THOU SHALT NOT KILL
The scripture says, “Thou shalt not kill.” In its border aspect, killing is wrong because if you cannot give life, what right have you to take life? But this was said thousands of years ago when the world was not so technologically advanced. Today, you will know, and science tells us that with every breath you take, you are killing millions of microbes because every way you go, everything you see is filled with life; it is steaming with life.
KARMA AND UNINTENTIONAL KILLING
Killing can be divided into two categories: unconscious killing and conscious killing. We are killing without intention and killing intentionally. Walking on the ground, we might inadvertently tramp upon some little creature. Karmically, that would be non-binding to you. In other words, that would not create an impression or samskara on your psychic self for which you would have to pay. For every deed we do, we have to pay. There is a Law of Grace, and at the same time, there is a law of retribution. So, when something is done unintentionally and without pre-thought, then you are not bound to pay for the action that you have performed.
But scriptures will bear it out that the very taking of that life, although unintentional, has some effect upon your psyche. The result is there because every atom within your body is connected to every cell and atom in this universe, which is why the scriptures would tell you to do charity. In the laws of karma, we are creating a balance by doing charity. So, even those things done without intention or unknowingly can be balanced by being charitable, kind, and compassionate.
THE LAW OF THE FISH
When it comes to intentional killing, the law of retribution will affect you, and that is why the scriptures say, “Thou shalt not kill.” As we have just said, if you cannot give life, what right have you to take life? There is a law of the fish. Big fish eat small fish to survive. Every time you eat fruit or vegetables, there is life in that. But what form of life? Can man survive without taking any life? One scientist has even given us the heartbeat in a cabbage. I think his name was J. C. Bose, an Indian scientist; he proved to the world that there is a heartbeat in a cabbage. Experiments have been done with plants, and they have found that the plant feels. A person approaches a plant intending to damage it, and the plant screams, recorded by modern machinery.
Things we eat have life. Everything existing in this universe has life. So, according to the laws of causes and effects, let us only take the necessary life to survive. So, the law of the fish has an impact and has some value to a certain extent. But when we abuse the law of the fish and kill things which are not necessary for our survival, then, as I said, we are abusing that law.
From the plant, we come to the animal; from the animal, we come to man. Man says kill. For example, the wars we have in the world it is nothing else but murder, murder to uphold artificial boundaries created by man. Where one country is Germany, another Spain, another England and another South Africa, this world was not created with countries. Man-made those countries, and because of his selfishness, because of the idea of the preservation of the ego for his own needs and wants, boundaries are created, and those boundaries wish to be preserved. You have countries that want to extend the boundaries, and they do it by killing, not with love. Boundaries can be grown where a few countries can come together in a federation without resorting to violence. So, it is wrong, and the excuse given is that I am defending my country. Are you protecting your country at the expense of life?
EVERYTHING EXISTENT IN THIS UNIVERSE IS FILLED WITH LIFE
We have seen that no one can survive without some sort of killing. The carrot we eat has life; if we should see through this piece of wood, we are sawing through life because every atom in this wood is life itself. Nothing exists in this universe, but life, and even mineral matter, the grosser matter, is steaming with life. If you take a stone and leave it outside for a while, for a few months, you find changes taking place in the stone. The changes would take place not because of external circumstances, the sun and the rain in which the stone is placed, which plays a tiny part, but because there is a quality in the stone itself. It is the inherent nature of the stone to change, and why does it change? Because it has life.
So, we have seen that everything in this universe is filled with life. For personal survival, let only such life be taken that is a real need and an absolute necessity.
CAN YOU KILL LIFE?
What is life? Can you kill life? Can you kill? We are looking at the subject now from a different aspect. Life is eternal; every scripture bears this out: life can never be destroyed. There is no death, but there is a transformation like our old analogy. You take clay, and you mould a mouse with the clay and then with the same clay, you mould a cat; it is a different form. One is a mouse, and the other is a cat, but essentially it is clay. So, even if you break down the structure of the cat and remould the same clay into the form of a little puppy or dog, you have not destroyed the clay. You have converted the form because the existence we know of with our five senses – seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, hearing – can only perceive name and form. But when man transcends the value of name and form and goes to the essence of things, he cannot kill. He will destroy one condition, and that form will be created into another form.
LIFE IS FOREVER CONTINUOUS
People kill for food, and food is the essence of all existence. As we sit here, we are a combination of various foodstuffs that have made up this body. When a person dies and gets buried, that body again becomes food for the insects in the ground. So, the so-called death of the physical body is giving value again as food to other creatures. Life is forever continuous. Remember, we are talking of killing from a different aspect, not the relative aspect where killing is wrong, “Thou shalt not kill”. That aspect, “Thou shalt not kill”, was promulgated or expounded for different purposes. One of the purposes is to preserve society. You keep a specific norm so that humanity can function. The second aspect is that killing is connected more with hate; by not killing or destroying, you are building, and anything which builds is love. So, one of the primary purposes of the injunction, “Thou shalt not kill”, is to produce within you love and compassion so that you become incapable of killing.
EXTREMES OF “THOU SHALT NOT KILL”
This can also be taken very far and to its extremity. In India, there is a religion called Jain. A specific section of the Jain people does not take a bath because they feel that if they accept this bath, they will be killing all those germs and microbes on the body. That is fanaticism, that is fanatics. They do not realise that by the person going around and spreading those germs, they are killing a much higher form of life. They are spreading germs to humans, a much higher form of life.
