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Is it wise to kill an insect just because it is wandering around your apartment or just because it is bothering you?

I've seen people killing small insects just because it is wandering/jumping/hiding in apartments. I always wonder why people kill an insect if it is not harmful. They can just carefully take them away or show them some other path.

People kill insects for two reasons 1) they might bite them or 2) they might spread disease.

But an insect isn't aware of that. It doesn't know whether its presence will create the disease in the human race.

I googled "dangerous insects" and at the top I got web page titling "25 Most Dangerous Bugs In The World". Below is an excerpt from the article.

Termites: While they are not dangerous in the typical sense of the word as they play a critical role in the environment and even in some culture’s diets, they have the potential to cause major damage to crops and infrastructure.

Fine, they have the potential to damage our crops and infrastructure, but is it their fault? They are just trying to survive. Is it wise to kill an insect in such situations?

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    @AnilKumar you told exactly opposite. "Rajo/Rajas" Is responsible for fruitful actions. Police killing criminals as part of their duty to reduce their anti-social bothering activities is "Sattva/Satvik". Killing criminals for personal vendetta or just to get rid of them for own relaxation or genuine killing but to have more number of encounters as a trophy is "Rajas". Killing criminal without verifying whether is he really criminal or just for fun is "Tamas". Now apply the same concept to insects or anything.
    – iammilind
    Oct 24, 2015 at 5:42
  • @iammilind yeah my sentence 'Police killing Criminals" gives rajo is wrong as it has 3 sub cases.
    – The Destroyer
    Oct 24, 2015 at 5:57
  • Possible duplicate of How Sattva Guna Lord Vishnu killed Demons or evil people in his incarnations?. I have answered your question in detail with a more general case than an insect. Hope it will help.
    – iammilind
    Oct 28, 2015 at 14:18
  • Yes, you can kill a mosquito if he is attacking you. Also you have right to clean your house, which means you will kill some ants, insects, and spiders in doing that. This is not forbidden. However you should not kill any living being, not even a plant or insect unnecessarily. To save ourselves from possible sin in cleaning house, killing of mosquitoes, etc, we should perform some yajnas (sacrifices), or devote ourselves to the Lord as advised in the Bhagavad gita, and then we are atoned from sins. Jul 12, 2016 at 16:40
  • @brahmajijnasa actual a she attacks not a he. Because female mosquitoes need blood to produce eggs, whereas male mosquitoes dwell upon flower nectars like other insects.
    – user12826
    Dec 9, 2017 at 15:10

6 Answers 6

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Damaging crops and infrastructure eventually leads to damage to humans. Worry about the karma you are creating by not helping a human in need. The amount of karma from killing an insect, even thousands, is inconsequential compared to the karma for harming one human, much less killing one. As Swami Vivekananda has pointed out, we are surrounded by life, just the act of taking a breath of air kills thousands of bacteria. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to kill lice in his bedding.

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    Could you clarify what it means when you say the karma for killing an insect is less than harming a human? Practically speaking, it would be difficult or impossible to live without killing a single microbe. How much more karma is it to hurt a human than kill an insect? What did Ramakrishna Paramahansa say about that?
    – user3547
    Oct 24, 2015 at 22:37
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    @user3547 He did not say specifically what the karmic differences are between killing a human and an insect. Two incidents are given in the book "Sri Ramakrishna - The Great Master" In one instance he tells a disciple who catches a cockroach in Ramakrishna's clothing drawer to take outside and kill it. In the other, Balaram, later Swami Premananda, never injures anything, even mosquitoes, even when bothering him during worship. He remembers he never saw Ramakrishna injure anything so he never asks him. One day, he decides to ask Ramakrishna. As he approaches Ramakrishna's room, he sees... Oct 26, 2015 at 11:11
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    @user3547 ...Ramakrishna taking bugs out from his bedding and killing them. Ramakrishna says "There are many bugs breeding in the pillow. They bite me day and night, produce distraction of the mind and disturb sleep. I am therefore killing them." Balaram had been coming to Ramakrishna for 2-3 years, seen him day and night, and never saw him do this. Ramakrishna knew his question before he even arrived. Oct 26, 2015 at 11:27
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    @user3547 - Swami Vivekananda had harsh words for those who valued animal life over human life. See Complete Works, V6, Conversations and Dialogues, I. - available here - cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_6/vol_6_frame.htm Oct 26, 2015 at 11:27
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    It's human centric philosophy. Every creature is significant & if a human is not aspiring for the ultimate truth, his life is as valuable as an insect. Dec 16, 2017 at 18:14
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It is foolish to assume that one can get away with killing an insect(for whatever reasons it might be) or it(the act) does not create sins of any significant amount.

