What is Buddhism's take on losing your pet?

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by 'Amir Alzzalam, May 7, 2022.

  1. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    I'd like to hear how Buddhism handles pets. Do you avoid attachment from the beginning? What if the pet has to be 'put down'? Isn't it against Buddhism to end the life of a living thing? What if your pet is suffering?
     
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  2. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    There is no single take covering all of Buddhism, I think.

    Different Buddhist cultures have different views of pets. Different social classes within these cultures have different views. A cat or dog on a farm will have a different status from a cat or dog in a middle class urban family.

    Regarding animals in general, the Buddhist scriptures convey a bit of a mixed message in terms of doctrine - the first precept taken by all Buddhists is to refrain from taking life, and the second is to refrain from taking what is not freely given. These in themselves kind of go against exploiting or killing animals, or even taking away a mother animal's young. But these precepts are not interpreted that way in lay Buddhist society. The profession of butcher is explicitly listed as not in line with the noble eightfold path. The Southeast Asian country I used to live in had "solved" the dilemma of where to get meat by having mostly Chinese and Muslim butchers in the cities. In the countryside, where farmers do their own butchering, it was a frequent topic of the lunar observance days Dharma sermons.

    Cruelty to animals was one of the sights which moved the Buddha to abandon his family life and become a homeless ascetic. He was also a sharp critic of animal sacrifice.

    On the other side of the message stands the doctrine of Karma and birth, which indicates that to be born as an animal is the "fruit" of some previous, though not necessarily immediately preceding, evil action. Still better than birth in a hell realm or as a hungry ghost, but not as good as the human birth. So, some looking down on animals is built right into the doctrine.

    All that said, Buddhism is not fundamentally against euthanasia or even suicide. Compassion with other sentient beings who suffer is one of the most basic teachings.

    There is an entire Buddhist literature of "birth stories" the Jatakas, recounting primarily animal births of the Buddha and some chief disciples.

    The sutras also contain some very touching farewell speeces and eulogies. Clearly, loss of a friend was painful to the Buddha and his disciples.
     
  3. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    Thank you for shedding some light on this. However, I didn't come away with anything philosophically profound in regards to my OP. Buddhists suffer the death of a pet like anyone else, they are against animal cruelty like any normal human being, and so forth. The Karma thing is ridiculous IMO as I thought Buddhism was a nontheistic way of life. The 'punishing' of a soul to reincarnate as that of an animal is not only a cruel act, it also implies there is a higher power making these decisions based on some kind of merit system obviously imposed by that same higher power.
     
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  4. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    To make a Buddhist in-joke: It depends.

    My slightly informed impression is that Buddhists would not condemn putting a suffering pet to sleep. They wouldn't arrive at this by rigorous application of Buddhist doctrine, however.

    Karma and its ripening is understood to be a law of nature, a mechanism, in Buddhism, like gravity - impersonal, inexorable. The gods are subject to it like every other sentient being. The "fruit" metaphor inherent in the name for this, "karma-vipaka", points to this understanding as much as the literal texts.

    Edited to add: Buddhism is far from non-theistic. The gods are just not seen as the creators of this universe, nor are they immortal.
     
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  5. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    God killed my pet
    God's a ****!
     
  6. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    My research says otherwise. "While Buddhism is a tradition focused on spiritual liberation, it is not a theistic religion. The Buddha himself rejected the idea of a creator god, and Buddhist philosophers have even argued that belief in an eternal god is nothing but a distraction for humans seeking enlightenment."

    Perhaps there are offshoots of original Buddhism, and like any other religion/philosophy these offshoots come into existence simply because adherents want to change the original philosophy to meet their needs.
     
  7. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    I don't see where this is being implied. Is there a god in Buddhism? No, there isn't, so why are you bringing this into the equation?
     
  8. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Either the lion feeds to reproduce more lions, or else the zebra escapes the lion, and lives to reproduce more zebras and the lion starves?
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2022
  9. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    As animal human beings we are rooted in death and nature, but drawn upward by awareness of eternity and spirit. It's the symbol of Christ on the cross, imo

    'Freedom from (material) desire leads to inner (spiritual) peace' is probably the central tenet of Buddhism -- as most other religions?

    But I don't know more ...
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2022
  10. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    You've lost me here . . .
     
  11. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    It's very common in the West to secularize Eastern practices like Taoism and Buddhism, reducing them to mere "philosophy," but this is very inaccurate. Both Taoists and Buddhists venerate deities and have a wide range of supernatural beliefs.

    Buddhism doesn't believe in classical theism, which is a God detached from the world which created it, so it is not theistic in that sense, but it is still usually polytheistic. They also venerate their own spirits in the form of Bodhisattvas, many of which are syncretic with Hindu and Shinto deities.

