This is another maxim that at first glance seems so obvious as to warrant only a sentence. Yet, this maxim has several dimensions worth considering.
The most surface level is: don’t murder other people. I can say that I have never murdered anyone and have no intentions of ever doing so. Done and dusted, right? Not so fast.
Plenty of vegans and vegetarians suggest that eating meat is murder. I absolutely see that point, and I render it null and void. All creatures need to eat. Humans are omnivores. Many sages and vegans/vegetarians say that we have the karmic and conscious ability to choose not to harm other beings in our nutritional needs. But that’s not true. We have to kill something living to eat, whether that’s a rabbit, a cow, a carrot or growing grasses. We kill insects in the practice of agriculture. We step on worms and fungi and lichens when we walk outside. We are death machines, killing at every breath. I do not privilege the cow over the carrot. I do, however, privilege myself over the cow and the carrot. I don’t know how else to stay alive.
Another level to this maxim is supporting policies that do not kill other people. Let’s look at the situation in Syria. I concede that there is no good answer to that clusterfuck of a nightmare. People are dying by the thousands; it is the largest refugee crisis in a generation. If we support rebels, we are supporting killing. If we support the Assad government, we are supporting mass murders. If we do nothing, we are standing by while thousands die and will continue to die. In this situation I do not know what the right answer is, but these are the sorts of grey areas that make a maxim like ‘shun murder’ so difficult to contend with. What other policies, foreign and domestic, are full of invisible murder?
So deciding not to murder isn’t quite so easy. I may not have murdered anyone (any human) myself, but I have certainly been complicit in ways that are not so clear. This is not a grand, sweeping guilt trip. Merely a reflection that we can never be certain of every consequence of our every action. Shunning murder is harder than we might think.