Three Ways to Benefit Animals

Three Ways to Benefit Animals

Date Posted:
November 2011

A student who cares for a colony of stray cats advised Rinpoche that she helps the cats by giving them Dharma names, chanting mantras and blowing on their food and water, chanting the names of the buddhas to them, fastening door mantras over the doorways on their shelters and food station, and circumambulating with them around holy objects. She asked Rinpoche if there is anything else she can do to help the cats.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche blesses a rabbit held by Wendy Cook at Kurukulla Center. August, 2018

Dear Anna,
There are three ways to benefit the animals. I’m very happy to hear you’re caring for the sentient beings, the cats. Some people do like cats, puppies and snakes. I had a snake and at Buxa I had a big turtle for some years. It stayed under my bed for months, but I didn’t know how to feed it. I had no idea, so I fed it milk and water. It would leave the milk and drink the water. This was like listening to the news or to people gossiping and taking the essence.

With lam-rim, we come to understand that everybody is looking for happiness, that they’re not satisfied. They’re looking for the happiness only of this life, the five sense pleasures, and they're not even looking for the happiness that comes with meditative experience. With shamatha, there is the rapturous ecstasy of body and mind, then with the Six Yogas of Naropa there’s greater bliss, greater and greater bliss. With enlightenment, the bliss is fully complete—all the hallucinated minds and negative views are totally purified and everything appears pure, even kaka. But this doesn’t mean that Buddha doesn’t see suffering; Buddha sees how sentient beings are suffering, because his compassion is fully developed.

The happiness that common people in the world have is very, very ordinary; it is only in the nature of suffering. If we analyze, we find it is only suffering; we don’t find pure happiness. There is no comparison to Dharma happiness, those points in tantra and sutra.

Also, of course, there’s the happiness of all the future lives, not just one. There is the happiness of all those lives, not just the happiness of this life, which is for a very short time—a few years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes. More important is ultimate happiness, the cessation of karma and delusions, and even the seed of delusion. This is everlasting happiness, the blissful state of peace. Then there is the peerless happiness of enlightenment, with the cessation of the gross and subtle defilements and the completion of all the realizations. This is the most important happiness. We’re then able to help others because we have completed the mind training in compassion and we have wisdom without the slightest mistake, so we know exactly how to help others. That’s why we can liberate the numberless sentient beings—the numberless hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, asuras, suras and intermediate state beings. We can free them from suffering and bring them to enlightenment. Therefore, achieving enlightenment is the most important thing.

But our life is not completely in the hands of Buddha. Since all the happiness up to enlightenment depends on good karma, therefore we have the responsibility to work hard. We can’t put our life in the hands of Buddha, the way that Christians put their lives in the hands of God. Buddha’s power and sentient beings’ karma are equal in power. Even though a qualified doctor can give the correct diagnosis and prescribe the correct medicine, if the patient doesn’t take the medicine, he can’t recover from his sickness. It is similar here.

So that’s why Buddha, from his side, gave the whole path to enlightenment. There are the hundred volumes of the Kangyur and the Tengyur, the commentaries by the Indian pandits and yogis, as well as the commentaries by Lama Tsongkhapa and many enlightened beings in Tibet. They were not describing a separate path not revealed by Buddha. Buddha was taught by his guru, then he practiced and achieved enlightenment. The yogis and pandits in India and an unbelievable number from Tibet, like stars in the sky, also practiced and achieved enlightenment. But from sentient beings’ side, they need to put effort into listening, reflecting and meditating on the path. Otherwise, they won’t achieve enlightenment or even liberation from samsara; there will be no realizations at all. So far, even those sentient beings who studied Buddha’s teachings have changed from cherishing the I to cherishing others and have achieved enlightenment. Numberless buddhas have happened, but they didn’t happen inherently, without effort. So, we have to understand this.

