Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: Prayers for the Turkeys

Rinpoche's Online Advice Book: Prayers for the Turkeys

Date of Advice:
November 2018
Date Posted:
November 2020

Rinpoche offered this advice on how to help the millions of turkeys being slaughtered for Thanksgiving each year, and also how to think about the tradition of killing and eating turkeys. Rinpoche gave this teaching in Switzerland in 2018. Edited by Nicholas Ribush, November 2020.

Turkey in the yard at LYWA, June 2016. Photo: Wendy Cook.

On Thanksgiving eve, 2018, the Sangha in Switzerland and I did extensive prayers for those who rely on me, those for whom I promised to pray, those whose names were given to me and, in particular, all the turkeys killed for Thanksgiving.

We also did Vajrasattva purification, the King of Prayers and the Amitabha Buddha Prayer to be Reborn in the Land of Bliss.. All these practices were dedicated for all beings, but especially for all the turkeys killed for Thanksgiving.

Recently I saw that President Trump had liberated, or pardoned, two Thanksgiving turkeys, a presidential ritual dating back to the 1940s. I am not sure who had the idea to produce and then kill so many turkeys in America for Thanksgiving, but I’ve heard that about 46 million turkeys are killed for that day, which is far, far more than the 250,000 or more animals killed in Nepal for the Gadhimai festival. At that time, Buddhists in Nepal do nyung näs and dedicate for the animals.

If you are Buddhist, or just someone who does not want to suffer now or in endless future lives as well, having to experience unbelievably suffering, you need to purify your past negative karma and stop creating any more so that you will not be reborn as a turkey over and over again.

Of course, there are buddhas and bodhisattvas who eat turkey and other animals, but that is only to benefit those animals. They have great compassion and can’t stand sentient beings remaining in samsara for even one more second. For them, being in samsara is like being caught in a fire or trapped naked in a thorn bush. Every second in samsara feels like that. Their compassion is hundreds and thousands times stronger than ours. Even if we have a little compassion, it is only for those we like; we have no compassion for those we don’t. We feel compassion for those we like because it is mixed with attachment.

If you do have to eat turkey because of some family obligation, then at least do some mantras and prayers to benefit the turkeys, such as the four immeasurables with tonglen. Otherwise, if you just enjoy eating turkey together with the rest of the Americans who are not Buddhist, who do not know Dharma, who have not generated compassion for the turkeys, you create much negative karma.

Here are some practices and mantras you can do, with advice on how to motivate and dedicate.

Practices
  1. Vajrasattva. Do this practice with the four opponent powers. If you have received a great initiation or a lower tantra initiation, you can visualize yourself as the deity. Then, in your heart, visualize a lotus, sun and moon disc on which are all sentient beings, including all the turkeys. Also, if you want to pray for someone who has died or is in great suffering, you can visualize that person there as well. See also below.
  2. Take the Eight Mahayana Precepts.
  3. Recite prayers such as:
    - King of Prayers (in Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead, page 5).
    - The dedication chapter from Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, (in Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead, page 20).
    - Prayer to be Reborn in the Land of Bliss (in Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead, page 34).
    - Any of the other Eight Prayers to Benefit the Dead.
    (See also Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s How to Face Death without Fear, Wisdom, 2020, pp. 317–56).
  4. Nyung nä. Start the day before Thanksgiving so that the main day of the nyung nä is on Thanksgiving Day itself.
  5. Do several repetitions of the four immeasurables and tonglen together.
  6. Recite the Golden Light Sutra.
  7. Recite the Vajra Cutter Sutra.
  8. Do Chenrezig practice with recitation of OM MANI PADME HUM.
  9. Do the extensive Medicine Buddha puja (The Wish-Granting Sovereign), the middle-length Medicine Buddha puja (The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel) or the short Medicine Buddha Sadhana.

These practices can be done together with others at your center or individually at home. You can find links to these practices in the FPMT Catalogue.

