The Mosquito Dilemma – Is Compassion Always the Right Choice?

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The core of living a spiritual life is non-violence and respect for all living beings. I have been cultivating the virtue of compassion for more than 2 decades now. But now, a mosquito stands between me and my quest for practicing absolute compassion for all living things.

What should I do if a mosquito comes to bite me? If I kill the mosquito, I am departing from the central tenet of non-violence. If I don’t kill it, I’ll have to bear the stinging pain (which isn’t much of a problem). The problem is that my non violence could kill someone else. The mosquito might spread deadly diseases, causing death of an innocent people. Around 1 million people die yearly due to mosquito borne diseases.

I haven’t killed any mosquitoes in the last 20 years. The way I deal with them might sound crazy. Whenever I see mosquitoes in my room, I catch and release them. There is a gentle way of doing it. You catch them in the hollow of your closed fist and then release it outside the room. My mom taught it to me.

As a child, I always saw my mom gently “catch” the mosquitoes and release it outside. As a child, I always argued with her, saying that we have the right to protect ourselves from any living being which causes suffering. It was after I started meditating that I realized that what my mom did was showing supreme compassion to all beings.

This supreme compassion is all right for the mosquitoes and off it goes, looking to feast on someone else’s blood. But if the mosquito is infected with dengue or malaria and bites someone who dies because of it, would I be responsible for the death?

Either ways, one sentient being dies.

There are stories of enlightened masters who protected animals at their own peril. That is fine, as the animal would harm them only, but it gets complicated when the animal has the potential to kill someone else as well. What if the snake I show compassion to, bites my wife. Will that be moral? On the other hand, I can’t bring myself to harm it in any way, my heart is too weak for that.

Each of our actions, whether compassionate or cruel, does have a butterfly effect and starts a chain of reactions which can be lead to more suffering and pain. Is absolute compassion and non-violence a virtue? Should I gently catch and release the mosquito which is trying to suck my blood or even infect me? Or should I be merciless and just kill it? What about the cockroaches which sneak in the kitchen at night, the spiders, scorpions and wasps?

As I write this, I can see a mosquito sitting on my desk. For now, it eyes me suspiciously. We both are unsure of what my next step would be. I move my head a little and it takes flight.

For now, compassion wins.

4 Responses

  1. ANBUKKARASI MANOHARAN

    We are killing a lot of yeasts, beneficial bacteria while consuming fermented probiotic foods.

    In my opinion disease causing germs like bacteria, virus, germs, insects, reptiles like snakes can be killed if they pose a threat to our human lives for the following reasons:

    1. We have taken the Human form which is more precious for our spiritual enlightenment. We have to live long to do spiritual practice making use of our limited life time. By letting these harmful insects without killing them will amount to total destruction to humanity.

    2. We have ourselves actually gone through those stages of evolutions and somebody must have released us from that lower form of life and now we have reached this highest stage in the evolutionary ladder quickly.

    3. Likewise we also should release their souls also in the same manner by killing them prematuredly and saving them from living that miserable life fully for years till their natural death.

    Our sense of compassion can be shown by becoming a VEGAN or at least a VEGETARIAN.

  2. WideAwake

    LOL, good catch (pun intended). It has been the dilemma of the ages. You can take it even further and argue that you need to kill a carrot in order to survive. Just because it cannot move it doesn’t mean it isn’t conscious.

    I believe that smaller animals/insects and also plants do not have individual consciousnesses though. Instead it is group/species consciousness. Just like killing a cell in your body (it happens when you scratch your face) doesn’t affect your consciousness, neither does killing a mosquito affect the mosquito spirit group consciousness. It is just a “cell” in its “body”. I have no way of knowing this for sure, but that is what I believe. Not to use it as an excuse I must add.

    And then of course there are countless of accidental killings (oops, I didn’t see that bug under my feet). I believe that this whole subject is just part of life on earth and duality in general. To give, take, and transform. You need to kill in order to survive, albeit a carrot. By definition it is just another aspect of all that is. It is us humans that label it.

    Wat matters more is the thought that goes with it and what you do with that. I would certainly not let the snake bite my loved ones, or anyone for that matter. But I wouldn’t kill the snake if it didn’t pose a thread either. But when I do kill the snake, I apologize and explain why I did it. I would thank it for having the opportunity to give me the insight into life and what it means to me. The snake would say it is ok and it is delighted and honored to have facilitated that insight. It might realize that it is conscious too, escape group consciousness and next time incarnate as a human instead, having evolved as a spirit.

    See the beauty in it.

    • Rajiv Agarwal

      Yes, being alive means some form of violence against living things. There is a debate weather plants have consciousness or feel pain, but everyone agrees that they are living things, as opposed to a rock. So eating them is violence against a living thing. The same goes for medication like antibiotics. They are supposed to kill millions of bacteria and other disease causing parasites. The absolute non violence is an impossibility.

      Then what are we, as humans to do?

      Instead of trying to live to an ideal of absolute compassion, we should work towards minimizing violence and suffering. Compassion needs to be anchored in reality, it has to respond to your own unique situation. There are no universal do and donts. And there are no absolute ideals to be followed.

  3. Jaswant Kaur

    Love is compassion which arises from your heart for others as well as for yourself.

    I still remember the day when I had gone to a village where my house cleaner lives, to find out why she had not come to work since a week. As I entered her house I was surprised to see some ladies sitting next to her and taking care of her. There was love and compassion showing on their faces – I wandered and asked myself , how come, without any education these simple village ladies are sharing their virtues? They haven’t been educated by the so-called teachers, they had never been to school.

    Yes, love and compassion is in each one of us. It’s just like the reflex action. In the same way one does not have to go to school or educate oneself for spirituality. You just have to understand yourself and meditate.

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