In Buddhism, we basically have to put effort into practicing what Buddha explained; how Buddha achieved the path. So, it is basically because of buddhanature that sentient beings can be free from every suffering and achieve enlightenment. So it’s good to help sentient beings when we can, even animals. We can’t see hell beings and hungry ghosts, but we can see animals and help them with bodhicitta, by cherishing and serving others and also with the practice of the six paramitas: charity, morality, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, concentration and wisdom.

So, the best benefit for the animals is to take them around holy objects: statues, stupas and scriptures. You can make a stupa, and people who are making many tsa-tsas will have a place to put them. In your garden or your house, the sitting room, wherever there is space, you should set up a nice table with another smaller table on top and another smaller table on top, so that it goes up. Put many holy objects (statues, stupas, scriptures) on the tables and put tsa-tsas inside. Make the table a little up from the ground. It’s good to fill up the table with many tsa-tsas, nicely arranged, not like putting garbage in a garbage can. This helps to purify the negative karma collected from beginningless rebirths and collects extensive merit. It plants the seed of enlightenment. Just seeing the holy objects collects unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable merits. So, try to have many holy objects set up inside. Not just on the outside but many on the inside. On the outside around the stupa you can put many statues, scriptures and tsa-tsas nicely lined up. On the top you can put a Buddha statue (Buddha’s holy body), a scripture (Buddha’s holy speech) and a stupa (Buddha’s holy mind).

If you have a stupa, the dogs and cats can go around it. If the holy objects are high, hold the animals at the same level and take them around, as much as you can. For example, Kurukulla Center has a stupa full of tsa-tsas and other holy objects, so you can bring the animals every day and take them around the stupa. Each time you do this, you bring them closer to enlightenment and not only that, liberation from samsara and the happiness of future lives.

Karma is expandable, so there will be happiness in hundreds, thousands, of future lives. Do this as many times as possible, if not every day. If you make the stupa at your house, you can do it every day. It is best to take the animals around the stupa. Other people can also bring animals to take around the stupa, creating the cause of enlightenment, liberation from samsara and the happiness of future lives. It also causes them to not be reborn in the lower realms, to not have fear and all that.

So, each time we take the animals around there are all these benefits. It’s most amazing, most amazing. We can’t imagine the temporary and ultimate happiness. There are unimaginable, unimaginable causes to achieve the whole path to enlightenment. It also helps us to achieve full enlightenment, liberation from samsara, the happiness of future lives and the happiness of this life. Detachment from this life’s happiness comes by the way, without any expectation of that. When we’re helping them, they’re also helping to bring us to enlightenment.

Generate a bodhicitta motivation and take them around, chanting mantras. With our speech, loudly recite mantras and prayers.

The second way to benefit animals is for people to do mantras, such as the five powerful mantras to purify negative karma, and to blow over water in buckets. The water can be sprinkled on birds, and put on fish, chickens and worms. This purifies their negative karma and they get a higher rebirth. This water can be put on everybody. After blowing on the water, it can be sprinkled even on the heads of human beings.

The third way to help the cats and other animals is to chant mantras loudly in the ears of those who can hear. It helps to leave imprints for them to achieve realizations of the path to enlightenment.

These three methods I’m telling you about are for the cats, but you can also buy animals like chickens from the place where they are going to be killed, then liberate them, free them. Big animals need to be looked after or given to somebody to look after. Chickens eat worms and other sentient beings, so they need to be kept in a place with flooring where there are no worms, and given grain two or four times a day. If you feed them like that, it’s unbelievably helpful, because then they don’t create negative karma. Otherwise, they eat many worms. Sheep and goats don’t eat other animals.

If you make something like a stupa at your house, it’s easy and it helps the whole family to collect merit by doing circumambulations. Your friends and neighbours can also go around it, so it helps very much. You can also do your commitments and prayers going around the stupa, so there is no danger of feeling sleepy. You can purify negative karma, the cause of suffering and so on. With your speech, you can recite the Thirty-five Buddhas’ practice or mantras such as the Vajrasattva mantra. You can purify many, many eons of negative karma, obstacles to enlightenment and to liberation from samsara. Going around the stupa will be of unbelievable benefit to your whole family and to outside people, even non-believers.

For animals such as dogs, cats and birds, you can bless their water before giving it to them, praying for them to purify the negative karma collected during beginningless rebirths and to create the cause for them to actualize bodhicitta and achieve liberation and enlightenment as quickly as possible. From that drink, they will get all that benefit. It is the same with food, recite mantras and blow on the food, then each time it becomes purification for them. So that’s one very, very good thing to do.

These holy objects help other sentient beings easily purify inconceivable negative karma and create the causes of happiness, merit and extensive happiness, which definitely brings them to enlightenment quickly. They create extensive merit, allowing them quickly to realize the path, so it also helps them to improve their life very quickly; from a very difficult life with many problems—business problems, relationship problems and many other things—to an easy life, having perfect enjoyments, external and inner prosperity at the same time, realizations of the path and a very happy, peaceful and inspiring death.

Holy objects have unbelievable power from which we collect limitless skies of merit and achieve all happiness—all the temporal samsaric pleasures and ultimate happiness: liberation and enlightenment. Even if we don’t know or cannot teach Dharma, if we build these holy objects then not only in this life but after this life, wherever we are in the six realms, for however many years these holy objects last, every day they liberate sentient beings from the lower realms and samsara, by planting the seeds of liberation and enlightenment and purifying their minds, helping them to create merit.

Peace and happiness for ourselves and the world are not independent. They do not exist from their own side; they are dependant arising, depending on causes and conditions. The causes are the great virtuous thoughts of non-ignorance, non-anger, non-attachment, the good heart, compassion, loving kindness, non-self-centered mind and so forth. Actions motivated by these pure attitudes become virtuous and the cause of happiness. Holy objects such as statues, stupas and the scriptures of the Buddha become a support for that condition; for peace and happiness for ourselves, for others and the world.

Generally for an action to become virtuous and the cause of happiness, the activity needs to be motivated by a virtuous mind, unstained by ignorance, anger or attachment. Only then does the action become virtuous. So, first we need to put a lot of effort into making our attitude pure, so that the actions of daily life such as working, eating, sitting, walking, sleeping and so forth become virtuous.

With holy objects such as statues, stupas and scriptures, we do not have to have a mind unstained by anger, ignorance or attachment to create merit. For human beings or even animals, simply seeing the holy object becomes the cause to achieve inconceivable awakening and enlightenment, by purifying so many defilements. The special advantage is that just by their existence these holy objects make it easy for us ordinary living beings to create merit.

It is explained by Buddha in the Sutra of the Mudra of Developing the Power of Devotion:

The minute you see a holy object you create infinite merits,
So no question, if you actually make prostrations,
Offerings and so forth, you create far greater merit.

In the White Lotus Sutra it says:

Even just making one sound, or a cymbal offering
Even just offering one single flower
To the form of one who has gone to bliss (buddha) on a stone wall,
Even if they make the offering with an angry attitude
Those living beings will gradually see ten million buddhas.

Anyone who puts their palms together completely,
Or with one palm or just one time bows down in respect
To a stupa which contains relics, even with a distracted mind (without virtue)
Verbally saying “I prostrate to the Buddha” just one or a few times –
All those beings will achieve supreme enlightenment.

The infinite benefits of seeing, circumambulating and making offerings to holy objects even with an impure attitude of total non-virtue are explained in the texts. Holy objects such as the Jade Buddha and the Great Stupa [projects based in Bendigo, Australia] simply existing in the world make it unbelievably easy for us sentient beings in this world now and those from other universes who will be born in this world, to purify the obstacles to happiness, peace and realizations on the path, and to achieve liberation and enlightenment. These holy objects make it so easy for us to create the causal merit. Only then can we change the distracted negative emotional thoughts, the ignorant nature of the mind that harms us and the world.

