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Practice Advice : Practices for Benefiting Animals

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at various locations (Last Updated Oct 20, 2009)

Practices for Benefiting Animals

Blessing Animals
Rinpoche commented on various ways to bless animals.

The purpose is to bring peace to the animals and to make their lives meaningful, so sooner or later they can be fully awakened and achieve the highest happiness. It is good to do animal liberation along with blessing the animals. It is good to do it in a park.

You need a table similar to what we use for animal liberations but not too high, because you need to have the animal at the height of the holy objects. If it’s too high, then people would have to lift up their pets.

To do the blessing extensively, you can have these texts and objects on the table:

  • the Kangyur
  • the 8,000-verse Prajnaparamita texts
  • the Lam-rim Chen-mo
  • stupas
  • many tsa-tsas
  • relics
  • water offerings
  • flowers on each corner of the table
  • flowers on the ground around the table
  • prayer flags on posts around the table, or you can string prayer flags from post to post around the table 

Letter from a Dog
Rinpoche received this letter from a dog. He read the letter very seriously and then dictated this reply.

Letter from Panda Bear the dog:

Dear Lama Zopa Rinpoche,
Thank you for the sacred blessings that saved my life. I was found wandering alone in a park in Monterey and held at the Monterey County Shelter for a month. It was sooooooooooooooo scary! Then some people came and picked me up, and, together with their two other dogs, nursed me back to health.

Last Sunday, on the equinox, I was taken to the country to a little cottage with a sweet grandmotherly woman who started calling me her own. I have my own cats and chickens and Mom takes me for walks. I get to go with her everywhere (she even lets me put my head out the window to feel the wind blowing in my face when we’re in the car). I go with her to work and get to sit in on staff meetings. Everybody loves me up really good and sneaks treats to me when my Mom’s not looking. WHAT A LIFE!

Thank you for saving my life!
Love
Panda Bear

Rinpoche's Response:  

My very dear Panda Bear,
Thank you very much for your kind letter, while you are busy playing football. It is great that you have been rescued and you are being taken care of, this is your past good karma, because you must have created good karma to be rescued by someone and to be taken care of so well. I am happy to hear that you have the chance to go everywhere and to feel the wind blowing in your face, with your mum in the car, and also that you are able to go to work with her.

My dear Panda Bear, if you realize that everyone loves you now, this means that this result comes from your past karma—you must have loved others. This is what is called “karma” or “cause and effect.” So, all the love you are receiving now from others or when your mum is looking at you is from your past karma.

Here I am sending you my best gift, this is not an object of the senses, such as smell, taste, or touch, but this is for your ears, for you to listen to. Here I am sending you some songs, liberating and enlightening songs.

By hearing these songs of loving kindness your life will always get better and better, up until the highest happiness, the ultimate full, peerless enlightenment, complete bliss, which is called the completion of the spiritual path, which includes total liberation from the whole entire sufferings of the different realms, including the human realms, the animal realms, and all the other realms, such as the hell realms, hungry ghosts, sura, and asura, intermediate state beings, and worldly gods: all are purified.

So, here I am sending you some CDs to listen to (maybe your mum can play them for you to listen to).

Also, here is Maitreya Buddha mantra and Medicine Buddha mantra, so your mum can chant these in your ear. It is best if she can recite them loudly in your ear. Actually, your mum can do this for all the animals she finds. If she can recite these two mantras for you every day, it would be great, because this is what can bring you closer and closer to total liberation from all sufferings and their causes, which is where all karma and delusions come from. This is what can bring you to perfect, blissful enlightenment.

This would be the best gift for all the animals, the most beneficial thing for them, also this is most beneficial for your mum, her most beneficial service for you.

Thank you very much.

With much prayer and love...

Purification for Animals
Rinpoche received the following letter and pictures from two students who had devised a train to carry animals around holy objects, thus purifying them of negative karmas. Their letter and Rinpoche’s response are below.

To our most precious guide Lama Zopa Rinpoche,
Due to Rinpoche’s very inspiring teachings we came up with some ideas which we have now put into action.

First, we now have an animal liberation train. We put boxes with small insects or worms in it, thousands of insects and worms, which the train takes around many holy objects in our gompa for the whole day. In the evening we recite the powerful mantras and then we release them.