Manu Smriti(Chapter 3 slokas 68,69) says:

A householder has 5 slaughter houses viz the hearth,the grinding stone,the broom,the pestle ,mortar & the water vessel,by using which he is bound.And in order to expiate these sins the sages recommended the 5 sacrifices(Pancha yajnas) for the householders.

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The Parshara Smriti says:

What a sin a fisherman incurs in the course of one year is incurred by the ploughman with a iron plough within just one day.

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Even Kaurava mother Gandhari had supposedly killed ,in her previous birth,100 eggs of an insect.And that resulted in the death of her 100 sons in the Mahabharata battle.So,we can't assume that death of an insect to be an insignificant event in Almighty's eyes in any way.

But please note that i have generally tried to collect what scriptures say about the sins that we can incur by killing insects(even if you are performing swadharma) without touching another half in your question viz-killing insects that are "harmful".

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    Very non human centric answer. Dec 16, 2017 at 18:17
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    @Tamas. Yes i am always against the humans and always in favor of the animals, birds and insects. And, that's why my answer lies in the bottom here :P Here is another one: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/17243/…
    – Rickross
    Dec 17, 2017 at 8:40
  • In case of Gandhari , I have heard that there is another story that she killed 100 eggs of a tortoise one by one which was defintely a cruel thing to do . But getting punished for just pouring hot water on the ground is too much I think. Also insects even eat their own eggs many times , so it is not like insects love their kids as much as we love our kids.
    – river
    Mar 10 at 12:38
  • @river I don't know which one is true -- tortoise story or the insect story but anyways killing any life forms without a "lawful" reason is a sin. The Pancha Mahayagnas are prescribed only to destroy the sins that one accumulates by killing insects and other microscopic beings that too unknowingly.
    – Rickross
    Mar 10 at 12:41
  • @Rickross Is they any repentance for killing insects knowingly ?
    – river
    Mar 10 at 13:04
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Yes, you can kill a mosquito as it may eventually lead to damage of your body. This is what Sri Yuktewsar Giri says to disciple Paramahamsa Yoganada in the book Autobiography of a Yogi.

The instructive mosquitoes served for another early lesson at the ashram. It was the gentle hour of dusk. My guru was matchlessly interpreting the ancient texts. At his feet, I was in perfect peace. A rude mosquito entered the idyl and competed for my attention. As it dug a poisonous hypodermic needle into my thigh, I automatically raised an avenging hand. Reprieve from impending execution! An opportune memory came to me of one of Patanjali's yoga aphorisms-that on ahimsa (harmlessness).

"Why didn't you finish the job?"

"Master! Do you advocate taking life?"

"No; but the deathblow already had been struck in your mind."

"I don't understand."

"Patanjali's meaning was the removal of desire to kill." Sri Yukteswar had found my mental processes an open book. "This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under similar compulsion to feel anger or animosity. All forms of life have equal right to the air of maya. The saint who uncovers the secret of creation will be in harmony with its countless bewildering expressions. All men may approach that understanding who curb the inner passion for destruction."

"Guruji, should one offer himself a sacrifice rather than kill a wild beast?"

