Buddha has asked to refrain from killing. However if small insects do not feel any pain then what is the harm in killing them?

To simply put : Do insects feel less pain and humans more ?

  • Does good householder feel lesser pain then my person? Who knows how much pain good householder feels?
    – user11235
    May 3, 2020 at 22:56
  • 1
    What ever runs after existance, life, does actions, seeks food, is driven by pain. Who runs fater after food, the insect or good householder?
    – user11235
    May 3, 2020 at 22:59
  • If yoor idea worked then it would okay to kill human beings as long as we don't cause them pain. And I have no idea how we could prove that any other beings feels pain or pleasure or anything at all. In philosophy this is the 'other minds' problem.
    – user14119
    May 4, 2020 at 14:06

3 Answers 3


The purpose of the precept is to protect you and lift you up in terms of virtue (sila).

Undertaking the first precept of not killing is about changing YOUR state of mind.

It's so that YOU become compassionate, wishing for happiness of other beings, and not have violent and harmful tendencies.

Cultivation of virtues also has the effect of freedom from remorse, which leads to enlightenment. This is according to AN 11.1.

Also, please see this answer.

  • 1
    I do not agree entirely with ruben2020's answer. The precept is VERY MUCH to protect the small insect as well. If it were only about protecting onself and lifting onself up in terms of virtue, it would be a very selfish endeavour. It certainly is about changing one's state of mind. May 4, 2020 at 6:05
  • @HomagetoManjushri I'll remove the first sentence. But I would say that the focus of Theravada and Mahayana may be different.
    – ruben2020
    May 4, 2020 at 6:18
  • Yes you are right. Though I prefer to use the word emphasis. But focus is also a good word to use nonethelss. But we might get off topic here! May 4, 2020 at 6:36

All living things feel pain. Feeling pain is a mark of having a life. What seperates insects and humans is that we not only feel pain, but also suffering. Pain is in the physical body. Suffering is in the mind. Buddhism is about the end of suffering. Pain, a physical thing, is unavoidable since we have a physical body in the world and things happen. But the suffering, which is what we make of pain (physical sensations), is in the mind. That is an important difference between pain and suffering.

  • From where does good householder know that certain being do only have bodily pain and no mental? Is such even possible?
    – user11235
    May 5, 2020 at 13:47
  • Read the answers carefully. Nowhere has HomagetoManjushri written that "certain being do only have bodily pain and no mental". But, understandably, we are all masters of our own inferences. May 5, 2020 at 17:41
  • So what should be the different between pain and suffering, householder pointed out serial times in his answer?What ever stress/suffering not bodily is called mental stress. Physical=body.
    – user11235
    May 6, 2020 at 9:04

I agree with Ruben's answer because it answers correctly from virtue point of view.I also agree with HomagetoManjuShri but I think I need add few more thoughts to it. First and foremost , All beings are capable of experiencing suffering. The suffering is a result of grasping of five aggregates. Different beings grasp at different level. For example if you kill an ant it may not mean much but if you destroy an ant colony it hurts the whole ant family. Moreover Buddha said there is no being which is immune to suffering. Had it been so he would have recommended that state of existence as bliss. There is intelligence everywhere. Insects are also capable of expressing that intelligence and experiencing pain. If we compare human suffering with the suffering of an ant , I think human would like to be an ant because there is so much less suffering. But when change occurs all beings suffer the pain and lamentation which grows with level of grasping of five aggregates. Therefore humans or insect may or may not experience same level of pain. Intensity of pain depends of level of attachment which varies from being to being. So why hurt anyone ? You never know how much pain they feel.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .