At work, a tiny little flying insect landed on my desk. At first I thought he was dead because he wasn’t moving, so I gently pushed him to see if he reacted, and he moved so I left him alone. Some time later, when I picked up a call, I shoved my electronic cigarette and it unfortunately crushed him. So I thought I killed him unwittingly, I felt guilty. I took a closer look, and I could see that although crushed his antenna was still moving, probably in agony. I felt bad, now right away a being was suffering and was going to die because of me, was perhaps afraid? I decided to crush him for good, voluntarily this time, to alleviate his suffering.

What do you think of this story? Was I wrong the first time? The second?

If so, how can I mitigate this bad kamma?

And finally, how can we help him have a better rebirth, if at all possible?

6 Answers 6


What do you think of this story? Was I wrong the first time? The second?

I think these questions are displaying concern for what others might think. There's a risk that it contributes to throwing us off balance:

Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, 'Gain has 
arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject to change.' He discerns it as it 
actually is...

Loss arises... Status arises... Disgrace arises... Censure arises... Praise arises... 
Pleasure arises...

If so, how can I mitigate this bad kamma?

You can't mitigate bad karma. What you can do is try to be equanimous, and prevent the risk for more bad karma in the future.

...Pain arises. He reflects, 'Pain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, & subject 
to change.' He discerns it as it actually is.

 His mind does not remain consumed with the gain. His mind does not remain consumed with 
 the loss... with the status... the disgrace... the censure... the praise... the pleasure. 
 His mind does not remain consumed with the pain.


And finally, how can we help him have a better rebirth, if at all possible?

If we agree that rebirth pertains to the notion of a self, it won't be possible because it's already dead, and besides, it's debatable whether animals actually have a perception of a self to begin with.

However, whether animals have a self or not is irrelevant for whether we should act based on the brahmaviharas or not.

(See this answer, for instance: https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/a/38/11699)


Wrong second time. First time there is no factor of intention, second time you wanted him to die for whatever reason.

Take a hypothetical example of a person who is unable to kill another intentionally, it being not in his range he couldn't have done it. If not killing is classed categorically as good then the person who doesn't kill can not be blamed for not kiling in any circumstance.

It can thus be inferred by simple logic that the correct course of action with these premises is not killing in any circumstance. It does not require further analysis because it's such a simple equation in this context.

Therefore if one holds that wishing others to die is bad then the guideline is clear.

If one holds that compassionate killing is the lesser evil or is a good then one holds that killing is sometimes justified and that's a whole different story requiring a demonstrable basis for that assertion, as it goes against the norm of killing being bad it is then an extraordinary claim and assumes the burden of proof. If no proof then it's just a view that goes against the norm and what is otherwise held to be true.

  • Hi! What if what one wants is to stop suffering and extreme agony? Killing does not become the goal in itself, but the means to achieve it. Does that make any difference, kammically speaking? Jun 17, 2020 at 18:03
  • It doesn't make sense logically. In the world whoever argues that position does it based on assumption that the killer and the killed will suffer less but this slips by taking into account suffering to be experienced after death for the killed and doesn't take into account the greatest good which is the destruction of taints of the killer and how this act has a basis in cruelty & wrong views which corrupt him. Whereas the not killing can be rightly inferred from experimemtally and otherwise demonstrable basis.
    – user8527
    Jun 17, 2020 at 21:29
  • I think not everyone would agree on the nocive effects on the future of the individual being killed. I think most people would rather say that that assertion is not experimentally verifiable (which doesn't mean it's not possible or true). So I'd put that aside for now. I agree on the destruction of the taints being the greatest good, but taking into account the state of things at the time of the killing of the little insect, enlightenment was probably not likely at that very moment. Just in case: I'm not stating that killing is good; instead, I'm just honestly asking out of curiosity. Jun 17, 2020 at 22:20
  • I don't think everyone agrees on anything. My point is that in general if killing is held to be bad then the person claiming it is sometimes good needs to make an extraordinarily good case for it because the claim is extraordinary. Ie muslims will say that defensive war is good because God permits it, their extraordinary claim is based on the extraordinary belief in a higher power for basis, since existence Allah can not be proven and shown to be true, it remains an extraordinary claim that is unfounded.
    – user8527
    Jun 18, 2020 at 9:30
  • The starting point is that the act of killing is bad, hence the natural assumption is that it is always bad. Buddhism defines killing as intentional taking of life, making an extraordinary claim in that unintentional killing is blameless, that due to analysis as demonstrable basis. Therefore Buddhism asserts and fulfils the burden of proof.
    – user8527
    Jun 18, 2020 at 9:35

The second?