Mantras

1. Any or all of the five powerful mantras (zungchen dengawa):

  • The long or short Namgyälma mantra. One of the benefits of dedicating your recitation of this mantra to the turkeys is that they will never be reborn in lower realms and will meet buddhas and bodhisattvas. This mantra is not only for long life; it is unbelievably powerful for purification. Just by reciting or even hearing it, you never get reborn into any of the lower realms, let alone as a turkey in the animal realm. Then, until you achieve enlightenment, you will always be reborn in the upper realms and will always be surrounded by buddhas and bodhisattvas. The skies of benefit of this mantra are unbelievable! For further resources, click here.
  • The Stainless Lotus Pinnacle mantra (Lotus Pinnacle of Amoghapasha mantra). This mantra is also very powerful. By reciting it even a few times, all the turkeys (and anyone else you recite it for) are purified of all their negative karma to be born in hot hells, including the karma created by five immediate negativities, which brings rebirth in avici, the hell of greatest suffering. This mantra also has skies of benefit.
  • The Kunrig mantra.
  • The Buddha Mitrugpa mantra.

2. The mantra from the Sutra of Great Liberation. By reciting this just once, from now until enlightenment you will never be reborn in the lower realms. [Read more and find resources here.]

3.  OM MANI PADME HUM.

At the end of your practice, dedicate the merit for yourself not to create the negative karma to be reborn as a turkey. So, I’m explaining how to purify the already-created negative karma to be reborn a turkey that has been collected over beginningless rebirths. The other thing, then, is to dedicate not to create such karma in the future. Of course, the basic cause to be reborn as a turkey is killing them, so obviously you need to abstain from that, not to mention killing any other sentient being. These are simple methods but they have unbelievably profound benefits, like the sky. You can also do more or different practices as well. These are just suggestions. You can also do these practices at Christmas or on other occasions where turkeys and so many other animals are sacrificed and eaten.

Vajrasattva Practice
Motivation and taking refuge

Vajrasattva, painted by Nepali-Tibetan artists, Photo courtesy of FPMT.Before you start the practice, reflect on how you have been wandering throughout the six realms from beginningless rebirths, suffering numberless times, and how if you do not practice Dharma now, while you have the chance, if you do not actualize the path at this time, you will have to continue experiencing suffering without end. That is the most important thing to think, and you do so on the basis of having studied the lamrim, the graduated paths of the lower and middle capable beings.

Next, take refuge by relying on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to free you from samsara. Then think that it’s not only you suffering in samsara. Contemplate how all the sentient beings in the six realms—the numberless hell beings, the numberless hungry ghosts, the numberless animals, the numberless human beings, the numberless suras, the numberless asuras and the numberless intermediate state beings—have been experiencing oceans of suffering in each realm, from beginningless rebirths up to now, and will have to experience the same in the future over and over again; endless suffering in samsara, numberless times in each realm.

Meditating on your own suffering in samsara first and then thinking of the suffering of others gives you a much stronger feeling. At first you think about your own beginningless suffering, but realize that that is nothing; you are just one person. Your need for happiness and freedom from suffering is nothing compared to the similar needs of numberless sentient beings. Just like you, every being is important, every being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Therefore, you need to rely on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to free all the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras, asuras and intermediate state beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering right away. You can’t stand to see them suffer for even a second longer. So, with your whole heart, rely on Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to guide them, to free them from samsara.

Then recite the refuge prayer at least three times:

Namo Gurubhya
Namo Buddhaya
Namo Dharmaya
Namo Sanghaya

You can also recite longer refuge prayers, taking refuge for all sentient beings. This is Mahayana refuge. If you do it just for yourself, it’s Lesser Vehicle refuge.

Then think, “Due to all the past, present and future merit collected by me and the numberless three-time buddhas and sentient beings, may I achieve full enlightenment in order to benefit all transmigratory beings.”

Here, then, there are two benefits. The first is that you yourself attain enlightenment, which gives you the ability to free all other beings from the ocean of samsaric suffering. The second is that you bring all sentient beings to enlightenment, by yourself alone. So think, “Therefore I am going to do the Vajrasattva purification practice for the benefit of all sentient beings, in particular, the turkeys.”

