Mosquito in the Night

mosquitoAll the windows closed and the fan turned on, I tried getting to sleep. Then I heard that high frequency humming of a mosquito in my ear, and now I’m up again. This usually isn’t a problem I have in California.

When I was younger in Paris, mosquitos would fly in whenever I left the window open. I’d hear that sharp insistent buzzing by my ear, swipe at the air and roll over. But it would always come back. Never mind the precepts, it was tempting to catch and kill the bug. But my uncle had placed a statue of Guan Yin over the bed, and that was double the reason to not send the sucker onto a better life.

The routine I developed was to go downstairs and take a glass from the kitchen back up to my room. Then I’d go sit against the wall, lights off, watching my breath until I heard that shrill buzzing in my ear. As soon as I turned the lights on, without fail, she’d be sitting on the wall. I’d cup the glass over her, and set it on the floor with the mosquito trapped inside. First thing in the morning, I’d open the window and set her free.

I’m no friend of mosquitos, I have no compassion for them. My favorite scientific experiment is the one that plans to eradicate them by sterilizing thousands of males and releasing them into the wild. (Mosquitos generally mate just once.) When I’m meditating, the one sound that irritates me more than anything else is the hum of a mosquito in my ear. When I lived in more mosquito-infested climes, I bought an electric fly trap and tried rationalizing to myself that the mosquitos got zapped out of their own bad karma. (Right…)

What keeps me from killing them is the basic principle. Just find another way to deal with the situation. I’m sure I’d be a better Buddhist if I felt compassion for the mosquito, if I saw that she and I were interconnected, or if I were meditating now instead of blogging about a mosquito that’s keeping me awake. I don’t really care if killing this mosquito means I’ll be reborn as one in a future life. I just don’t want to be the sort of person who thinks that eradicating whatever you dislike is a solution. At that point, there’s really only a difference of scale between swatting an annoying mosquito and bombing an annoying country. There’s a sort of karma that’s easy to see, where the actions I undertake influences future decisions that I’ll make.

Kammassakomhi kamma-dayado kamma-yoni kamma-bandhu kamma-patisarano. Yam kammam karissami kalyanam va papakam va tassa dayado bhavissami. I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and live dependent on my actions. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.

I guess it’s time to go get a glass and sit against the wall.

14 Replies to “Mosquito in the Night”

  1. I have no trouble relocating “big bugs” such as wasps and spiders, and transporting a mosquito that only wanted to buzz around my head is possible too. But I don’t think quickly enough to be compassionate once a female starts drinking my blood–I react with an instinctive WHACK!

    I am taking a break from the heat of the day, but when I go back out, I will try harder. It is incrediby hot and wet here at Pelden Farm this summer, a perfect incubator for mosquitos. They will be glad I read your post. I hope, however, my change in attitude does not make me tastier. If it does, you will have to work out the net change in your karma. Could be complicated.

  2. I just spray my clothes with permethrin (not when I’m wearing them though)…

    What about, instead of a few hapless mosquitos, about 3 million malaria-infested ones in some Third World country?

  3. I woke up this morning with a bite on my left arm. It doesn’t itch now, but I bet it will tomorrow. A friend listened to me and whine and told me that I’ll be sure to have a blast with all the mosquitos in Southeast Asia!

  4. I saw the Dalai Lama, in a documentary film, say something about mosquitoes. If I remember correctly, it went something like this: When a mosquito comes and bites, I let it bite, and I follow the precept of not taking life. When the second mosquito bites me, I work hard to follow the precept of not taking life. When the third mosquito bites me … I find it very, very difficult to follow the precept of not taking life!

    (Note, he did not say he ever killed the mosquito.)

  5. Thanks for this link, Andrew! I’m type A, which — following your link — answers my question of why I tend not to get bitten that much at all. I’m glad you posted.

  6. Sorry this comment isn’t related to your post. I was wondering where you got that image of the mosquito from and if it was royalty free or not. I’m currently working on a design project and need an image of a mosquito. The one from your post is perfect. Could you please let me know if I can use it or where you got it from. Thank you very much.

  7. can the fighter jet airplane designers copy the moves of a mosquito?

    When trying to get at one it can move in a way that astounds my reflects and intelligence.

    How come it seems that they are borne a learned mosquito?

  8. My next door neighbor is a retired violin artist. Recently he pretends to compose music, but I guess it is for mosquitoes, his sounds are in the realm of such a pest!.

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