    It's also difficult to untangle Buddhism, Taoism, and Shenism in many of their Eastern forms, because they frequently blend together and influence one another, depending on the strain.

    At minimum, the oldest Buddhist texts talk about reincarnation and karma as well as the existence of divine beings and other realms that one might reincarnate into. It's really not as much of a "philosophy" as it's been made out to be in the West. In fact, in the East, most Buddhists don't even meditate because meditation is commonly seen as an advanced practice mostly reserved for monks and the devout.

    There's a lot of misinformation about Buddhism in the West. I don't fully understand where it all came from.

    The whole point of Buddhist philosophy is to nullify one's karma so that they are liberated from the cycle of rebirth, and as an offshoot of Hinduism one of its radical differences is that it said the gods are trapped in the cycle, too.
     
  12. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    I put this in a Buddhist group because I wanted to hear a Buddhist's view on this, not a Christian's. I can do without their delusions.
     
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  13. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    Being that you understand Buddhism from an eastern lens, how would you directly answer my Original Post in terms of original Buddhism?
     
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  14. Ella S.

    Ella S. Logoic Logician

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    From my understanding, many of those who commit ritual suicide were Buddhists. The idea of euthanasia is, in itself, not necessarily what the idea of non-violence is about.

    What we translate as non-violence is better understood as ahimsa, which means something more like "a mind free of malice and aggression." Remember, Buddhists themselves train in martial arts and have fought in multiple wars. They aren't necessarily blanketly against killing in all circumstances so much as they see hostility itself as a form of attachment to be dispensed with.

    Buddhist texts talk a lot about compassion and what's sometimes translated as "loving-kindness." They would never tell you to be callous or cold or distant to your pets, I don't think.

    The enlightened response would be to accept whatever happens with the understanding that some things are out of our control. Yes, we might feel sad, but the emotion is fleeting and impermanent. Going forward, Buddhism talks about accepting and understanding the impermanence of all things from the get-go so that we are less affected when we lose them, but this is never meant to prevent us from enjoying or valuing the things that we have in our lives nor does it mean that we should forget the good times we've had or the loved ones we've lost.

    That idea of accepting impermanence is one of the major themes of Buddhism. It's the whole reason they try to practice non-attachment; material things are fleeting and illusory so getting too caught up in them is like being caught in the rapids of a river. Non-attachment and the acceptance of impermanence don't necessarily make one happier, but they help one to find peace with their own discomfort.
     
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  15. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    If a religion contains gods, it's theistic to my understanding.
     
  16. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    I was of the understanding that the original Buddhism was free of theistic thinking, I guess I'm wrong. It's simply another theistic religion with a few nice teachings.
     
  17. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    First of all, I am very sorry for your loss. :/

    I don't know of any rules regarding pets, as monks generally didn't have pets.
    Buddha only gave advice to laypersons--laypersons are not subject to the sangha rules. (Buddha's advice to laypersons consisted of what certain actions would lead to, and urged the development of skillful actions and the abandonment of unskillful actions.)

    Regarding killing--most of the suttas talk about being devoted to killing, without showing mercy to living beings.

    Showing mercy is where it is at. You would have to have the discernment that putting your pet down was in fact showing mercy. (Personally, I have no doubt that you did the most merciful thing regarding your beloved pet, and that it caused you pain. You were not callous with regards to your pet, and employed your own wisdom in the matter, as it should be.)

    Now regarding gods: Buddhism does recognize sentient beings other than humans. (Devas, Asuras, Yakkis, Brahmas, Pretas, etc.) All of these beings arise and pass away, just like humans do. Some have longer lifespans, some have shorter lifespans. Buddhism also posits that each being is the owner of their own karma. No one can purify another. There is no use pleading to a god for this. You have to do it for oneself.
    Dhammapada:
    160. One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.
    <...>
    165. By oneself is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself is one made pure. Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.​
    Just because Buddhism recognizes sentient beings other than humans does not necessarily make it theistic. You can't plead to a god to purify you--you have to do it yourself. (You may get guidance from others on how to go about it, but in the end you still have to make the changes yourself. Believing otherwise just distracts you from doing the work yourself.)
     
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  18. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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  19. 'Amir Alzzalam

    'Amir Alzzalam Šayṭānist

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    It's about time, I've been waiting for your input, in fact, I wrote this post with you in mind. Usually, your Buddhist stuff drives me crazy, but this time it is the comfort I was looking for, thank you.

    I miss Louie unbearably, I have never cried this much in my entire life, as you know, I am for the most part a callous and unemotional person, but this has managed to shatter me into a humble pulp.
     
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  20. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Life is pain. (See the First Noble Truth.)
    We all suffer. Fortunately, suffering is impermanent. I'm glad I could give you some comfort in your time of suffering. I don't rejoice at all in the suffering of others.
     
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