One who neither kills nor makes others kill,
Neither steals nor makes others steal,
Is one who has love for all living beings,
And no hatred for anyone at all.
yo na hanti na ghāteti
na jināti na jāpaye
veraṃ tassa na kenacī ti.
One who neither kills nor makes others kill
Buddhist teachings place the greatest emphasis upon the moment-to-moment construction of experience in one’s own mind and body. This is where the rubber meets the road, where one enacts one’s understanding and engages in the fields of action. Karma, according to the Buddha, is driven by volition or intention (sañcetanā), so the most important factor at any time is the quality of the mind or heart in the instant that action is initiated. This being the case, killing is obvious a profoundly unwholesome thing to do insofar as it entails creating a momentary emotion of intense hatred. When the mind has been trained through meditation to be sensitive to the subtle nuances of experience, to consciously strike a blow against a living creature reveals itself to be a moment of almost inexpressible violence.
Yet so many of us engage in more oblique forms of killing all the time, as we in one way or another reap the benefit of having others commit an act of killing for us. The simplest example of this might be eating meat that has been slain by another and placed in the freezer for us. While the Buddha himself was not a vegetarian, favoring instead the open acceptance of consuming whatever leftovers happened to be placed in his bowl, he was very clear that eating food that one knows—or even suspects—was killed specifically to provide your meal was a breach of the monastic code.
Yet there are many other ways in which all sorts of killing is done on our behalf, from medical experimentation and pharmaceutical production, to the ecosystem degradation attending logging, mining, and road building operations, even including the slaying of insects in huge numbers to keep our vegetables clean. The closer one looks, the more fully we all seem to be embedded in a matrix of harmfulness. To some extend I think this has to do with the first noble truth—suffering is an intrinsic and inevitable component of the human condition. But I also think this verse is pointing us in the direction of developing a greater sensitivity to the consequences of our actions, even those which do not seem to usher from our immediate volitional mind states. Let’s examine the many ways we ‘make others kill’ for us, and see what can be done to minimize them.
Neither steals nor makes others steal
The same can of course be said about stealing. Many of us might not deliberately and deceitfully take something that does not belong to us, but at the same time might find ourselves participating more indirectly in all sorts of stealing. When resources are appropriated from far-off countries without fair compensation, for example, or even something as seemingly innocuous as taking artifacts from archeological sites to fill our museums, it might be appropriate to say something is being taken that has not been freely offered. Buying a stolen object from a “fence” is considered illegal, and pleading ignorance is not considered a viable defense. How many brokers are in our supply chains that can offer us a good deal because they have managed to impose a bad deal on someone else? Again the matter is not black and white, but I think this verse is inviting us to look more closely at the causes and outcomes of our behavior as part of the practice of loving kindness. Even if our hearts are not filled with greed or hatred as we act in the world, there may still be many ways we are ignorant and are thus contributing to inflicting harm upon other beings.
Is one who has love for all living beings, And no hatred for anyone at all.
All this is said in the context of refining one’s commitment to having love for all living beings. Love may be expressed directly or indirectly, both in what we hold in our heart and what we take care about in our behaviors. Hatred, too, need not be limited to an episode of animosity in the moment, but can manifest in many subtle ways across a broad spectrum of social, political, and economic structures. The Buddha was not particularly a social reformer in his day, but what he says about human nature can be developed into a set of meaningful guidelines of how to order our world around the intentional states of generosity, kindness and wisdom. Just as this involves both doing no harm and the cultivation of good, so also it means not only loving actively but taking care not to hate passively.
Hatred is the stance of not liking or not wanting something, of pushing it away, treating it as “other” and feeling a subtle or overt sense of aversion toward it. In addition to the many ways hatred might show up in our actions, we also need to take care of how it manifests in speech and even in thought. One aspect of right speech is refraining from speech that causes division or that works toward separating one group from another, while cultivating speech that builds harmony and mutual concord. This too is a way of practicing loving kindness. Even the most private of thoughts has an impact on yourself and others. When we inwardly regard someone as an outsider, this can reveal itself in all sorts of unconscious communication such as body language, double intention, and inadvertent rudeness. Better to purify body, speech and mind of hatred, and fill them all instead with loving kindness.