Moral responsibility


Hello, I am a Neuro biologist and as a part of my research to help advance knowledge on human diseases and to help mankind in a broad way, my fellow scientists and I sacrifice the lives of so many lower animals like worms, mice etc.almost everyday at this a sin?..for I do understand that the animal suffers a great deal before it dies at the hands of scientists and does this produce enormous bad karma for all? my line of work this is unavoidable,is there anyway out?

—Ashwin, Canada


Dear Ashwin,

You’ve asked quite a challenging question. Killing things is never recommended, of course, but what would the karma be? And why should all of the karma belong to the medical researchers who do the testing? Wouldn’t any of us who benefit from the medicines you create, also receive some of the karma for killing the animals?

Yogananda said that soldiers who go to war with the noble purpose of defending their country (and not, for example, simply for the fhrill of it), actually rreceive good karma, even if they are forced to kill other human beings in the process. Their intent is the important thing.

Your intent as a medical researcher seems to be on saving human lives, and you see testing these drugs on animals as a necessary part of making sure they will help, and not hurt, human beings.

Yogananda also said that a human incarnation is precious (since human beings have the capactity to realize God). He said that if a person were facing a cobra, for example, it would be better to sacrifice the cobra than for the human being to be bitten by the cobra and then die.

I have never heard Swami Kriyananda address your question specifically, though I think it’s common in our culture. I hope the above examples from Yogananda’s teachings provide some sense of comfort.