God of Small Things

Is your religion insect-friendly?

BUDDHISM | CHRISTIANITY | HINDUISM
ISLAM | JAINISM | JUDAISM


Buddhism

Buddhism teaches that all living things, including insects, are part of

samsara,

the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Refraining from killing is the first of the

five Buddhist precepts

, and many interpretations take this to include animals and insects.



Textual Source:
Whoever destroys living beings,
speaks false words, who in the world
takes that which is not given to him,
or goes too with another's wife,
or takes distilled, fermented drinks--
whatever man indulges thus
extirpates the roots of himself
even here in this very world.

--Dhammapada


Additional Resources:
Five Buddhist Precepts

A good explanation of the first Buddhist precept, not to kill.



Buddhism Basics

This explanation of Buddhism explains that Buddhist monks are supposed to use filters to remove insects from their drinking water.



Animal Rights and the Dhammapada

An essay about the importance of animals and noninjury in the major Buddhist text.



Christianity
Though the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is emphasized in Christianity, this is most often used in reference to other human beings. Christianity emphasizes the Judeo-Christian idea that God gave man dominion over the earth. However, Christianity also teaches respect for all of God's creatures.

Textual Source:
And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
--Genesis 1:28


Hinduism
Hinduism condemns violence to animals because, under the concept of reincarnation, humans souls are regarded to be the same as animal souls.

Textual Source:
Those who possess this wisdom have equal regard for all. They see the same Self in a spiritual aspirant and an outcaste, in an elephant, a cow, and a dog.
--Bhagavad Gita 5:18


Islam
Insects are living things and therefore considered miracles of God. Islam teaches that Allah assigned the earth to all living creatures. The Qur'an includes chapters entitled "The Bee" and "The Spider." One Muslim hadith teaches: "A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being."

Textual Source:
There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.
--Qur'an 6:38


Additional Resources:
Islam and the Environment
An essay about Muslim responsibility in caring for the environment, including care for insects.

Muhammad and the Spider
A brief synopsis of a story about the Prophet Muhammad fleeing Mecca and hiding in a cave. A spider spun a web across the entrance to the cave, so his pursuers did not check inside. Many Muslims still treat spiders with special respect.

Jainism
Jainism emphasizes the principle of ahimsa, the non-harming of any living being, including insects. Some Jain monks cover their nose and mouth with a cloth mask to ensure that they do not kill any germs or insects while breathing. Monks and other Jains also sweep the ground in front of them to avoid stepping on insects when they walk. Most Jain laypeople practice the principle of ahimsa by being vegetarians.

Textual Source:
"One should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture or kill any living being including animals, insects, plants, and vegetables."
--Lord Mahavir, the last Jain Tirthankara


Additional Resources:
The Jain Perspective on Nonviolence
This Beliefnet article gives a brief overview of the laws and customs relevant to the Jain principle of ahimsa.
By Maria Hibbets

Jain Sacred Texts
A listing of Jain vows, including that of nonviolence toward living things.

The Ahimsa Homepage
An animal rights website, with links to various religious perspectives.

Judaism
Compassion for living things is encouraged in the Jewish concept of tsa'ar ba'alei hayim, preventing the suffering of living creatures. Judaism teaches that God has compassion for all his creatures, and people should emulate God in this manner.

Textual Source:
Even things you see as superfluous (meyutarin) in this world--like flies, fleas, and mosquitos--they are part of the greater scheme of the creation of the world, as it says (Genesis 1:31), "And God saw all that God has created, and behold it was very good." And Rabbi Acha bar Rabbi Chanina said, even things you see as superfluous in this world--like snakes and scorpions--they are part of the greater scheme of the creation of the world.
--Midrash Exodus Rabbah 10:1


Additional Resources:
Jewish Teachings on Animals

Jewish Texts on Biodiversity
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