Killing means intentional destruction of living beings. The Pali term pāna strictly means the psycho-physical life ptertaining to one’s particular existence. The wanton destruction of this life force, without allowing it to run its due course, is pānātipāta. Pāna means that which breathes. Hence all animate beings including animals, are regarded as pana, but not plants as they possess no mind.
There are ten evil actions caused by deed, word and mind which produce negative karma. Killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, slandering, harsh speech, frivolous talk, covetousness, ill-will and false view.
The gravity of the evil depends on the goodness and the magnitude of the being concerned. The killing of a virtuous person or a big animal is regarded as more heinous than the killing of a vicious person or a small animal because a greater effort is needed to commit the evil and the loss involved is considerably great.
The evil effects of killing are: brevity of life, ill-health, constant grief due to the separation from the loved, constant future.
Even the most wicked person should not be discouraged or despised on account of his evil nature. He should be pitied, for those who censure him may also have been in that same position at a certain stage. As they have changed for the better he may also change, perhaps sooner than they? Who knows what is in store for this wicked person? Who knows his potential goodness?
Angulimāla, a highway robber and the murderer of more than a thousand of his bretheren became an Arahant and erased, so to speak, all his past misdeeds.
Ālavaka, the fierce demon who feasted on the flesh of human beings, gave up his carnivorous habits and attained the first stage of Sainthood.
Ambāpali, a courtesan, purified her character and attained Arahantship.
Asoka, who was stigmatised Canda (wicked), owing to his ruthlessness in expanding his Empire, because Dharmāsoka, or Asoka the Righteous, and chanted his career to such an extent to that today—“Admist the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness, serenities and royal highnesses and the like the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star”.
These are a few striking examples which serve to show how a complete reformation of character can be the effect of sheer determination.