The four opponent powers
  1. The power of the object upon who you depend: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; the object in whom you take refuge. Then generate bodhichitta on the object of all sentient beings.
  2. The power of blame: remembering and recognizing the negative karmas you have collected from beginningless rebirths up to now, the negative karma created by body, speech and mind, by breaking the pratimoksha, bodhichitta and tantra vows, and especially the heaviest negative karma, that collected with the guru, which needs to be purified as a matter of urgency
  3. The power of always enjoying the remedy, that is reciting the mantra and visualizing Vajrasattva.
  4. The power of committing not to do these negativities again. To do this sincerely and to avoid becoming a liar, think, “From now on I will keep what I can keep and I will abstain from those negativities that are extremely difficult to avoid for a day, an hour, a minute or at least a few seconds.”
Visualization

Nectar beams emit from Vajrasattva, who is seated on a lotus and moon disk above the crown of your head. These enter your central channel through the crown of your head, purifying yourself, your family and all six-realm sentient beings, especially all the turkeys. If you want to visualize somebody who has died or anybody else that you want to pray for, somebody who may be sick or experiencing other difficulties, you can visualize that person.

These purifying nectar beams wash away all beings’ obscurations, negative karmas and broken samaya, which exit your body in the form of liquid coal, dirty black water and so forth in vast quantities. Any sicknesses you have also leave in the form of pus and blood, and all the conditions for your sicknesses, such as spirit harms, come out in form of snakes, frogs, scorpions and so forth as well. The main thing to purify is the cause of the sickness and spirit harm: the defilements and negative karmas, which leave in the form of dirty water. Visualize all that while reciting the mantra.

Mantra Recitation
om vajrasattva samaya manupalaya / vajrasattva tvenopatishtha / dridho me bhava / sutoshyo me bhava / suposhyo me bhava / anurakto me bhava / sarva siddhim me prayaccha / sarva karma su chame / chittam shriyam kuru hum / ha ha ha ha ho / bhagavan sarva tathagata / vajra mame muncha / vajra bhava maha samaya sattva ah hum phat

If you are doing twenty-one recitations of the long Vajrasattva mantra, do the first seven focusing on purifying downwards, called chasing down, the next seven focusing on purifying upwards, chasing up, and the final seven focusing on instantaneous purification.

With chasing down, all the negative karmas and defilements are pushed down by the nectar beams and leave your body through the lower orifices as described above. With chasing up, all the negative karmas and defilements are pushed up and leave through the top of your head, like the wind blowing your hat off. With the third set of seven mantras, focus on sudden purification, which is like switching on a light in a dark room: the darkness immediately goes away. All of a sudden, all your obscurations and negative karma, which are in form of darkness at your heart, disappear. You are totally filled with the radiant light of the nectar beams. This is how it is done.

When you do the Vajrasattva practice, always visualize all sentient beings, especially those with whom you have a connection, at your heart and purify them as well. That helps very much. And, by the way, when in the future you do powa (transference of consciousness) practice for those sentient beings, it works.

At the end of the purification practice Guru Vajrasattva says, “All your defilements, negative karmas and broken samaya have been completely purified.” Try to really feel that.

Dedication

You can do the regular dedication prayers that are done, such as:

Jang chhub sem chhog rin po chhe
Ma kye pa nam kye gyur chig
Kye pa nyam pa me pa yi
Gong nä gong du phel war shog

May the precious supreme bodhicitta
Not yet born arise.
May that arisen not decline,
But increase more and more.

Then:

Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by numberless buddhas and numberless sentient beings, may all these animals (you can also include your family members, especially your father and mother) never ever get reborn back into the lower realms but be reborn in a pure land where they can achieve enlightenment, or, if not, at least receive a perfect human body, meet the Mahayana teachings and a perfectly qualified guru revealing the unmistaken path to enlightenment, and by pleasing the holy mind of the virtuous friend may they attain enlightenment as quickly as possible.

Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by numberless buddhas and numberless sentient beings, may bodhicitta, the source of all happiness and success for all sentient beings, be generated in the hearts of all the sentient beings of the six realms, and especially in the hearts of everybody in this world, including all the students and benefactors of the center and all the volunteers in the FPMT organization. May it be generated in the hearts of all those who rely upon me, all those for whom I have promised to pray and all those whose names have been given to me. May it be generated in my heart and in the hearts of all my family members, those who are living and those who have died. May the bodhicitta that has already been generated increase.