We have made very small stickers of the Namgyalma mantra and stick them on hidden places in shopping centers, trains, airplanes, hospitals, old people’s homes, and many other kinds of buildings.

We also made very small stickers of the mantra that purifies beings when they pass under it. We put them on highways, train bridges, or above doors of people’s homes. Like this, there are many more ideas, and with the help of Rinpoche’s devoted student, Norman, we have been able to put them into action one by one.

If we create some small merit through this we would fully like to dedicate it to the long and healthy life of our most precious guide Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Please, please live long, please live very long and guide us until samsara ends.

Many greetings from us,
Lorraine and Ralf, with baby Rosi

Rinpoche's response:

My very dear Lorraine and Ralf,
Thank you very much for your letter. Your idea is great, fantastic! The animals receive enormous purification, unbelievable purification, each time they circumambulate the holy objects, also they create incredible merit. Just in one hour that they circumambulate, they purify negative karma which causes a good rebirth, liberation from samsara, and enlightenment. If there are 100,000 holy objects then in one circumambulation they create 100,000 causes of liberation, 100,000 causes of enlightenment, and that is just one time circumambulating. If they go around for one hour on the little train then it is unbelievable, and if they go around all night long it is unbelievably unbelievable.

So, this is a great idea, an excellent idea.

It would be better if the train was at the same height as the holy objects, so maybe you can lift it up so they are at the same level as the holy objects (about the height of the merit box).

Also, having people carry the insects and animals is good, because you are putting effort into liberating them, by carrying them in your own hand, so it is more direct; maybe there is more of a connection, maybe a different feeling. By carrying them in your hand then also people receive the same benefit as the animals, purify their negative karma, creating the cause for a good rebirth, liberation from samsara, and enlightenment. This is also how the animals help people because the people take the animals around the holy objects and in this way the people circumambulate. This is the animals helping the people to purify their negative karma and achieve enlightenment.

But that is great what you have created. Fantastic.

I would like to put this in Mandala magazine, so when you take a photo of the train at the new height, that can go in Mandala.

With much love and prayers to you and your family...

Birds
On a sunny morning in late April, Lama Zopa Rinpoche was looking out through his dining room window and saw a red-tailed hawk gliding low over the hill. "It's looking for birds," he said. An attendant mentioned to Rinpoche that he often had the wish to chase the hawks away when he saw them hunting but was concerned that by doing so he would be depriving the hawks of their food. Rinpoche replied to his comment as follows:

If you protect one bird from the hawk you protect the hawk from hundreds of thousands of eons of creating negative karma and experiencing birth in the lower realms. Negative karma can result in suffering. One karma leads to many negative karmas and hundreds of thousands of eons of lower births, because karma is expandable. Even birth in the human realm is a cause to experience the three sufferings of aging, sickness, and death.

All actions have a result. When you harm, you receive harm back. With the experience being similar to the cause, you harm again, and so you receive again the four suffering results and birth in the lower realms. And so it goes on and on like this with no end.

By chasing the hawk away from a bird, the bird gets so much happiness for many lifetimes and freedom from the four suffering results and endless suffering. In addition, the bird gets saved. You cause it long life and protect it from death.

Rinpoche went on to explain how to offer food to birds and other animals in the best way.

When we give food to birds we should chant the Mitukpa, Medicine Buddha, Chenrezig and Five Powerful Mantras and then blow over the food. Giving food to birds protects them from hunger and thirst. The most important benefit is that it purifies negative karma and defilements. It helps them to not be born in the lower realms, by purifying them. It blesses their minds. By giving food in this way, it becomes a practice of loving kindness, of giving material things, and of giving fearlessness and purifying negative karma. There is so much suffering and fear in the lower realms and this is a way to protect them from it.

There are different types of charity. There is charity of materials, charity of loving kindness, charity of Dharma, and charity of fearlessness. Benefiting sentient beings is a samaya of Vairocana. When you take Highest Tantra Yoga initiation you take the vows of the Five Buddhas.

The attendant mentioned that at a nearby Dharma center there were many bird feeders. At one feeder was a small box which plays the mantra of Chenrezig for the birds to hear as they eat. When the food is gone and the batteries have run low, the birds sit on the fence near the feeder and wait patiently for someone to come and fill the feeder, and, presumably, to change the batteries in the mantra machine. Rinpoche continued:

Feeding the birds and the other animals doesn't have to be done for one's own pleasure but can instead be a sincere practice of giving. The paramita of charity is the Ratnasambhava samaya in Highest Yoga Tantra and is also part of the three times morality samaya of Vairocana – integrating virtue.

