I saw a cat chasing a mouse outside of my house and kill it. I could have chased the cat away and saved the mouse's life but I just watched and didn't do anything. Not that I was enjoying what I saw but this made me think whether what I did was a sin or not. I just think I would have interfered with nature had I stopped the cat from killing. One side there is the food chain and on the other karma. I am confused. Is it a sin to not stop a predator from catching its prey?

  • 1
    Is there a specific question you'd like to ask? You might notice there's no question mark in what you posted.
    – ChrisW
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 13:04
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    @ChrisW I added the question
    – Heisenberg
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 13:27

6 Answers 6


"Chethanaham Bikkhawe Kammam Wadami" - volition is Karma

Did you not prevent it because mice are usually an annoyance and 1 less mouse makes your life better? If so, it's bad Karma. Later you may make up an excuse like "not wanting to interfere with nature". But what matters is the intention at the time. If you were wishing for the mouse to escape, it is good Karma. If you actually saved the mouse, it's more good Karma. If you were neutral based on Upekkha(contemplating on Karma and Vipaka), it's good Karma. If you were neutral based on indifference born of ignorance, it is bad Karma.

  • Say I have a cat and I stop it eating any living thing which is a good thing. But the cat would starve to death assuming it doesn't eat vegetables. There's no better outcome either way. Why can't we let nature just run it's course
    – Heisenberg
    Commented May 25, 2016 at 3:38
  • You are not responsible for the cat's actions whether you feed it or not Commented May 25, 2016 at 3:43

IMO there's a similar concern with people: outside my house I see people raising farm animals, in order to kill them for food. What should I do about that? Try to chase the people away?

I think, probably not, even if only because I think that's likely to be ineffective (i.e. that kind of tactic on my part wouldn't stop people from killing).

I suppose that the Buddhist equivalent of a "sin" is klesha or kilesa. I suppose or it feels to me as if it probably is a sin, several sins: torpor (not doing something about it), ignorance (not knowing what to do about it), conceit (thinking that you could do something about it), hatred (not liking what you see)...

Technically it's not breaking a precept: you're responsible for what you do, not for what other people do. But it's probably also right to find it questionable, if someone could have saved someone but didn't.


If one sees a judge passing death sentence to a criminal, can one stop it? One can only pray that both the judge and the criminal will not go to the lower realms, but one is not sure, and perhaps both judge and criminal can go higher realms- one is never sure of samsara! It really depends on motivations, karma etc which one who is not enlightened will never tell...

Thus focus on one's own enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, for now one cant judge activities of mouse and cats, predators and prey.

  • There is a disanalogy though since the OP said he could have stopped it.
    – Adamokkha
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 15:14

If you had small children (babies) in your home, would it be good karma to allow pests to accumulate in your home (like mice, rats, cockroaches, fleas, ticks, gadflies, etc) that might bite your children?

I lived in a forest monastery once where (in the past) there used to be tigers & mice that chewed the dhamma books. So dogs were introduced so the tigers would attack/eat the dogs rather than the novice (child) monks and cats were introduced to eat the mice.

To make oneself paranoid or worrisome about cats & mice is bad karma but to not stop a cat eating a mouse is not bad karma (just as 'cleaning' your house of dirty pests in not bad karma).

The teachings of karma are for the purpose of keeping people free from trouble (rather than for imprisoning people).

In the strict monks rules, a monk that kills a human being for any reason is expelled from the order. However, a monk that intentionally kills an animal must only confess the action. As for allowing or wanting a cat to kill a mouse, there is no offence.

For a monk to empty a water jar with mosquito larvae in it is an offense. However, for a monk to place a cloth over a water jar to prevent mosquito larvae is not an offense. What is what here?

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    There were tigers inside the monastery?
    – JAB
    Commented May 24, 2016 at 20:24
  • Sacrificing dogs to make your life safe is bad Karma. Karma is a law of nature. It doesn't depend on whether you find it convenient or not. Commented May 24, 2016 at 20:50
  • Karma is certainly a law of nature. That is why nature makes it lawful to perform certain acts of karma that involve 'killing'. In meditation, how karmic law impacts the mind can be known. Clinging to karma in the wrong way does not lead to liberation. That is why in MN 117 it is explained karma accords to a defiled (impure) right view. Commented May 24, 2016 at 22:02
  • The 'monastery' was comprised of huts & small buildings in a wild rainforest. Yes, there were tigers (before they recently became extinct). Commented May 24, 2016 at 22:05
  • Neither MN 117 nor any other Sutta supports your claim that sacrificing others' lives has no Karmic consequences. Are you sure you follow Theravada Buddhism? :) Commented May 25, 2016 at 2:07

Next time around, try to stop the cat from killing the mouse, and then give the cat some food to eat. That'd cover all grounds: saving the mouse's life without the expense of the cat going hungry.


It is the mouse's karma to die, and the cat's karma to kill the mouse. We recognize that animals live in the realm where they cannot comprehend and benefit from the dharma. You could have saved that mouse, maybe, but it would not change the fact that some animal would most likely kill it. We can only direct our own karma, not the karma of others. You can save a cow from slaughter only to have it killed in pasture by a wolf. Do that which is compassionate, engaging in altruistic loving kindness and generousity. Do not beat yourself up because you cannot or did not save a single creature.

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