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To Be Pests to Pests or Friends to Friends?

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  • NamoAmituofo
    TheDailyEnlightenment.comWeekly 05.04.07 Get this newsletter | TDE-Weekly Archive Click here if you do not see the pictures
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2007
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      TheDailyEnlightenment.comWeekly 05.04.07

      Get this newsletter | TDE-Weekly Archive

      Click here if you do not see the pictures

      Realisation: To Be Pests to Pests or Friends to Friends?


      May I have metta toward the footless [eg. snakes and worms]
      And toward bipeds [eg. two-legged animals] too, my metta may I have
      May I have metta toward the quadrupeds [eg. four-legged animals]
      And toward the many footed [eg. insects, prawns etc.] also, metta may I have.  
      - The Buddha (Ahi Sutta)

      When fellow Buddhists ask me how to handle so-called "pests" at home, my usual advice is as follows, "We need to remember that what defines 'pests' as so is relative. We are 'pests' to 'pests' too. To a 'pesky' household spider spinning a web in a corner of the house, that we try to shoo away, we too are 'pesky' in forcing him to move house. What we can do instead is to gently invite him out of 'our' house, with chanting and ushering with the good will of loving-kindness (metta)." For years, I thought that piece of advice was pretty complete, till I recently realised how metta can be even better practised. Where I live used to be largely insect-free. But recently, there are ants here and there. Not too many, but not too few either. I tried my best to trace their paths, to see if they had some home base, but there was none. Neither were there food scraps around to attract or sustain their stay. To what karmic affinity, I wonder, do I have with them. Whether an encounter is a positive or negative affinity is decided by our attitude.

      Yes, Buddhists are particular on abstaining from taking life - even that of "tiny" insects. Spraying insecticide is cruel and out of the question. In the rounds of rebirth, most if not all beings would have been our parents some point. How then can we kill any? And they have families too. The ants taught me a precious lesson - we can co-exist in harmony. This house is surely big enough for these little guys. We share the same planet. I'm not even sure if the ants I see are always the same guys, and whether they are staying for good or just passing through. With increase in urbanisation, surely both insects and humans are running out of space - why not share it? This life is like an inn anyway, that we stay in for a while, before leaving. "Ants happen" - whether you like it or not - so why not learn to not dislike it, even if you find it hard to like? From the ants, I learnt patience, compassion and mindfulness - as I need to usher those too close to danger to safety, without squishing them accidentally. They're quite cute actually!


      This reminds me of the incident when some monks were disturbed by unseen beings (tree devas) while meditating under trees. Knowing the trees were their abodes, the Buddha advised the monks to radiate metta to them, teaching them the famous Metta Sutta. Touched by their metta, the devas protected them instead. Note that neither the monks nor the devas shooed each other away in disgust; they lived together with mutual benefit. In a related incident recorded in the Ahi Sutta, the Buddha remarked that a monk was bitten by a snake because he did not practise loving-kindness to snakes. Forest monks need metta to make peace with snakes, scorpions, centipedes, tigers... Likewise, even in urban life, metta is essential for harmonious living with each other, be we human or animal. By the way, many are unaware of the essential role of ants who burrow into the Earth, which allows the plant roots to breathe! Insects are more sensitive than we think, even though they might appear clueless. You will be surprised by their response when you truly radiate metta to them. Try! - Shen Shi'an

      All beings, all living creatures,
      May good fortune befall them all
      May not the least harm on them befall.
      - The Buddha (Ahi Sutta)

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