Once, I killed a mosquito in a dream. I woke feeling fearfully responsible, puzzled I could do such harm (it felt quite serious) even when (especially when) unconscious, even when there was no choice in the matter at all. In my waking life, I try not to kill flies or mosquitos, but what occurred in the dream got down into to a response I couldn’t slow down enough to navigate, couldn’t catch in time.

Like so much in life.

It frightened me for quite a while, that neither will nor cultivated awareness made much difference to my action, outside of allowing me to examine.

Mind you, it isn’t that I have a belief around not killing a fly or mosquito. Rather I was haunted by the sense that no matter how much effort put in, I might not reach deeply enough into the foundational operating system to ‘actually’ turn my response toward generosity or ahimsa (do no harm) in a way I could relax with, could trust.

I suppose it is the trolley question: when someone else acts heroically in a sudden emergency, one wonders what they themselves would do. Many people are pretty sure they’d enact consciously chosen values, but I’m not. I’m not sure self-preservation wouldn’t win out.

I began Vajrayana practices with this kind of (hidden) karma in mind.

Some years later, a hint came across my path, a master who wrote [paraphrasing]: You can kill anything if it doesn’t weigh on your mind, but if it does, even a mosquito can cause great trouble.


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