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Episode 167 - How Not To Cause Harm

Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Release Date: 04/20/2023

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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

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One of the principle tenets of Buddhism is to try to avoid harming living beings. To avoid harming others we generally need to practice restraint out of lovingkindness. It’s just too easy to inadvertently hurt others, or not foresee the consequences of our actions. Even spiritual practitioners, wishing not to cause harm, have to mindfully practice restraint motivated by kindness. 

The story of the monk who killed a swan

“Once there was a bhikkhu [monk] who was very skilful in throwing stones; he could even hit fast-moving objects without fail. One day, while sitting with another bhikkhu after having their bath in the Aciravati River, he saw two swans flying at some distance. He told his friend that he would get one of the swans by throwing a stone at it. At that instant, the swan, hearing voices, turned its neck and the bhikkhu threw a pebble at the bird…The bird cried out in pain and agony and dropped dead at the feet of the young bhikkhu.

Other bhikkhus seeing the incident took the young bhikkhu to the Buddha. The Buddha reprimanded him and said, "My son, why have you killed this bird? Why especially you, a member of my Order, who should be practising loving-kindness to all beings and who should be striving ardently for liberation from the round of rebirths? Even during the period outside the Teaching, the wise practised morality and observed the precepts. A bhikkhu must have control over his hands, his feet and his tongue." 

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:


The one with Hands restrained, 

Feet restrained, 

Speech restrained,

Who is foremost among the restrained, 

Inwardly delighted, 



And contented,

Is called a bhikkhu. (Verse 362)

—Buddha, The Dhammapada 

The Buddha gave a talk on the 11 benefits of loving-kindness meditation, and according to this article, some of which are now supported by science (Nash, 2019).

11 Benefits of Practicing Lovingkindness 

You sleep well.

You awaken refreshed.

You don’t have bad dreams.

Other people regard you with affection.

Animals and pets regard you with affection.

Celestial beings protect you.

You will be free from injury from fire, weapons, and poison.

You can concentrate quickly.

You have a bright complexion.

You will die peacefully, free of fear and agitation.

If you fail to attain enlightenment, you will have a pleasant rebirth (Nash, 2019).

References and Links

Buddha (1986).The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories. Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A. (Website). Edited by Editorial Committee, Burma Tipitaka Association Rangoon. Courtesy of Nibbana.com. For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma.



Nash, J, Ph.D. (2019). What is Loving-kindness Meditation. PositivePsychology.com. https://positivepsychology.com/loving-kindness-meditation/


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