Little Beings…

The last four or five days have been very difficult as I try to maintain adherence to the First Precept in the midst of what has come to look like a systematic invasion of our home by ants.

For those of my friends that may not know, the First Precept pertains to abstaining from taking life. The original Pali language of this precept apparently refers to the breath, so all life with breath is included, while plants (which clearly have respiratory function, but do not actively breathe) are not. The Buddha taught that all beings are equally worthy of life and depriving a being of life is a cause for one’s birth in one of the realms of woe.

So, we’ve always had ants. In past Summers I have been very quick to kill them, but this year I was hoping it wouldn’t become necessary. The only time ants really matter is when they are threatening our food or when they come in ungodly large numbers. We’ve taken measures to ensure that stored food is sealed in ways that pretty much safeguard it from the little-bitties, so even finding a few ants in the kitchen isn’t a big deal, and I honestly didn’t think we’d have a serious problem.

I was, unfortunately, wrong.

Friday the Kitchen was overrun while I was at work, resulting in my wife cleaning up a multitude of things that already seemed clean. I don’t really know the severity of this invasion, but I came home to a clean kitchen and figured it was over. Saturday, however, the Kitchen cabinets were overrun, prompting me to spend two or three hours cleaning the affected dishes, shelves, and counters (again) and caulking numerous possible entry-points.

Saturday ended with the kitchen seeming clean again…

Sunday, all was well until late (near bedtime) when, after watching a movie, my wife walked into the kitchen to find the floor teeming with ants. It was somewhat interesting to see with my own eyes how a seemingly clean floor was so obviously dirty. The ants, in less than two hours, had located at least three puddles of clear [unknown] liquid and established highways all across the floor. Hundreds of ants were traversing these routes in both directions. It took a few minutes, but the sheer volume of ants made it fairly easy to identify a common point of entry… down in the basement!

The death tolls were significant at the end of this cleanup. While I still refuse to resort to spraying poisons myself, I helped clean up after the fact, wiping up numerous injured with the dead. I likened the scene to a charnel ground… it was not fun.

If Sunday wasn’t bad enough, I learned while I was at work on Monday that the ants had invaded my son’s bedroom, crawling all about on his bed, floor, and shelving, apparently in the pursuit of a sucker he left out. Once again, I wasn’t home when this all took place, but I’m assured by my wife that it was significant, and the resultant piles of laundry seem to validate that.

So why did I share this with the world? I feel like I needed to write this both to share the challenges we have been facing, and to confess my failure to prevent, and my own complicity in, the numerous deaths of many little beings in my home over the last few days. I am hopeful that their karma will attain them a more fortunate birth, but for those of you who might prefer a more “christianized” idea, maybe we can hope there is at least a heaven for ants.

Or, at a minimum, let us remember how unfair life can be — a universal truth. One moment you are minding your own business, doing those things that are in your nature to do, and the next, *blam* you’re dead. No notice. No appeals. No good or bad guy, just life and death.

I know I’m not the only person in the world that deals with problems like this. I hope you can relate to it a little. Thank you for reading, and be well, friends.

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6 comments

  1. Dennis Beyer · · Reply

    We’ve had a similar war with ants, good luck, at the moment we are only managing to keep a slight upper hand.

  2. Hi! Next round, can you try to communicate with them either verbal or you can write on a notepad, give them a deadline to move out. Usually, its work for me. May them (the ants) relieve from suffering!

  3. Hi,
    considering them with loving kindness (with no hate and kindness and truly wishing their well being ) might make things better. There’s “kandha sutta in sutta pitaka( http://www.pirith.org/tfndownloads/pirith/Kanda_Piritha.mp3). If you can listen or read it in your house it would help.
    Good luck!

    1. One thing I have noticed is my affinity for chanting while my wife seems to find it creepy (lol). Thank you for the link, friend. Is this the same thing (in English)?
      http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.048.than.html

      1. Sorry, I think your link is of advice to monks by his holiness Buddha. Also sorry about my previous link I wasn’t aware it was not in pali.

        you can use this link http://www.dhammatalks.net/audio_files.htm and there’s a audio streaming under the sub heading ” Paritta Pali Chants by Bhante Ariyadhamma ” . you have to click on ” 8. kandha sutta ” and play in the audio player under it

        in this link http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books9/Paritta_Protection.htm#Khandha . It also has explanations in English.
        if you like to chanting it starts from 58. Even chanting 60 to 65 is enough. (it doesn’t matter doing it alone in a room )

  4. Hanzze · · Reply

    Dear Hickersonia,

    I took you invitation on DW and just looked a little around here and came across here.
    First of all I would like to recommend that this statement: “The original Pali language of this precept apparently refers to the breath, so all life with breath is included, while plants (which clearly have respiratory function, but do not actively breathe) are not.” is not so the wisest (even there are many tendencies to proclaim such things) and I would recommend to think on life without discrimination (not to think about that plant respiratory/breath gives us the possibility to breath).

    Regarding the ants and how to deal with them. There are generally to things with we use in the practice. One thing is goodwill and the other is heedfullness. One without the other has not much wholesome impact.

    When you see the ants there are arising two things. One is, a being like me and the other is fear (and with it dislike)
    So if you are deep into goodwill, you will have to struggle as fear would opposite you goodness. The task of heedfullness is twofold, first that you even realize them and second that you watch your feeling which guide you to act.
    So if both are present, there could be no problem that you act unwholesome. How ever, you face that there is a still ongoing problem. The fear of others and the good will of others. Children, wife, visitors… strange gossip…
    One thing to introduce them also to your cohabitant and take the fear away and the other is to find some arrangement with them, which has to do with more discipline in case of ants.
    Where ever there are food particles, they will come to. That means, no eating here and there and to keep the eating places clean. When ever you store food, put it on a plate of water, when ever you have dirty things, do not wait, clean them.
    When ever you miss to do this you might find a new conflict, sometimes a battle over food. If you have missed to protect some food, and they had found it, its a good time for some Dana rather then thinking how to get the food back.
    Well if they entered the rice depot, that it is a good patient work for one day to get them one by one safe out of it.

    Aside of the food conflict problem, its more a thing of adaption and to get use to a little other kind of life. One needs to be more mindful, where to step and where to sit down. If there is a real territorial problem especial if there are visitors, who would not really take care of, its mostly no problem to sweep them gently with a fine broom aside or on a scoop.
    There streets normally come as fast they go and they go as fast as they had come. So its all about get to know them and their ways. They are neither interested to harm nor to take over the house and sometimes some food on another place can let them move on.

    The canting might be all nice, but actually there is nothing special and there are always ways for arrangements and to train our mind and get our usual intentions more known as well to train them better, ants are great helper.

    And always remember, there is no reason to disobey ones goodwill and virtue. The main problem is only inside of one self.

    May you find some inspirations in this unpolished words

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