How can I call myself a Buddhist?

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  • markkemark
    Member
    • Feb 2012
    • 82

    How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    I am really new here as far as posting but I try to read here everyday and really value everyone's opinion. I see myself as part of this community and TRY to sit zazen twice daily, and genuinely try my best to follow the precepts and be a good Buddhist. However I think my profession, which I love and have have a great passion for, is responsible for the death and destruction of many beings. I am a Nurseryman and a very good one if I might say so, and have made it a career and for which my family depends on my income from.

    I think I have put it out of my mind- all the insecticides that I sell to everyone to save their plants...I sell allot of destruction and death...

    I also kill tons of insects that are on the plants that we sell to keep them sellable...what am I to do?

    I thought that when I became a Buddhist and most recently a Zen Buddhist, that I had the perfect life for this...my job was Zen like in most respects as I saw it anyway...Now, almost like I had been ignoring it subconsiously I realized that im selling to customers a way for them to kill...

    We do sell organic insecticides, but that is still killing...we even sell lady bugs and praying mantids and beneficial nematodes and beneficial wasps to do the killing in a natural way...but that is a small percentage of total sales...

    This realization of mine is a big breakthrough In my practice but at the same time a brick wall. Im very confused as to how I can call myself a Buddhist now.

    If anyone has any opinions on this that would be great to hear...I value everyone's opinion here.

    Thank you very much,
    Mark
  • disastermouse

    #2
    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

    If anyone who had a job was disqualified from being a Buddhist, none of us would be Buddhists. Without your pesticides, how many more people would have insufficient food? How many of THEM would die or be prone to illness? There is no way to do absolutely no harm, but you have limited it by producing organic pesticides and therefore harming fewer.

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39441

      #3
      Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

      Hi Mark,

      This subject has come up a few time, often in connection with our annual reflection on the Precept of refraining from taking life for our Jukai. It was also a topic when Treeleaf's all wooden buildings were infested with termites in an earthquake zone. Please look here:

      viewtopic.php?p=42189#p42189

      You picked an appropriate morning to ask this question, as our Japanese gardener here at Treeleaf was, just this morning, spreading fertilizer and spraying for bugs in the garden. It is necessary, if we are to have a garden, as we already have lost a few trees ... including a 50 year old black matsu, a victim of hungry pine beetles.

      I have reservations about pesticides, for what they are doing to human health. I believe that we should minimize their use where possible, and I look forward to the day when science will find alternatives. However, these days, perhaps a necessary evil. The Jains in India wear masks to avoid inhaling even a single bug. Buddhists may try to minimize the harm. However, for most folks even in the Buddha's day, keeping insects from body, food and crops was daily reality.

      Gassho, Jundo
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • Kyotai

        #4
        Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

        Hey Mark,

        I started this thread a while back. As far as right livelihood goes, it may be of some use to your situation.

        viewtopic.php?f=9&t=4615

        I see you have some real concerns. As Jundo said, it is a necessary evil in todays age. Personally, if I ever needed/required pestisides on my property, I would rather it be completed by someone who is present and caring, then someone who is simply trying to make a quick buck by killing anything that moves. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what is the right path. Perhaps if you want a livelihood which harms less, you might consider slowly looking into other career paths. You might also consider community service, or volunteering as a means to make up for some of the wrong you feel you are committing.

        I personally have a job which I have taken similar issue/struggled with. One that both creates happiness for some, and suffering for others. Someone in the world has to do that job...it might as well be a buddhist...

        Shawn

        Comment

        • Khalil Bodhi
          Member
          • Apr 2012
          • 317

          #5
          Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

          This is always a difficult topic. In brief, the Buddha stated that there were 5 major categories of Wrong Livelihood:

          "A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison."

          — AN 5.177
          Of course, with such broad categories that leaves us a lot to work out for ourselves. I think it's important to remember that, whatever we do, we create the karma and will have to experience its results. Killing is akusala (unskillful) karma but we have all been in positions where we felt this was necessary. Being honest about this at least helps us to incline the mind towards harmlessness in the future. I, myself, recently had a run in with some bed bugs and we called in the exterminators despite my misgivings. I wish you all the best in whatever you decide! May you enjoy every good blessing!

          Metta,

          Mike
          To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
          -Dhp. 183
          My Practice Blog

          Comment

          • disastermouse

            #6
            Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

            Seriously guys - I don't think we have to be pre-occupied with the karma of killing mosquitos or protecting our agricultural labors from the savagery of weevils. But then, I'm a heartless bastard with a lot of karma, I guess.

            Chet

            Comment

            • Khalil Bodhi
              Member
              • Apr 2012
              • 317

              #7
              Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

              I get your point but, if we are to help ourselves, let alone all sentient beings we can't afford to live negligently. Whenever I reflect on these seeming minutiae this verse from the Dhammapada always springs to mind:

              121. Think not lightly of evil, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the fool, gathering it little by little, fills himself with evil.
              The good thing is that it works the same way with all of our little good deeds:

              122. Think not lightly of good, saying, "It will not come to me." Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good.
              Gassho,

              Mike
              To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
              -Dhp. 183
              My Practice Blog

              Comment

              • Dosho
                Member
                • Jun 2008
                • 5784

                #8
                Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                Mark,

                I am no expert in what makes one a buddhist or not. I am simply a priest in training trying to live with the dilemmas in our daily lives just like everyone else. But I shall say that, in my own view, because you consider these issues and the effects on the world...you are a buddhist. I am very much against the use of pesticides, especially here in the U.S. with folks trying to achieve the perfect lawn, but the people who do the work are just trying to make a living and that isn't always easy in our economy. We do the best we can.

