this consideration. _/|_ Thx for this post – PaPa Jul 28 '15 at 16:54
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    @Buddho - And I totally agree. If more people handled a weapon, they're would be a lot less gun violence in the world. – user698 Jul 28 '15 at 18:11
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    I have never heard of this (not my background; was a bit disturbed with the video). This seems surprisingly detached from conscious thinking. Looking around, it seems it is not clear if these symptoms emerge from some subconscious/primitive (a) revulsion towards harming; (b) excitement/thrill; (c) fear of death during hunt; (d) other? – Thiago Jul 28 '15 at 18:39
  • @nemo, this question isn't about food politics. I'm sorry if it came across that way. My question is about an apparently observable mind/body reaction to an experience of killing. Because in Buddhism we study the mind, I am curious as to whether this phenomena is explained in the teachings. – Robin111 Jul 28 '15 at 18:50
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Angulimala (finger garland) Bandit was probably the most ruthless serial killer during Buddha's time. I read somewhere but didnt do much research on it that in his previous life he offered food to previous buddha or arahat who was tired and weak from hunger, after that in every life, Angulimala had extraordinary strength than everyone around him. in one of his lives he was a wild buffalo attacking the domesticated buffaloes. The villagers got upset and set up a lynching mob to hunt him down. He was eventually captured, tortured, and killed. He wanted to take revenge on those who killed him. Among the villagers, there was a girl who watched the lynching with teary eyes. She became his mother in his last life (which woulda been his last victim if Buddha didnt intervene) and the villagers became his victims. However, i dont think he took pleasure in killing but rather was misguided. Kalayanamitra is certainly a blessing.

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Not sure of any specific theory, but just to throw in a bit of general philosophy/intellectual thought: Maybe because this girl is so young, her conscious mind is not yet developed enough to fully realize the consequences (kammic or otherwise) of the act of killing the deer. Or perhaps, since this is a case of "buck fever" it could apply to any who have not yet killed a sentient being of considerably higher level than say, a bug. For such people, the subconscious mind may be so strongly repulsed by the tremendous negative kamma of such an act, something almost foreign to it and yet extremely large and offensive, it is revolting. In the case of the girl, because she is so young, it may be the case that her body and mind are pure/sensitive/untainted as compared to older individuals who have spent more time in the world or who have become desensitized to killing. As a result, the incredible negative kammic force in her subconscious may be causing a physical reaction.

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I may be wrong but looking at the video, the little girl's face seems to me smiley (happy) while her hands (limbs) are shaking. She seemed to me happy that she's having a novel experience. That doesn't look like horror to me: it looks like, I don't know, an adrenaline rush or something like that. Her voice sounds whispery, I suspect that's because her heart is pounding (high breathing and heart rate).

I thought she seemed to be enjoying or at least intrigued by the experience: it's as if her dad had given her amphetamines.

Amphetamines are synthetic chemicals based upon a structure closely resembling that of adrenaline and norepiniphrine. These chemicals, therefore, can induce similar biological responses, such as acting as a stimulant, and creating a greater alertness and a feeling of prowess


I think that some of the comments under the "field and stream" article that you posted might support this diagnosis:

  • And an elevated heart rate is not the kiss of un-death ... for shots taken at acceptable ranges.

  • to be honest buck fever is why i go if i didnt get it i wouldnt hunt i get it even when im not gonna shoot it took me 21 years to be able to calm down enough to kill a deer with a bow. If you dont get excited why would you hunt?

  • I did read and interesting article (possibly here) that heart rates of hunters can more than double in just a couple of seconds. There are very few things that can cause a jump like that, maybe jumping out of an airplane because the engine just exploded, doing the running of the bulls blindfolded, and certain lapdances.

  • If you don't get a little adrenaline spike, why do it?


Not a very Buddhist answer.

Anyway I suppose that's the cause: it may be comparable in its (physiological and possibly/consequently attachment-inducing or habit-forming) effect to recreational drug use.

Skill (in hunting) may require a person to avoid or overcome (or deny or control or dissipate) that effect (because it can be debilitating): I'd guess the physiological reaction/effect is more evolutionarily helpful for gross motor activities (running and fighting) than for fine motor activities (aiming and shooting).

Wisdom is something else, presumably, i.e. seeing it for what it is.

  • This makes some sense and I surely may have misread what is happening with this phenomena. It may be more of a rapture or burst of euphoria or something. Thanks for pointing this out Chris. – Robin111 Jul 29 '15 at 13:12
  • Well, not quite euphoria, i.e. "feeling good or well": it's clearly a sickness in some sense, a fever. Even so she might (and others are) willing to repeat the experience, perhaps in a "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" kind of hope. – ChrisW Jul 29 '15 at 13:52
  • Or an addiction to the adrenaline rush maybe. But you're right, people do seem to like this feeling whatever it is. – Robin111 Jul 29 '15 at 13:54
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i think ""vāsanā" might fit the situation best.

from wiki "vāsanā (Skt.). Habitual tendencies or dispositions, a term, often used synonymously with bīja (‘seed’). It is found in Pāli and early Sanskrit sources but comes to prominence with the Yogācāra, for whom it denotes the latent energy resulting from actions which are thought to become ‘imprinted’ in the subject's storehouse-consciousness (ālaya-vijñāna). The accumulation of these habitual tendencies is believed to predispose one to particular patterns of behaviour in the future.

Someone saw ven Sariputra jumped over the edge of a rice field and compliant to Buddha that the behavior was not worthy of a Bhikkhu. Buddha explained that it was Ven Sariputra's Vasana from previos lives. He was born as amonkey many life times, the vasana imprinted on him. Only Bhudda could have his vasana wiped cleaned. Maybe it was that little girl's vasana?

  • Hi dean! Do you remember where did you read that story involving sariputra? – Thiago Jul 29 '15 at 1:44
  • Sure. I'll look. It might have been from a hard copy. Give me some time. – user5056 Jul 29 '15 at 2:20
  • thiago, i searched sutta and didnt find anything. i suspect that my memories were from books i read composed much much later , possibly in south east asia . I will delete my answer in a few . – user5056 Aug 13 '15 at 16:23
  • No worries, i'm just very curious about bibliographical bits. thank you for looking up! – Thiago Aug 20 '15 at 3:29

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