Due to all the merits of the three times collected by me, the numberless buddhas and the numberless sentient beings, may all wars, sickness, famine, torture, poverty and economic problems in the world and all dangers of earth, water, fire and wind be pacified immediately and may perfect peace and happiness prevail in everyone’s hearts and lives. May the Buddhadharma last for a long time and may the sentient beings in this world meet the Buddhadharma and achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.

Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by the numberless buddhas and the numberless sentient beings, which are completely empty of existing from their own side, may I, who am completely empty of existing from my own side, achieve the state of full enlightenment, which is completely empty of existing from its own side, and lead all sentient beings, who are completely empty of existing from their own side, to that state, which is completely empty of existing from its own side, by myself alone, who is completely empty of existing from my own side.

Further commentary

I don’t think the general population of America accepts clairvoyance, but if it did, people would understand where all the sufferings, such as depression, come from. The way people normally think—for example, what causes depression—is very limited. They only think about things that are to do with this life. If they had clairvoyance they could see much deeper; they could see things such as past and future lives. People normally think of only this life, not past and future lives.

In the past, many of the turkeys that Americans are eating were Americans who in the past had killed turkeys. Often it could even be a past family member that they are now eating.

There’s a sutra story about Buddha’s disciple Shariputra, who excelled in wisdom. Once when he was on his alms round he looked into a family’s house and saw that the father, who used to catch fish in his backyard pond, had died and been reborn as a fish in that pond. The mother, his wife, who had been very attached to the home, had also died and been reborn as the family dog. And the son’s enemy, who had been very attached to the son’s wife, had died and been reborn as their child. The son was holding the child, his former enemy, eating the fish, his late father, and beating the dog, his late mother, while it chewed on fish bones. Shariputra then observed, “The son is eating his father’s flesh, beating his mother with a stick and cuddling his enemy on his lap—samsaric existence makes me laugh.”

If we have animals we have remember this story and take care of them well. It is very important to understand the benefits of taking care of our pets and other animals by giving them food and drink. Think that you are making charity and don’t just do it out of attachment, thinking that you love the shape of the animals or something, doing everything simply for your own happiness. It’s the same with looking after your children. You create a child with attachment, for your own happiness, thinking how your life would be unbelievably happy if you had a child. Then you take care of the child, but it is for your own happiness.

It is also important to recognize and remember your animals’ most unbelievable kindness, how they have been kind to you in three ways, and then with that awareness give them food and drink. First recite om mani padme hum and then blow over the food and drink to bless it. If you have mani pills, it’s good to crush them and put them into the food and drink, or even add blessed water. You don’t have to get blessed water from a lama; you can make it yourself. Whether or not you have daily commitments, recite OM MANI PADME HUM and other mantras, such as OM PÄDMO USHNISHA VIMALE HUM PHAT, the Mitrugpa mantra and so forth, and then blow on the water. You can recite however many repetitions of each mantra you want, like seven, ten, fifteen or more, blow on the animal’s food or water and make prayers as well. Similarly, you can keep a bottle water nearby and when you’ve done your commitments you can blow on the water and then use that to put on the food and water that you give to the animals.

Then make this dedication prayer, as above:

Due to all the past, present, and future merits collected by me and all the merits of the three times collected by numberless buddhas and numberless sentient beings, may all these animals (you can also include your family members, especially your father and mother) never ever get reborn back into the lower realms but be reborn in a pure land where they can achieve enlightenment, or, if not, at least receive a perfect human body, meet the Mahayana teachings and a perfectly qualified guru revealing the unmistaken path to enlightenment, and by pleasing the holy mind of the virtuous friend may they attain enlightenment as quickly as possible.

Finally, please remember the unbelievable benefits of making charity of food to the animals. As the Buddha said, “Anybody who makes charity well during the period my teachings exist will receive great enjoyments for 80,000 eons, even if the material that person offers is merely the size of a hair. That person will be free from pain and disease, will enjoy great happiness, will be enriched with all manner of desirable things and will eventually achieve the result: peerless cessation and complete enlightenment.”