“I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, live supported by my actions. Whatever actions I do, whether good or evil, to that will I become heir” is to be reflected on often.
-Gotama Buddha (AN V.57 tr. J. Kelly)
I often reflect on this verse, and know more deeply than I used to that the only thing I can ever really own are my actions and their results. With regard to refraining from harming other living beings, there’s a catch, though (for me). If I can’t really feel that I’m doing harm, then I’m not motivated to refrain from an action. Or, put another way, if there’s a stronger emotion than the feeling that I’m harming a living being, the stronger emotion wins out.
With people, I try to be very conscientious – moving out of the way if someone’s in a hurry, including whoever is around in the conversation, trying not to take up too much space. But with insects, I’ve got a big blind spot. Living in Queensland, you live with bugs. When it’s been wet, you live with LOTS of bugs. I don’t really mind this; I see the world outside as their home and their territory. However, my house is my castle, and inside of it, I feel a need to keep the critters at bay. Gekkos and big spiders can usually be caught and relocated, or if they run and hide, they can be ignored. Armies of ants or cockroaches – well, the progress I’ve made is that I feel bad about killing them, but I still do it when there are too many of them to dissuade.
Mosquitoes are another story. Even outside, though it is their territory, my body is my territory. I’ll brush off a mosquito or two, but if one bites me, its life is forfeit. Something very deep in me rebels at the notion of microscopic creatures invading my bloodstream. Ross River fever, even Dengue fever are not unknown here.
I make these confessions as examples of my working edge with the first precept. Perhaps one day I will see all of these creatures as having a claim to staying alive equal to what I feel my own is. So far, I’ll admit, I feel I have the greater claim, not only to life, but to a pretty much bug-free life in my little home zone.
Possibly one sign of progress is that I really love all the lizards and even the gekkos when I see them outside. Huge flying cockroaches, spiders the size of a fist – they all live quite undisturbed (by me) in our garden and in the park across the street. Of course, the local birds and lizards eat the bugs in the endless devouring chain of life. But it makes me think – where is my place in this?