Entre biología y budismo – Between Biology and Buddhism

Situación descrita por Pablo:

«Redefiniendo (y la confusión asociada)»

Querido Pablo

Esta es una pregunta difícil, y puedo comprender tus apuros. En realidad, hace muchos años me matriculé en un curso de Biología. Por aquel entonces era un miembro activo de Liberación Animal, y me matriculé específicamente para mostrar que era posible hacer el estudio sin matar ningún animal. Pero fue una mala decisión; no por la intención, sino porque mi corazón no estaba en la vida universitaria (mi carrera musical estaba empezando a funcionar), así que nunca terminé el curso. Lo primero en estos casos es dar un paso atrás y reconocer que nos enfrentamos a un dilema. Y los dilemas siempre son imposibles de decidir limpiamente, es por eso que son dilemas. Y esto es por lo que el Buda no insistió de forma simplista en que todas nuestras acciones eran o buenas o malas, pero también reconoció que algunos kamma eran “tanto negros como blancos” (http://www.accesstoinsight.org….than.html). Y ahí es exactamente donde tu elección cae. Quieres ayudar a la gente a través de la ciencia, lo que es buen kamma, pero por el camino causas daño a animales, lo que es mal kamma. Tienes que hacer algunas elecciones. Tu elección básica es “¿continúo por este camino o no?” Obviamente eres una persona inteligente y bondadosa, así que estoy seguro de que la vida te ofrece otras opciones. No caigas en la trampa de pensar que tu vida está forzada a seguir de la manera que ha sido. Fue tu elección coger biología, y es tu elección continuarla. Aunque la ciencia puede ser beneficiosa, podría ser también cierto que hay muchas otras maneras de vivir que sean beneficiosas sin dañar directamente a otras criaturas.

Así que tu elección, si decides continuar con la biología, es si matarás animales o no. Si los matas, entonces la manera en la que lo has hecho es la mejor: ten respeto y amor por la criatura en tu corazón, y haz que su sufrimiento sea el menor posible. No obstante, seguirás sintiendo algún remordimiento sobre estos actos; es una consecuencia inevitable de esta elección. Si eliges renunciar a matar otra vez, esto removerá algunas cosas en tu entorno, no puedo decir cuál será el resultado de esto. Pero creo que es un enfoque digno de ser considerado.

Finalmente, trataré el tema de tu argumento de que otros trabajos también implican sufrimiento, así que cambiar no haría ningún bien de todas maneras. Obviamente es cierto que todas las actividades conllevan sufrimiento de una u otra manera, pero no del mismo modo. Si hay maneras directas y claras de causar sufrimiento, deberíamos evitarlas. Si hay maneras indirectas de causar sufrimiento, deberíamos intentar comprenderlas y minimizarlas cuando sea posible. Espero que esto responda a algunas de tus preocupaciones. Siento decir que no puedo ofrecerte la absolución, pero con suerte clarificará un poco estos temas.


Bhante Sujato

Tradujo del inglés: Pablo


Situation painted by Pablo:

Last Tuesday I killed a little chicken. I’ve wanted to write this for some time, but the lack of spare time and my belief that this dilemma was already overcome prevented me from doing it. Today, as I was taking a shower, I’ve seen myself trapped in a tangle of doubts that still haunt me, and I’ve decided to tell you about this. When I started to study Theravada, I saw it as a doctrine that encompassed every aspect of life: the moral one, the cognitive one, etc. But, for some time now, I’ve been doubting this “dogmatic” view of Buddhism, and I’ve been looking at it more like a means to an end (which is no other than Nibbana). But that entails a lot of confusion. I’m not going to extend now about this confusion, but one of the most conflictive points (about which I write now) is the first precept: harmlessness. I study Biology, the science of living beings. This entails, sometimes, the manipulation of these little mates to discover their secrets so they can somehow help mankind (and improve our way of relating to them, saving more lives than what we take, in the long term). Since I started my degree, I’ve killed some plants (for my Botany herbarium and in Plant physiology lab practices), some fungi (in an experiment in Genetics, after growing them and extracting their DNA), many millions of bacteria and, the other day, a chick embryo (we took it out of the egg and it died later, asphyxiated, I guess). All this without counting all the little cruel things we did to the poor rats, the plants, etc. At first, this led me to reflect about this profession: if, inevitably, I have to bother some living beings, maybe it isn’t the best job I can take. But then I saw that any profession (even just being alive) implies hurting, directly or indirectly, other living beings. For us to live, others have to die: that’s life. This caused me a lot of suffering and affliction. What am I going to do? What can I do? After a period of continuous anxiety, I found an answer I thought was satisfactory: as long as I respect and honor the life I’m taking, it will be alright. I will be grateful for the lives that I take, and I’ll be conscious of all the beings that are allowing me to live with their deaths. The experience with the chicken last week tormented me again. I considered to what extent it is justifiable to take another being’s life. Yes, I could say, science “improves” our lives, it helps them be better. And I could believe that. But I know that, without science, Nibbana could be achieved just the same (science wouldn’t be necessary as it isn’t essential to achieve Nibbana). Then, what’s left? Am I selfish for studying living beings? Should I dedicate my life to patisserie? What’s worse is that suffering doesn’t come from taking these lives, because I didn’t feel any cruelty in myself when I did it, and I am immensely grateful to these little mates for giving me their lives so that I can learn. Suffering comes from the fear of being judged by my Buddhist friends, from the attachment I have to Biology (as a profession), from the fear of considering another profession at this point (besides, I’m not convinced that other jobs are better), and from the fear of committing a mistake with this decision (what if this creates so much bad kamma that I can’t achieve Nibbana?). Maybe this is a silly thing, but it is a very important dilemma for me right now, and I don’t quite know how to solve it…One part of me says: “Avoid killing; and if you do kill, then respect that life”. But I’m afraid of being arrogant, of wanting to interpret the Buddha’s words my way, of ignoring something important… I write to you because catharsis works sometimes, and because I trust your advice. Thank you in advance Pablo

Dear Pablo,
This is a difficult question and I can appreciate your struggle. Actually, many years ago I enrolled in a Biology course. At that time I was an active member of Animal Liberation, and I enrolled specifically to show that it was possible to do the study without killing any animals. But it was a bad decision; not because of the intention, but because my heart just wasn’t in the University life (my music career was just coming together), so I never finished the course.
The primary thing in these cases is to step back and recognize that we are facing a dilemma. And dilemmas are always impossible to decide cleanly, that’s why they are dilemmas. And this is why the Buddha did not simplistically insist that all our acts are either good or bad, but also recognized that some kammas are ‘both black and white’ (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.235.than.html). And that is exactly where your choice falls. You want to help people through science, which is good kamma, but along the way you cause harm to animals, which is bad kamma. Along the way you need to make some choices. Your basic choice is, do I continue along this path or not? You are obviously an intelligent and caring person, so I am sure life would offer other options to you. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that your life is forced to run the way it has. It was your choice to take up biology, and your choice to continue it. While the science may well be of benefit, it would also be true that there are many other ways of living that give benefits without directly harming creatures.
Then your choice, if you decide to continue with you biology, is whether you will kill animals or not. If you do kill animals, then the way you have been doing it is best – keep respect and love for the creature in your heart, and make their suffering as minimal as possible. You will, however, continue to feel some remorse over these acts; that is an inevitable consequence of this choice. If you choice to refuse to kill any more, this will stir some things up in your surroundings; I cannot say what the outcome of this would be. But I do think it is an approach worth considering.
Finally, I would take issue with your argument that other jobs also involve suffering, so changing would do no good anyway. Obviously it is true that all activities entail suffering in some way or another, but not equally so. If there are direct and clear ways that we cause suffering, we should avoid them. If there are indirect ways we cause suffering, we should try to understand them and minimize it whenever possible. I hope that addresses some of your worries. I can’t, I’m afraid, offer absolution, but hopefully this brings some clarity to the issues.
Bhante Sujato