I met a pigeon this year which was crippled with an illness.

I gave it shelter, food, and water, for about 10 days until it died.

I figure that was maybe kinder than trying to kill it when it was helpless.

If so, how can I mitigate this bad kamma?

"Stop doing it" -- see this answer which quotes SN 42.8.

And finally, how can we help him have a better rebirth, if at all possible?

Is "make a better/kinder world for him to be reborn into" a valid answer?

  • I don't think you can make a better world for a being to appear into, "beings are heir to their actions, no1 can purify another". Fwiw one can dedicate merit to dead relatives who are currently in the realm of hungry ghosts, that is the only "possible place" accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.177.than.html since transmigation is beginningless then we all are related at some point as i understand it.
    – user8527
    Jun 18, 2020 at 22:09
  • If you stop killing then you've made a world which has one less killer: "better" in that sense, no?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 18, 2020 at 22:34
  • That's an interesting assertion. I think one had to agree that it's obviously better to an extent. There are some circumstances that id have to consider to know that extent 1. there isn't a finite number of beings as i understand it. 2. If a being does bad, he will have bad results, going to a bad state, no matter how many people stop killing.
    – user8527
    Jun 18, 2020 at 23:03
  • It's tricky. it's obviously better first and foremost for the one who stops killing. It is forunate for those who could've or would've been killed and if one stops for good then it is categorically "better" for all but at the same time it does not protect any being from suffering to be experienced as a result of their bad kamma and all existence is due to past kamma.
    – user8527
    Jun 18, 2020 at 23:10

What do you think of this story? Was I wrong the first time? The second?

First time: no kamma ( unwitting/unintentional action ).

Second time: mixed kamma with bright and dark results ( active intention/action to kill + active intention to alleviate the state of prolonged suffering )

If so, how can I mitigate this bad kamma?

Be more mindful of whatever action you'll do at your desk and away from your desk in the future.

And finally, how can we help him have a better rebirth, if at all possible?

While there's no guarantee of benefit, definitely can't hurt to radiate your Metta/Karuna with sutta reciting and more mindful conducts thru the three gates of body/speech/mind.


Try to grab a snake by its mouth. It will bite you. Your wrong grasping of Dhamma can land you in many moral dilemmas and can create existential crisis. The precepts are meant for those who have seriously committed to the 8 fold path. Being a householder you have to take care of yourself , your family , your society etc. You can’t just sit worrying about killing an insect like this. Karma involves lot of common sense.Does killing an insect make you a bad person ? Is it your hobby to kill insects ? Or do you kill insects for the welfare of the society ? Clearly your intentions are good and you are not a bad person. Killing one insect won’t land you in any trouble. If you lie or steal or kill animals as a monk then you have serious problem at hand because it goes against the teachings of Dhamma and you will fail in your endeavour to liberate from samsara...


There is no comparison you kill the poor insect, than you kill your own soul. The soul is guide, own light, immortal. When you forget soul, you are in pain. Its not a wonder that one's body dies, but a great wonder that they think soul dies. Their soul is already dead. Shruti proclaim, 'Soul is immortal, my dear', its your guide, inner master, guide and refuge. Whoever awakes to the inner refuge, act of killing and sense of being killed by another is mere a phantom. But not in your case, as your soul already dead, so karma tends to be there. Don't fall trap to Buddhist lore. They cling to scriptures. Give up that which is impermanent, which is not yours, you will see your own light. All suffering fades away.

Buddha said: Self is refuge, self is inner light and guide. Upanishada says: Thou are that! Many awakened ones still existed in Indian land, they don't bound to particular religion. They live in isolated places in Himalayas. They beg food and give instructions only to those who are interested in it. Whoever find his inner refuge, all relationship ends right there, all properties flung aside, he trespasses from trap of good and evil, he lives in solitude with one with light. How can his happiness be compared?

  • The one like you that you have killed and the Buddhist monks put a sin for you are no different. Both reject the soul. So, there is universal law, whoever lost his own soul, will be punish and whoever finds it will be saved. That's more like Jesus's statement. Sep 15, 2020 at 1:04
  • It's foolish to think soul is within the body and equally so without it! Where is it? Only eye of illumination knows it. Who have subdued his senses and desire for impermanent things and whose dispassion are intense gets Samadhi(Jhana). Only those who gets samadhi, the mind of the one come to an end. And only those can have vision of absolute, who have ceased all desires! Behold, your Soul is your own master. Dont seek it without! Sep 15, 2020 at 2:38

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