That is one extreme of “Thou shalt not kill.” The other extreme is Hitlerism. Kill, kill, kill, and why? What was the motive? Because he wanted to produce a superhuman race, which was not possible. This world will not produce a superhuman race. Today, humans are the same as they were five thousand years ago and no different. We might have advanced technologically, and we might have taken the minerals, plants, and animals and converted them into various kinds of things. Still, evolutionary progress is within the unfoldment of the Spirit; there lies evolution, which cannot be achieved collectively but only through the unit. A person can become a superhuman person but as an individual. It is an individual thing, and if we have more and more people who have come to a higher state of evolution, a greater realisation, they could contribute to making this world a far better place.
“LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF” IS THE ONLY COMMANDMENT NECESSARY
One of the principles involved in “Thou shalt not kill” is to create in you the second commandment, “Love thy neighbour as thyself”. As a matter of fact, in all the commandments, that is the only necessary commandment. Non-killing will follow if you understand the injunction “Love thy neighbour as thyself,” because if he loves his neighbour as himself, what man is there that would want to kill himself? The suicides we hear of are of demented people; we are talking of ordinary, sane people, if there are any. If you love your neighbour as yourself, how can you kill yourself? Because the inborn desire of every man is to cling to life. I have seen people eighty years old, one foot in the grave, yet battling to live and preserve. If I die, I will lose all these beautiful houses I have built, all these beautiful gardens I have, all my money in the bank; I am losing it all. That desire is for self-preservation of the ego, which is why this clinging to life.
HAPPINESS ONLY COMES BY BECOMING A BETTER PERSON
There is nothing wrong in clinging to life. If life can be helpful, cling to it, but if life is misused, then instead, be less of a burden on this earth. If life can be put to good use, then all is worthwhile, and the only way life can be put to good use is to become better people. In our organisation, we say, if you are a Christian, become a better Christian; if you are a Buddhist, become a better Buddhist; if you are a Hindu, become a better Hindu, and that is the purpose of life. By becoming a better person, we are not doing anybody a favour. We are doing ourselves a blessing because, consciously or unconsciously it is the inherent nature of man, the intrinsic want of man, the innate desire of man to achieve happiness and that happiness only comes to us by becoming a better person and we become a better person by doing our meditation and spiritual practices.
When we sit down to meditate, we become oblivious of the body and mind, and we dive deep within ourselves to the Kingdom of Heaven, which is there, and when we dive deep within ourselves, we draw forth that Force and that sublime energy. We draw further sublime power which would start permeating our minds and bodies and give us the strength to live a better, more sane and sober life. That is what you need. It is all so simple.
LET US TRY NOT TO KILL HIGHER FORMS OF LIFE
So, man has no right to kill, but according to the law of the fish, it is inevitable, so better let the killing be of a lower form of life than of a higher state of life. If I choose to eat a cabbage or a chicken, I will select the cabbage, not the chicken; the chicken has a higher life form. If I decide to kill a tiger or a man, I will destroy the tiger, not the man. So, we can use common sense: if something is a need and a necessity, choose the lower form, not the higher form, because by selecting every action we do, it must rebound on us. The higher the state, the more forceful it backfires on us; the lower the form of life, the less the rebounding and would create greater and greater happiness in us.
I am not advocating vegetarianism; that comes on its own as we start meditating and as our whole system becomes more and more refined, then our desires, our wants also become more and more refined, then the food we consume would be of a more and more refined nature and not of a grosser nature, and that is one way to curb within us the desire or the craving for killing.
Killing is done inadvertently, like walking through the passage and perhaps tramping a little insect you have not seen that cannot be helped. Eating fresh food and vegetables that also have life is a necessity; it is a need to survive, but if we can let us try never to kill higher forms of life and last but not the least, man. If scriptures say that man is created in the image of God, killing that man, you are killing God. If man is the manifestation of the Manifestor, why destroy, or what right do we have to eliminate the manifestation put forth by the Manifestor?
How can man evolve in doing that? How can a man love his neighbours himself? How can man follow these injunctions?
MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL KILLING IS ANOTHER FORM OF KILLING
Killing has many different forms. Physical killing is one form of killing, but there is another form of killing, too: mental killing and emotional killing. When I studied the lives of some of the householders who came to discuss problems with me, I saw that the man was wilfully destroying and killing his mind, his wife’s mind, her emotions, and her whole being, which is also killing. Yes, and vice versa. You have women, too, that do the same; that is mental and emotional killing, which has a far more significant effect than physical killing. If a man has to go to war and shoot someone physically, he does not have that emotional attachment. So, the impact upon his psyche would be less, but to be cruel to one loved one, it must rebound ten-fold upon yourself. For that is a far more severe form of killing.
99.999% of the world’s population are killing themselves all the time, every day, 24 hours. They are killing themselves by harbouring negative thoughts within themselves, by harbouring malice and hatred. They are killing themselves; they are destroying themselves, and destruction means that you have created obstacles in the way of evolution, and evolution means to reach home to your Maker. That is the purpose of evolution: to reach back home from where you have come, to become one with that Divinity again because He is there within you. It is just the realisation necessary that He and I are one.
LET EVERY WORD WE SAY BE LIFE-GIVING
By killing ourselves and creating these obstacles this way through negativity, we are blocking the passage. Again, we suffer for it; we pay for it. That is another form of killing. We have physical killing, emotional killing and spiritual killing. I am using the word killing in a relative sense. I have explained that from the absolute viewpoint, there is no death, no killing, but we can only assume that when we have reached the Absolute and not until then, we are wayfarers, and we have to observe the rules of the road. We got to observe and practice the rules made so that we could reach home so that I could reach my father’s home. There are many other forms of killing. Every word we say, let it be life-giving. We have seen a person getting angry with another; how much harm has he not done to himself? One second of anger uses up a hundred times more energy than one second of laughter; we are destroying and killing. Look at the effect upon the object of anger. What destruction have we created in that person? How many people do not spoil another’s day just by a word? That is also killing, for all destruction is death, killing.
… Gururaj Ananda Yogi: Satsang SA 1978 – 58