Q77. Buddhism says, ‘Don’t kill a living thing.’ Can we live without killing any living things?

A. As long as we want to remain alive, we have to kill some living things to keep ourselves alive. Though, as a vegetarian, we don’t touch meat or fish, we can’t avoid killing countless invisible living things. All plants such as vegetables, for example, are living things, and countless micro-organisms, living things too small to see with naked eyes, are living on their surface. Feeding on plants, being a vegetarian means killing such living things as well.

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So asking us not to kill a living thing is asking us to get out of illusions because we can’t help killing living things while living in the world of illusion. Getting out of illusion also means escaping from the trap of birth and death. In the world free of illusion, not only ourselves but also all other living things, escape from birth and death. Leaving ourselves to stay in the world of illusion is leaving both ourselves and all other living things to die. In other words, not trying to get out of illusions is to leave ourselves and all other living things alone to die, and to leave dying people and things alone that you can save is not different from killing them. So it means you should save not only yourself but also all living things by getting out of illusions, reaching the final goal.

©Boo Ahm

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