By having a happy, contented and satisfied mind we are able to develop wisdom to eliminate suffering for ourselves and others. By having a happy, peaceful mind, patience and a loving heart towards everyone, we stop harming ourselves and others, and we are able to only benefit everyone, bringing peace, happiness and compassion, the whole path to enlightenment. We are able to do perfect works to liberate and enlighten numberless other beings, who are devoid of happiness and who are constantly suffering.

We should keep one stupa like this in our home for our pets’ and other people’s happiness, to make life more meaningful, more beneficial for the animals. Many people are making tsa-tsas, so you can ask them for tsa-tsas and also make tsa-tsas yourself at your house.

Explain this to other people, particularly those who like to benefit animals. At the Aptos house and in Washington when liberating animals, we buy worms from shops that sell them to fishermen. The worms are then put in the ground, where they go underground. There would be more suffering if animals there in the ground might eat them.

For people and animals, we can chant the Maitreya Buddha mantra loudly, so that the animals can hear it. Then they don’t get reborn in the lower realms, but are born in a higher realm. They also become the first disciples of Maitreya Buddha and receive teachings and prediction of their enlightenment at that time. They are also born as wheel-turning kings one thousand times, and they are able to practice morality.

The Medicine Buddha mantra makes them not be reborn in the lower realms. Recite it loudly, so that the animals can hear.

The Stainless Lotus Pinnacle mantra is also good to recite. A fully ordained monk who has broken all four root vows and been reborn in the lower realms will be immediately liberated from the lower realms and get a higher rebirth. It’s also good for healing sickness.

You can also recite the Namgyalma mantra—the short one, if not the long one, a few times.

Also recite the mantra of the Celestial Mansion, Extremely Secret, Bringing Supreme Success. The minute the animals hear this mantra they collect unbelievable merit, more merit than offering galaxies filled with jewels to the buddhas.

The ushnisha mantra (Stainless Pinnacle) purifies the five very heavy negative karmas (having killed one’s father, mother or an arhat, caused disunity among the Sangha or drawn blood from a buddha), which cause us to be reborn without interruption of another life in the lowest hell, Inexhaustible Suffering, which has the heaviest suffering of samsara. The negative karmas of not only this life, but past lives get purified. So there’s no doubt that the ten nonvirtues get purified.

Stainless Pinnacle Heart Mantra - Tsug tor dri me nying po

OM NAMA STRAIYA DHVIKANAM / SARVA TATHAGATA HRIDAYA GARBHE JVALA JVALA / DHARMADHATU GARBHE/ SAMBHARA MAMA AYUH SAMSHODHAYA MAMA SARVA PAPAM SARVA TATHAGATA SAMANTOSHNISHA VIMALE VISHUDDHE / HUM HUM HUM HUM / AM BAM SAM JAH SVAHA

This is a most powerful mantra for blessings and consecrations. In the Kangyur it says that without chanting this mantra, a consecration is not really powerful. Seeing this mantra on a big rock or a tree that people go around, if this mantra is chanted for the consecration, numberless buddhas absorb into it and the people who go around collect merits.

That’s it. Normally you can recite these few mantras, besides those in the book. Try to remember the mantras, learn them by heart, then you can chant them for people who are sick or dying and for people who are not sick. There’s unbelievable benefit from reciting these mantras, as well as for animals, as I mentioned before.

For animals it’s also good to recite:

Buddha’s name mantra – Protecting from the three lower realms

CHOM DÄN DÄ DE ZHIN SHEG PA DRA CHOM PA YANG DAG PAR DZOG PÄI SAN GYÄ RINCHHEN TSUG TOR CHEN LA CHHAG TSHÄL LO

[TO THE DESTROYER QUALIFIED GONE BEYOND, GONE AS IT IS, FOE DESTROYER PERFECT AND COMPLETE BUDDHA WITH THE JEWEL PINNACLE I PROSTRATE]

If you recite this mantra, the animals you do it for won’t be reborn in the lower realms. You can also recite this mantra in the ear of human beings who are dying, then they won’t get reborn in the lower realms. Recite it a few times, then practice whatever other method you have to help.

With much love and prayer...