Q28. As Jains, how do we deal with bugs or pest infestation in our homes?
We are all faced with this kind of situation in our daily lives. When we encounter infestations like ants, cockroaches, flies, termites, mice, mosquitoes, etc. around us and roaming about in our houses, multiplying every day, infesting our food products, causing health issues, biting children and so on, then we find ourselves in a dilemma and it creates inner conflict within us.
We do not wish to cause harm to any living being, yet we are faced with situations when our actions could cause harm to bugs and pests, and not taking any action is not an option. Additionally, inaction could end up resulting in bigger infestation and more violence.
Navigating such situations is not easy. But that's when understanding the essence of principle of Ahimsa, especially on how it applies to us as laypeople, and its practical application in real life scenarios becomes very critical. As laypeople, we know that our lives cannot survive without some form of violence, so our goal is to resort to minimum violence for healthy survival.
In this article, we will share some scriptural reference that provides perspectives on the importance Jainism places on non-violence towards all living beings, and we will also share some critical nuances that can help create awareness within us as we arrive at a decision to tackle the situation.
We have addressed many practical questions related on Ahimsa on our blog but for this question we are offering an approach for all of us to share our experience and learn from each other. We have a form towards the end of the article that invites you to share your approach so that others can learn from it and our hope is that this collective wisdom will be of service to our community.
In Jainism, we find numerous scriptural references related for Ahimsa. The Acharanga Sutra talks about the conduct and behavior appropriate for ascetic life. The Yoga Sutra explains Ahimsa vow for laypeople, and we have talked about in many of previous Ahimsa articles. The Sutrakritanga Sutra deals with the question of non-violence and Jain metaphysics.
As we think deeply about these scriptures, it continuous to instils values in us to have utmost reverence for all living beings and live our life with that awareness. It is also important to understand that the information is not meant to paralyze us from carrying out our duties or not take appropriate action when faced with a situation that requires action.
Additionally, Tattvarth Sutra provides a very meaningful framework that can help us frame our mindset such that we can be better informed to take appropriate decisions. We will look at the some of the aspects from Tattvartha Sutra like our way of being (bhaav/reflections) and means employed to take an action in this article.
As we can see, there are no commandments or instructions, instead we must know the principles, understand it, and apply it in our current life situation using our wisdom.
Now, let’s talk about the nuances that we need to be mindful of as we try to figure out what to do
So, how do we deal with it?
When our home has been infested then we must act and take necessary steps to prevent such situation in future. When we carry out any action, we need to mindful of the means employed and our inner way of being (bhaav).
What we mean by our inner way of being is introspecting our intention and feeling (bhaav) associated with our action. When we carry out an action with negative energy, intense passion, or feeling of anger, frustration, or revenge then it leads to more Kashayas within us and results in more suffering.
When we are faced with a situation where we are required to take an action then we must do our due diligence and employ the means that causes minimum violence. This requires patience, understanding and willingness to do research.
As you navigate on what action to take, we would like to offer few thoughts for consideration:
Immediate Actions / Reactive
When confronted with a situation where we face presence of ants, mosquitoes, bugs, rats, etc. then consider following aspects as you decide:
- Try to find alternate non-violent forms of treatment or natural options to remove the infestation
- If that doesn’t work, then look for options that are least harmful. For example, when considering which chemical to spray do some research on which chemical has least negative implication.
- Also, consider effect of the option on the ecosystem as a whole. The ecosystem is a fine balance between various life forms, interconnected with each other. Toxic chemicals disturb this balance, by either significantly reducing population of particular species in the chain, or more often causing harm to several species in the chain.
After the situation has been addressed, we want to take time and reflect on what caused this problem. Understand that it could be our ignorance or carelessness that led to this of kind of problem. It could be anything from not maintaining cleanliness, leakage, lose pipes, or leaving food outside.
Once the immediate need has been addressed and we have taken some retrospective time, we must focus on how to proactively prevent such situations in future.
- We need to determine what actions we need to take to stop the infestation at the source, for example, we must seal the entry points. And as we do that it can help us prevent same or similar situations in future.
- Additionally, we should also focus on creating awareness about non-violent methods in our community like teach such non-violent methods in our Pathshalas and donate toward collating and distributing research in this area. A part of jeevdaya funds collected in temples can be used for this activity.
We have collected some resources below with practical solutions that we feel are well aligned to Jain values that we have shared in the reference below. However, many of us have faced this kind of situations and employed various alternative non-violent solutions. We would like to invite you share your experiences in service to others using this form. You can share the situation you faced, actions that worked for you, proactive/preventive steps that you suggest, region you belong to, and any other recommendations.
You can click here to view the collective wisdom from community.
The literature review points us to understand, that Bhagwan Mahavir said that all species feel pain, and causing unnecessary pain to any life-form should be avoided. While this may be an ideal state, as travellers on the journey bound by certain attachments, we have to accept that day-to-day life is impossible without some form of violence. Confronting ants, mosquitoes, bugs, insects, etc. in our households is one such situation. Instead of being casual about it and adopting violent means immediately, we should seek information and prefer non-violent alternatives, use violent means as a last resort and to the minimum extent possible, while continuing to educate ourselves on alternatives.
As early animal rights activist, Henry Salt, said: 'We would much rather be inconsistently humane than consistently cruel.'
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring
John Waddel’s book “But You Kill Ants”
Purvi Shah’s video with tips for “Detoxing Your Home in an Eco-Friendly Way”