You are offering fearlessness by saying mantras and then blowing on the food or water. This is morality working for sentient beings – giving sentient beings what they need. Giving food and water is material generosity. When the mantras are said and blown upon the food and water it becomes the charity of fearlessness, and when you play the mantras so that the animals can hear them it becomes the charity of Dharma.

Benefits of Liberating Animals
Rinpoche gave the following talk to a group of students in Malaysia and Singapore on the benefits of liberating animals.

If you liberate animals, it helps you to have a long life, or you can dedicate the merit from their liberation to those who have life obstacles. In this life we are human beings, which is due to our past good karma ripening. But human beings have so much physical and mental suffering, no freedom, and are completely overwhelmed by delusion and karma. Fortunately, we have met the Dharma. The animal realm has terrible suffering, and the best thing is to think of something that benefits them. The best thing one can do to benefit animals is to circumambulate them around a stupa or statue as many times as possible. This means they have a chance to purify negative karma, and have a cause for enlightenment and liberation from samsara. That is what they need. If you circumambulate 100 holy objects, you create 100 causes for liberation and happiness. If there are 10,000 holy objects present, then you create 10,000 causes for happiness and so on. Each insect, worm, frog, shell, fish, or ant creates 10,000 causes for enlightenment. That is the best thing to do. Start by reciting mantras over some water, which blesses the water, which you then pour or sprinkle on the animals. Then you can say prayers and take them around the holy objects. They get so many benefits from the blessed water. Not all animals can listen to your prayers, but birds and frogs can hear you chanting the mantras when they look at you with their big eyes and stop making a noise.

By reciting prayers and chanting powerful mantras for animals, they attain a higher rebirth and liberation. You can perform Refuge Practice, Thirty-five Buddhas, and Vajrasattva practice. This purifies so much suffering and can definitely help them. If you have strong compassion, bodhicitta, and a realization of emptiness, when you blow on the water to bless it, it has greater power, and karma can be purified.

Caring for Pets in Everyday Life and at Their Death
Rinpoche had these general suggestions for ways students could best care for their pets.

If you love your animal very much, this is what you must do for them, for their good rebirth and quick liberation from samsara. When the animal is dying or has died, recite OM MANI PADME HUM, Heruka mantra and Heruka root mantra, and other mantras such as the Milarepa and Namgyalma mantras. You can recite the long mantras 21 times or more, and one mala or more of the short mantras. Blow strongly on the animal’s body after each recitation. Or, you can blow on water, visualizing each deity absorbed into the water. Each drop of water now has the power to purify negative karmas. Then, as you pour the water on the animal, all its negative karmas are purified.

If the animal is dying, you can do Medicine Buddha practice, visualizing the seven Medicine Buddhas on the crown of the animal. Then, you can also do Thirty-five Buddhas practice, with nectar coming out of the Thirty-five Buddhas and purifying the animal’s negative karma. Do this with strong refuge in the Thirty-five Buddhas to protect and guide your animal.

When the animal is in the process of dying or even after its breath has stopped, if you have some sand from a Kalachakra sand mandala, you can mix it with butter and put it on the crown of the animal’s head. Each sand grain has many Buddhas abiding in it. It’s especially good if it has been blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

There is also a mantra which you can place on the animal’s dead body to purify it. Put it right against their skin, on the forehead or the chest.

Then, cremate the animal’s body. If there is a good practitioner or a lama available to do the puja called Jangwa, then ask for that to be performed when you cremate the body. After the body has been cremated, keep some pieces of the animal’s bones, and if possible, have jangwa performed again on the bones. Crush the bones and make a powder. Mix it with other material and make a stupa, or more than one stupa. Put the stupa in a garden, if you have one, and then you can offer flowers to the stupa. Dedicate the merit to your animal’s good rebirth and enlightenment.

More talks by Lama Zopa on this topic:
More Advice on Benefiting Animals posted on Lama Zopa's Teachings page.
The FPMT has published a book titled Liberating Animals From the Danger of Death which can be purchased here.
See also Appendix 3 from the book Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat.

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