"No; man's body is precious. It has the highest evolutionary value because of unique brain and spinal centers. These enable the advanced devotee to fully grasp and express the loftiest aspects of divinity. No lower form is so equipped. It is true that one incurs the debt of a minor sin if he is forced to kill an animal or any living thing. But the Vedas teach that wanton loss of a human body is a serious transgression against the karmic law."

I sighed in relief; scriptural reinforcement of one's natural instincts is not always forthcoming.

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  • @Atinesh This is not my explanation. Sri Yukteswara Giri explained this to his disciple Paramahamsa Yogananda. This is taken from Autobiography of Paramahamsa Yogananda. (Autobiography of a Yogi).
    – The Destroyer
    Jul 9, 2016 at 7:29
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If insect doing any harm to people then such kind of insect called 'tamas' & to kill such insect is not any kind of sin.

If you do some thing for a good reason, it’s not a sin, but if you do something for a bad reason, it is not accepted.

Most of the time, when we kill an animal, we do it because we are protecting ourselves from the potential attack of that animal later on. This is why in our house, when we see a spider, we catch it and let it go outdoors.

Sri Ramsukhdas Maharaj answers this in His Prashnottar Mani Mala. He says we should not harm them unless and until it is compulsory.

Srila Prabhupada answered to a similar question. If we kill any living being , we create a hurdle in completing the karma bhoga of that soul in that particular body and that soul has to take rebirth in that body to complete it. This results in delay in getting his human form plus our karma towards that soul.

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  • "Most of the time, when we kill an animal, we do it because we are protecting ourselves from the potential attack of that animal later on. " - Do you mean insects? otherwise, the statement will not be true. Oct 17, 2019 at 6:36
  • 'Sri Ramsukhdas Maharaj answers this in His Prashnottar Mani Mala' - can you quote his exact words? 'Srila Prabhupada answered to a similar question' - where did he answer this? In one of his talks or commentary on a verse? Oct 17, 2019 at 22:30
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Terminating the life of any living being willfully is certainly sinful. However there are exceptions to this rule. Pathogenic parasites (Bacteria, viruses) that bring in diseases, death or do harm to personal hygine can be killed without suffering any guilty conscience. Similarly any predator that attacks and brings threat to life can also be killed. Mosquitoes, bugs, leaches, cockroaches, rats, rodents, poisonous snakes and many such insects can be destroyed if they invade your residence as they also pose threats to your well being. However, we should earnestly strive to keep them out of your living area by taking proper precautions to avoid killing them. The Ahimsa Dharma says "Do not to harm anyone who do not harm you or intend to harm you". Any transgression on this rule is a sin. Accidental killing is not sinful so long as you regret the violence and seek repentance to God if you realize later that your action had caused the death or distress to some creature-human or animal or plant.

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    Can you please cite sources for the 'Ahimsa Dharma' ("Do not to harm anyone who do not harm you or intend to harm you") in your answer? Oct 27, 2015 at 19:00
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    Bhagavad Gita, Vidhura Neethi and Bheeshma's Hitopadesa to Yudhishtira in Raja dharma are references Oct 29, 2015 at 10:10
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    @SampathKumaran Then you should give quotes from those sources. Oct 29, 2015 at 13:07
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No, and Animandavya suffered for it.

If you are above fourteen years of age, it is not wise to kill an insect. That will be considered a sin.

https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01109.htm

Some thieves put their treasure in his home and Mandavya was wrongly accused.

"Vaisampayana said, 'There was a Brahmana known by the name of Mandavya. He was conversant with all duties and was devoted to religion, truth and asceticism. The great ascetic used to sit at the entrance of his hermitage at the foot of a tree, with his arms upraised in the observance of the vow of silence. And as he sat there for years together, one day there came into his asylum a number of robbers laden with spoil. And, O bull in Bharata's race, those robbers were then being pursued by a superior body as guardians of the peace. The thieves, on entering that asylum, hid their booty there, and in fear concealed themselves thereabout before the guards came. But scarcely had they thus concealed themselves when the constables in pursuit came to the spot. The latter, observing the Rishi sitting under the tree, questioned him, O king, saying, 'O best of Brahmanas, which way have the thieves taken? Point it out to us so that we may follow it without loss of time.' Thus questioned by the guardians of peace the ascetic, O king, said not a word, good or otherwise, in reply. The officers of the king, however, on searching that asylum soon discovered the thieves concealed thereabout together with the plunder. Upon this, their suspicion fell upon the Muni, and accordingly they seized him with the thieves and brought him before the king.