                I have used many words here, probably more than needed to say what I wanted to say. You are a buddhist if you feel it in your heart. That's my $0.02.

                Gassho,
                Dosho

                Comment

                • Rich
                  Member
                  • Apr 2009
                  • 2601

                  #9
                  Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                  I avoid pesticides and herbicides cause I fear they will make sick or cause cancer. I get along with most bugs and even save them but I kill ticks and mosquitos beacause they may give me disease. Oh and sometimes I kill termites and wood eating ants. I'm that kind of buddhist.
                  _/_
                  Rich
                  MUHYO
                  無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                  https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                  Comment

                  • alan.r
                    Member
                    • Jan 2012
                    • 546

                    #10
                    Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                    Originally posted by Dosho
                    But I shall say that, in my own view, because you consider these issues and the effects on the world...you are a buddhist.
                    Precisely. That you are thinking of these things and looking for a way to be mindful, caring, compassionate: that is it. All beings eat food and when one being eats another being dies. That is how it is. All of us, if we buy fruit at the grocery store or almost anywhere really, even organic, are in a similar position as you, you just happen to be closer to it. Thank you for sharing this and for your wonderful practice and don't be too hard on yourself.

                    Gassho,
                    Alan
                    Shōmon

                    Comment

                    • Risho
                      Member
                      • May 2010
                      • 3179

                      #11
                      Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                      Originally posted by disastermouse
                      Seriously guys - I don't think we have to be pre-occupied with the karma of killing mosquitos or protecting our agricultural labors from the savagery of weevils. But then, I'm a heartless bastard with a lot of karma, I guess.

                      Chet
                      haahahha right on!
                      Email: risho.treeleaf@gmail.com

                      Comment

                      • markkemark
                        Member
                        • Feb 2012
                        • 82

                        #12
                        Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                        I must say that I love everyone here. I feel 90 percent better about this whole subject and reading about Treeleaf's gardener was nice. I think that I just need to be more mindful when I recommend an insecticide to a customer and try to persuade them to go organic or natural animal predators. I am very greatful to be a part of this Sangha...

                        Gassho,

                        Mark

                        Comment

                        • Nenka
                          Member
                          • Aug 2010
                          • 1238

                          #13
                          Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                          I have three magnolias on my property, and had been living here for about a year when I noticed this crud which turned out to be "magnolia scale" on all of them. It's basically a sucking insect that lives on sap and poops syrup which bees and wasps like to eat--and which drips everywhere and causes a nasty mildew that kills the plants under the trees. The smallest of our trees had it so bad last year we had to have it taken out. The organic solution--spray everything with horticultural oil-- was of limited use.

                          So basically I couldn't get my mind around what to do--ignore it and let the trees die (as well as make a stinking mess that kills other plants?) Kill the insects? Last year we found a pesticide you pour directly at the base of the trees. It worked fantastically--except it kills all the bugs it touches, and earthworms too. You could see them writhing out of the ground on impact. This year we chose not to use it, and so far the trees are clean. I just hope they stay that way. But yeah, what are you going to do? Something is going to die either way.

                          Anyway, Mark, I'm glad you care and asked the big questions.

                          Gassho

                          Jen

                          P.S. We replaced the one magnolia with a crabapple that is highly, highly resistant to pests and diseases and is more appropriate to our area.

                          Comment

                          • Geika
                            Treeleaf Unsui
                            • Jan 2010
                            • 4980

                            #14
                            Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                            Originally posted by markkemark
                            However I think my profession, which I love and have have a great passion for, is responsible for the death and destruction of many beings. I am a Nurseryman and a very good one if I might say so, and have made it a career and for which my family depends on my income from.
                            The way I see it, you don't have to avoid calling yourself a Buddhist because of your current career. There are many sides to a lifestyle, and, especially in Zen, things are not always so black and white.

                            There is also this dilemma: wouldn't there be greater suffering if you leave your occupation? I have no God's eye on the grand scheme of things, but the choice appears clear between killing bugs and putting your family in a difficult situation. Perhaps in time and with searching you will comfortably be able to move on to a different career path, but for now, this is your work.

                            Originally posted by markkemark
                            I think that I just need to be more mindful when I recommend an insecticide to a customer and try to persuade them to go organic or natural animal predators.
                            And for now, that is as mindful as you can be. Therefore, in my opinion, you are behaving as a Buddhist.
                            求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                            I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

                            Comment

                            • Brian Roessler
                              Member
                              • May 2012
                              • 25

                              #15
                              Re: How can I call myself a Buddhist?

                              I just wanted to say how much I appreciate this conversation. You guys are all great.

                              Comment

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