Question: I try to observe ‘no killing’ whenever I can, even though I did not take up the precept via a formal ceremony and am not a vegetarian. However, I have investment in the fishery business. Does this make me ‘break’ my practice of observing no killing?
Answer: It is better to commit to observing the basic five precepts formally. Here is an article explaining why: https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/02/is-it-better-not-to-observe-any-precepts Although the first precept does not rule vegetarianism to be a must (while it is compulsory under the Bodhisattva precepts), it is good to at least reduce consumption of animals even if not totally. Here is an article explaining why: http://www.moonpointer.com/vege/10.htm
Investment in a trade that involves killing supports killing. Even if there is no direct killing, it is paying someone to do so. While supporting fisheries financially might not break the first precept directly (just as eating animals killed by someone else does not, though indirectly funding the killing), it does counter Right Livelihood as part of the Noble Eightfold Path, where the Buddha taught that one’s earnings should not be through exploitation of sentient beings. It should not be mistaken as any less a misgiving than breaking the first precept. As such, it is best to change the investment.
Question: Is there anything I can do to redeem myself if I cannot forgo the investment? I dedicated a tablet to ‘spirit beings of the six realms’ (六道群灵) during a Dharma ceremony (法会). Will that help to create merits for the fish?
Answer: You must realise that you are not forced to continue the investment, just as no one forces you to keep eating animals. Now that there is recognition of the investment being a misgiving, you should resolve to reduce or end the misgiving. Your mentioned attempts to compensate will never be good enough, even though it does some good, because continual investment in the long run creates immense harm and negative karma in an ongoing manner.
Dedicating merits to the fish, even by spending a lot is limited in redemption as you are also dedicating money to breed and kill them. It is as simple as that. If you stop investing, you won’t even need to spend more money to make up for the continual mistake of staying invested. True repentance requires the halting of making the same mistake repented over; it is not repeated repentance over the same mistake, which would mean one is not sincere enough in repenting.
True dedication of merits is not just by reciting words or dedicating prayers via ceremonies, but in action too, by avoiding evil and doing good. It is easy to word the dedication of merits to all beings, thinking it will help those we want, but such help is limited, while we can help more, by simply disconnecting from harming any being directly and indirectly. Remember this… How can the fish really be paid via ceremonies to be ‘saved’ while you are also paying for them to be killed? (If they are saved physically, would it not mean you will lose your investment?) Sincerely hope you will make the clear-cut decision for betterment of the fish and yourself.