Morality and Compassion
That is why we have to have laws such as, ‘I will refrain from intentionally killing,’ because our instinctual nature is to kill: if it is in the way, kill it. You can see this in the animal kingdom. We are quite predatory creatures ourselves; we think we are civilised but we have a really bloody history - literally. It is just filled with endless slaughters and justifications for all kinds of iniquities against other human beings - not to mention animals - and it is all because of this basic ignorance, this unreflecting human mind that tells us to annihilate what is in our way.
However, with reflection we are changing that; we are transcending that basic instinctual, animal pattern. We are not just being law-abiding puppets of society, afraid to kill because we are afraid of being punished. Now we are really taking on responsibility. We respect the lives of other creatures, even the lives of insects and creatures we do not like. Nobody is ever going to like mosquitoes and ants, but we can reflect on the fact that they have a right to live.
‘Where is the insecticide spray.’ I also don’t like to see ants crawling over my floor; my first reaction is ‘Where’s the insecticide spray.’ But then the reflective mind shows me that even though these creatures are annoying me and I would rather they go away, they have a right to exist. That is a reflection of the human mind.
The same applies to unpleasant mind states. So when you are experiencing anger, rather than saying: ‘Oh, here I go - angry again!’ we reflect: ‘There is anger’. Just like with fear - if you start seeing it as my mother’s fear or my father’s fear or the dog’s fear or my fear, then it all becomes a sticky web of different creatures related in some ways, unrelated in others; and it becomes difficult to have any real understanding. And yet, the fear in this being and the fear in that mangy cur is the same thing. ‘There is fear’. It is just that. The fear that I have experienced is no different from the fear others have. So this is where we have compassion even for mangy old dogs. We understand that fear is as horrible for mangy dogs as it is for us. When a dog is kicked with a heavy boot and you are kicked with a heavy boot, that feeling of pain is the same. Pain is just pain, cold is just cold, anger is just anger. It is not mine but rather: ‘There is pain.’ This is a skilful use of thinking that helps us to see things more clearly rather than reinforcing the personal view. Then as a result of recognising the state of suffering - that there is suffering - the second insight of this First Noble Truth comes: ‘It should be understood’. This suffering is to be investigated.