They even sentenced him.

The king sentenced him to be executed along with his supposed associates. And the officers, acting in ignorance, carried out the sentence by impaling the celebrated Rishi. And having impaled him, they went to the king with the booty they had recovered. But the virtuous Rishi, though impaled and kept without food, remained in that state for a long time without dying. And the Rishi by his ascetic power not only preserved his life but summoned other Rishi to the scene.

The king later asked for forgiveness.

After this, O monarch, the officers of justice, seeing him alive, informed the king of it. The latter hearing what they said, consulted with his advisers, and came to the place and began to pacify the Rishi. fixed on the stake. And the king said, 'O thou best of Rishis, I have offended against thee in ignorance. I beseech thee to pardon me for the same. It behoveth thee not to be angry with me.' Thus addressed by the king, the Muni was pacified. And beholding him free from wrath, the king took him up with the stake and endeavoured to extract it from his body. But not succeeding therein, he cut it off at the point just outside the body. The Muni, with a portion of the stake within his body, walked about, and in that state practised the austerest of penances and conquered numberless regions unattainable by others. And for the circumstances of a part of the stake being within his body, he came to be known in the three worlds by the name of Ani-Mandavya (Mandavya with the stake within).

The Brahmana later goes to Yama and questioned him

And one day that Brahamana acquainted with the highest truth of religion went unto the abode of the god of justice. And beholding the god there seated on his throne, the Rishi reproached him and said, 'What, pray, is that sinful act committed by me unconsciously, for which I am bearing this punishment? O, tell me soon, and behold the power of my asceticism.'

Yama explained that he pierced an insect.

bringeth in its train.'

Now, Mandavya asked when he did it.

On hearing this, Ani-Mandavya asked, 'O tell me truly when this act was committed by me. Told in reply by the god of justice that he had committed it, when a child, the Rishi said, 'That shall not be a sin which may be done by a child up to the twelfth year of his age from birth.

Mandavya later cursed Yama which is why he was born as Vidura.

The killing of a Brahmana involves a sin that is heavier than the killing of any other living being. Thou shall, therefore, O god of justice, have to be born among men even in the Sudra order.

He established at what age an act will be considered a sin.

And from this day I establish this limit in respect of the consequence of acts that an act shall not be sinful when committed by one below the age of fourteen. But when committed by one above that age, it shall be regarded as sin.'


However, Mandavya prayed to Shiva and he was no longer hurt as he told his story of praying to Shiva to Yudhishthira.

https://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m13/m13a018.htm

"Mandavya said,--'In former times though not a thief and yet wrongly suspected of theft, I was impaled (under the orders of a king). I then adored the illustrious Mahadeva who said unto me,--Thou shalt soon be freed from impalement and live for millions of years. The pangs due to impalement shall not be thine. Thou shalt also be freed from every kind of affliction and disease. And since, O ascetic, this body of thine hath sprung from the fourth foot of Dharma (viz., Truth). Thou shalt be unrivalled on Earth. Do thou make thy life fruitful. Thou shalt, without any obstruction, be able to bathe in all the sacred waters of the Earth. And after the dissolution of thy body, I shall, O learned Brahmana, ordain that thou shall enjoy the pure felicity of heaven for unending Time.--Having said these words unto me, the adorable Deity having the bull for his vehicle, viz., Maheswara of unrivalled splendour and clad in animal skin, O king, disappeared there and then with all his associates.'

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