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Thread: the 1st precept: is it about not killing human beings, only?

  1. #1
    Global Moderator Element's Avatar

    the 1st precept: is it about not killing human beings, only?

    dear forum

    the 1st precept, in Pali, is: pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi

    'pāṇa' = breath, as in the term 'anapanasati'

    other Pali teachings specifically about the 1st precept include:

    Idha, gahapatayo, ekacco pāṇātipātī hoti, luddo [luddo dāruṇo (ka.) ṭīkā oloketabbā] lohitapāṇi hatappahate niviṭṭho adayāpanno pāṇabhūtesu [sabbapāṇabhūtesu (syā. kaṃ. ka.)].

    Here someone is a killer of living beings: he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, and merciless to all living beings.

    Majjhima Nikaya 41
    sabbapāṇabhūtesu = all breathing (living) beings

    the words "satta" (persons) or "manussa" (human beings) are not used here

    so is the 1st precept about not killing human beings, only?

    or is it about not killing any beings whenever possible?

    do we have any other references to clarify this topic?


    Last edited by Element; 03 Nov 11 at 21:40.

  2. #2
    At the Buddhanet Basic Studies guide, it says for the first precept:

    1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.

  3. #3
    From Wat Pah Nanachat the International Forest Monastery:

    Five Training Precepts: Ethical standards for the cultivation of virtue

    1." Harmlessness and nonviolence: to cherish all life — I undertake the training to refrain from intentionally taking the life of living beings.

    The first precept entails the development of metta (goodwill and loving-kindness) and karuna (compassion) toward all beings. This includes even the creatures that we may be afraid of (e.g. spiders) or who may hurt us (e.g. snakes and scorpions).

    In our practice of metta-karuna we need to make an extra effort not to swat at a mosquito or squash a small spider. Insect repellent may offer an alternative, especially for the early evenings. Mindful of the suffering and unwholesome kamma produced by the taking of life, with this precept we aspire to offer our practice of benevolence and harmlessness as a protection to all beings with which we share the forest. "

  4. #4
    Forums Member Karma Yeshe's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    As every Being is endowed with Buddha Nature, to take any life is a violation of the Precept.

  5. #5
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
    Under the Bodhi Tree
    Hi Element,

    The precept of no killing goes beyond not killing people. It is also about neither harming nor killing life. SN 55.7 explains how to practice and understood the precepts, included the one about "Not Harming Life".

    Not killing, includes not killing people of any sort, dictators, murderes, etc... included.

    I know it is hard to understand this last aspect but:

    A Noble disciple reflects thus:
    From where the reflection that continues seems to fit just for a Noble disciple, not an ordinary person.

    I am one who wishes to live, who does not wish to die. I desire happiness and dislike suffering. Since I am one who wishes to live... and dislike suffering, if someone were to take my life, that would not be pleasing and agreeable to me.

    Now, if I were to take the life of another -one who wishes lo live, who does not wishes to die, who desires happiness and dislikes suffering, that would not be desirable and agreeable to him too.

    What is undesirable and disagreeable to me is undesirable and disagreeable to others, too.
    And here comes what I think is the issue, the core point of this teaching:

    How can I inflict upon another what is undesirable and disagreeable to me?
    If we do not know ourselves, do not have loving kindness toward ourselves we will ever ignore what is disagreeable and undesirable to us because that lack of loving kindness in ourselves.

    Having reflected thus,
    If we have not reflect on that, which can take some amount of time... our behaviour will not change substantially.

    ...he himself refrains from harming life, exhorts others to refrain from harming life, and speaks in praise of refraining from harming life.
    Thus, his bodily conduct is purified in three respects.

    Last edited by Esho; 03 Nov 11 at 22:57.

  6. #6
    Global Moderator Element's Avatar
    Now I will tell you the layman's duty.

    Pāṇaṃ na hane na ca ghātayeyya, na cānujaññā hanataṃ paresaṃ;
    Sabbesu bhūtesu nidhāya daṇḍaṃ, ye thāvarā ye ca tasā santi loke

    He should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should he incite another to kill.
    Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world.

    Dhammika Sutta

  7. #7
    As far as killing other beings to eat them is concerned, the Buddha mentioned meat in his advice to lay practitioners - AN 5.177 - 'Wrong Livelihood.' This means that in a completely Buddhist society, there wouldn't be anyone selling the meat of other sentient beings from slaughterhouses or shops.

    "Monks, 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.

    "These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."

  8. #8
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Fun Fact: In the Vinaya, killing a human being is a parajika offense, and killing an animal is a pacittiya offense - the same as damaging a plant.

  9. #9
    Global Moderator Element's Avatar
    hi Dave Rupa

    A parajika offense results in expulsion from the community of monks and also possibly a prison sentence

    A pacittiya offense is still an offense. A pacittiya remains indicative of various degrees of unwholesome, cruel, insensitive and/or harmful behaviour (however gross or subtle)

    For example, is hunting & killing animals for sport regarded as "fun" according to Buddha-Dhamma?


    Last edited by Element; 04 Nov 11 at 17:25.

  10. #10
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by Element View Post
    A pacittiya offense is still an offense
    Indeed! Here are some other offenses which rank equivalently to killing an animal:

    18. Should any bhikkhu sit or lie down on a bed or bench with detachable legs on an (unplanked) loft in a dwelling belonging to the Community, it is to be confessed.
    52. Tickling with the fingers is to be confessed.


    1. Killing a human
    2. Killing an insect

    They are both examples of a violation of the precept, but as we can see from the Vinaya, it is not the case that a violation of the first precept and another violation of the first precept are to be necessarily considered equivalent. It may be worth noting, depending on the context.

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