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Cyber Bullying and the First Precept - Printable Version

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Cyber Bullying and the First Precept - Bhikkhu Pesala - 06-17-2017

A young woman has recently been convicted of "Involuntary Manslaughter," for urging a former boyfriend to kill himself. She may face up to twenty years for the crime, but what offence is this according to the Buddha's teaching?

The first precept of abstaining from killing living beings is broken if:

  1. One does it oneself
  2. One urges another to do it
  3. One condones it
  4. One speaks in praise of it.
The Vinaya rule of defeat for monks is broken if one urges another to commit suicide by speaking in praise of death. It is the same offence as murder. No doubt the kammic consequences are different, but the first precept is definitely broken, even though the act of killing is done by the victim. It is intention that the Buddha called kamma. 

This is what Ajahn Thanissaro says in the Buddhist Monastic Code:

Intention and perception. The Vibhaṅga defines intentionally as “having made the decision knowingly, consciously, and purposefully.” According to the Commentary, having made the decision refers to the moment when one “crushes” one’s indecisiveness by taking an act. Knowingly means being aware that, “This is a living being.” Consciously means being aware that one’s action is depriving the living being of life. Purposefully means that one’s purpose is murderous. Whether one is motivated by compassion, hatred, or indifference is irrelevant as far as the offence is concerned. 

So, if you see any instances of cyber-bullying couched in terms like “Why don't you kill yourself?” do report it. In most cases, the victim is unlikely to act on it, but sometimes that does happen. If someone urges another to kill themselves, and it is not done in jest, but with ill-will, and if the victim does commit suicide, then the unwholesome kamma of killing a human being is completed and the first precept is broken. As the Venerable Ledi Sayādaw says in his Manual of the Path Factors

Five Factors of Killing Living Beings
  1. The being must be alive.
  2. One must know that it is alive.
  3. One must intend to cause its death.
  4. An action must be done to cause death.
  5. Its death must follow from that action.

If all five factors are fulfilled, the first precept is violated and should be taken again.


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