Friday, March 13, 2009

Any sin in killing mosquitoes?


We happen to kill many insects like mosquitoes and cockroaches in everyday life.  We also kill many micro organisms unknowingly. Does this kind of killing cause a karma for us? How does sanatana dharma view intentional and unintentional killings in daily life?  This post deals with this issue.

Ahimsa or non-violence is the Supreme dharma according to Sanatana dharma.

However, we are driven to commit some killings unknowingly and inevitably in daily life. Dharma sastras do take cognizance of this factor and has recommended propitiation for such killings.

According to dharma sastras, a family man or gruhastha who plays a pivotal role in running the societal affairs do commit 5 types of sins everyday.

These are committed in his house.

The grushatha becomes responsible for 5 types of killings in
his house when he
(1) burns the firewood for cooking,
(2) grinds flour in the grinding stone,
(3) sweeps the floor,
(4) breaks the grains and
(5) boils water.

(this is to be replaced with all those activities about cooking and food in today's life style)

In all these acts which are regularly done,
many micro organisms and
living things such as insects are killed.
His house becomes a ground for 'Soona' (killing) or a 'slaughter house'.

But in these instances, the killing is inevitable and not deliberately done.

So these can be redressed.

In order to seek redress from these 5 types of unintentional killings,
the gruhastha has been ordained to conduct
the 5 great sacrifices, the "pancha maha yajnas", namely,

Brahma yagyam (upasana on Brahman),
Pitru yagyam (remembering the departed ancestors),
deva yagyam (worshipping devas),
bhootha yagyam (feeding plants and animals) and
manushya yagyam (athithi bhojanam ).

In today's condition athithi bhojanam can be in the form of offer of food to someone who can not afford food.

All these 5 yajnas or acts must be done everyday before one takes his meals.


This propitiation is meant only for unintentional killings in the course of cooking or making food. This does not cover the intentional killings such as killing mosquitoes.

In this sense, killing mosquitoes do invite a sin.
The remedy lies in prevention rather than in killing them after they are allowed to attack us.


Any killing – for the sake of eating or self gratification attracts a karmic result.

Sanatana dharma does not approve of killing life for food.

Killing is allowed only in extreme condition of deprivation when a person needs to kill something to eat so that his own life will be saved. In this case too, he has to do some propitiation once he comes out of that situation.



In all other instances of killing, a karmic burden is added.

In the case of non-vegetarians, the karmic burden is shared among three people - the one who kills the animal, the one who sells and the one who eats. Of them, the one who eats the animal gets most part of the karmic burden, for, it was for his sake the animal was killed. If all the three acts are done by the same person, he gets the full effect of this karma.



To get out of this burden, one must first give up non vegetarian food completely.

Pious acts and taking part in animal care / life-care activities will help in reducing the accumulated karmic burden.



There is an opinion that doing Sandhyavandhana will absolve one of all sins from such acts. The sandhyavandhana prayaschittham covers all sins and but that does not mean one can go on destroying life (of insects in this context) and seek prayaschittham in sandhya mantras.

The sandhya mantras are meant for long life - or the maximum guaranteed 100 / 120 years.
Long life is gained through freedom from diseases.
The asuras destroyed  by the sandhya- arkhyam are the disease- causing organisms that attack our bodies all the time and
also the sins (paapam) that cause diseases.

What is done in sandhya prayaschittham is protection to one's body and actions.
But the kind of common-place killing of micro life in daily life requires a different prayaschittham.
That is told in panch maha yajnas.





Aishu said...

Dear Ma'am,
What about the soldiers who kill enemies in a war? They kill for the sake of nation. Similarly we kill mosquitoes for the sake of our health.

When somebody is given captial punishment by the law, will that also invite sin? Will the Hangman and the Judge share the bad karma then?

jayasree said...

Dear Aishu,

There is a discussion on this in Mahabharatha. Bheeshma talks about it in his upadesa from the arrow bed.

You may read the translation of it in this link.

In other places also, there are elaborate explanations on this. I have to search them. But I have written them in my Tamil blog on varnas. Those who can read Tamil can read here:

To give a brief note, the one who can withstand pain and also can cause pain to others by his temperament is a Kshatriya. This is his Guna / character. This character is channelized as a varna dharma. Such a person is given the task of protecting people and land, in the course of which character can be utilized.

Such warriors wanted to die in the war field, because by that they wash out their karma of causing pain to others. Because of that they go to higher realms immediately after death in a war.

Here he is causing pain to others not by his volition, but for a public cause. The capital punishments and the execution of the same also are to be done under the rule of law for common cause. In that case the pain caused to others do not come back as bad karma. Even then, people in such jobs have to do prayaschiththa. The Pandavas did so in Rudra Prayaga after the war.

But killing mosquitoes is for our own sake and well being. There is no common cause. But if a Corporation worker is assigned the job of spraying mosquito killing chemicals as part of the work assigned by the Government, he does not get bad karma. But he should not attach any sense of happiness or involvement in killing. Doing it without any attachment is the ideal mentality to safeguard oneself from accruing bad karma.

I think reading of the story of Vydha of Vydha Gita will give better insights.

திவாண்ணா said...

i use a mosquito net.
I suppose there is a difference between seeking it and killing like with a 'mosquito bat' and killing it by reflex slapping.
vaishvadevam is the specific karma for prayachchitam here.

jayasree said...

@ Vasudevan Trimurti.

Yes. And thanks for suggesting the remedy.