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Posts Tagged "enlightenment for the dear animals"
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By Tania Duratovic and Phil Hunt
Animal liberation has been recommended to FPMT students as a practice for removing obstacles for Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s long life. With animal liberation, special care needs to be taken since the practice involves direct contact with living beings. Mandala has asked experienced animal liberation practitioners Tania Duratovic and Phil Hunt to share some of their practical knowledge of animal blessing and liberation practices.
Just what is the difference between animal liberation and an animal blessing? In the Buddhist sense, animal liberation is rescuing animals from impending death and then giving them Dharma by undertaking certain Buddhist practices including circumambulation and mantra recitation. It is usually done as a practice for long life and removing life obstacles, the merits being dedicated to someone else with specific obstacles, as well as to all living beings. An animal blessing, on the other hand, will include the same practices of circumambulation and mantra recitation but the animal involved has not necessarily been recently rescued from death, like someone’s pet.
Whichever activity you are undertaking, liberation or blessing, such Buddhist practices to help animals have many benefits. They help the animals, the people doing the practices and those for whom the practices are dedicated. However, there are also risks and with that comes responsibilities.
Of utmost importance is the care of those living beings by practitioners whether temporarily, prior to release into the wild, or long term as pets or at a sanctuary. While Buddhists believe the karmic benefit of doing these practices will be ongoing and perhaps have a greater effect in future lives, the welfare of the animals in this life is also critical. Animals should be handled and cared for as the “kind mother sentient beings” we are taught that they are, and as the fragile living creatures that share our planet and suffer physically, mentally and emotionally. (more…)
World Animal Day was celebrated across the globe on October 4, 2013. At Chandrakirti Meditation Centre in New Zealand, Geshe Tharchin and students visited the Nelson SPCA and blessed all the animals (which made the front page of the local paper!), as well as blessing the beings in the ocean. The students pledged to be vegetarian for the day and the center screened 108 Yaks in the evening.
In Bangalore, India, Choe Khor Sum Ling also screened 108 Yaks, visited a local animal shelter and made donations for the animals.
A student in Germany committed to go vegetarian for October with the hope to make it last longer.
At Vajrayana Institute, Australia, students brought their pets and resident teacher Geshe Samten lead the animal blessing and many circumambulations of the stupa.
Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.
TAKING CARE OF OTHERS: Animal Liberation
By Phil Hunt
It has been a busy time for the Animal Liberation Sanctuary since September 2011, with improvements implemented to the care of the animals as well as finalizing plans for construction on the new land a short walk from Kopan Monastery.
In December 2011, a temporary road was built out to the new land and construction of the outer wall began. The building of the caretaker’s house followed, and then the main animal shelter.
Rinpoche visited the land in February and was happy with the progress and pleased that the long-awaited sanctuary would soon be up and running. The goats and sheep, rescued by Rinpoche from butchers in Nepal and India, will be happy for the move as their temporary accommodation at Kopan Monastery and Nunnery is reaching its limit.
TAKING CARE OF OTHERS
By Tania Duratovic
The start of 2011 saw the Australian state of Queensland experience some of the worst flooding in history, resulting in three-quarters of the state, an area the size of France and Germany combined, being declared a disaster zone. Stretching from remote farming communities to the state’s capital, Brisbane, the floods killed 35 people and affected the lives of more than 200,000. The hidden toll, as in many disasters, however, was the thousands of injured, orphaned and deceased animals.
I was asked by an international animal welfare organization to head to Queensland to lead a veterinary and rescue team to help surviving wildlife, companion animals and farm animals. Although Brisbane was badly affected, I had decided to head to the country where I knew that help would be thinly spread and, in relation to wildlife, virtually non-existent. Finding willing and competent veterinarians to treat wildlife, particularly in the country, is very difficult. Over the next week, we worked on the ground with local animal carers treating a variety of species ranging from birds of prey to koalas to horses to various reptiles.
While driving around, the damage from the water was clearly evident: brown grass and debris clinging to fence lines, flooded paddocks with ruined crops, washed away roads, scoured-out creeks, destroyed bits of furniture and household goods piled up on roadsides. In some parts the road was too muddy and steep to pass, even in our well-equipped 4WD.
Buddhism and Animal Rescue
Our work in Queensland focused largely on wildlife, a specialist area and one in which hardly anyone does anything during disasters. As a Buddhist, rescuing creatures in a disaster is a real challenge. There are so many creatures you know have died, so many you see that are injured, and many you know will die. But how do you help them? Quietly and secretly, is how I do it. Here, I am referring to giving them Dharma, not medical treatment, although doing that quietly is also advised!
Tara the Koala
Take, for example, Tara (yes, I named her!), a koala we rescued. She was found sitting on the roadside making no attempt to get away, a good indication that something was badly wrong. She was old, had a fracture to one of her wrists and was suffering from malnutrition. She also could not see well and was probably blind. Our immediate concern was to give her some pain relief and to get some fluids and food into her. I was also desperately trying to figure out a way to keep her alive beyond our time with her.
In Australia, when a wild animal is discovered to be blind, it often means a death sentence imposed by the authorities. Because Tara was one of these animals, if she had stumbled into the hands of one of the local vets, I am sure she would have been killed.
Generally, when I work in disasters I work with others who are usually non-Buddhists. As I do this in a professional capacity, I have to behave “professionally.” Having me loudly reciting mantras and prayers at animals and bopping them on the head with holy objects does not look good when a major aim is to keep things calm and quiet. And the topic of euthanasia is always high on the agenda: many animals brought into care are simply killed, and not always because they have no chance of survival, but because it’s cheap, easy and the problem is quickly over.
Luckily, we found Tara a home and arranged to build her an aviary hidden up in the hills [of the property] of a wildlife rehabilitator so she would not be visible to people. All week I would steal some time alone with Tara and say mantras to her and bop her with a little consecrated Buddha statue I carry. I sprayed blessed water onto her eucalyptus leaves, of which koalas eat a lot. I would do the same with all the animals that we came across.
I have found that this is the simplest and most meaningful thing you can do for animals during a disaster. Sadly, Tara died not too long after we left (by then I was up in far north Queensland dealing with the result of cyclone Yasi and more animal victims). But I am happy she came my way as I was able to give her some Dharma, such a precious gift. Tara was actually one of the fortunate ones. Had she had her life cut short with a needle at some veterinary clinic or died quietly at a wildlife shelter, she would probably again be reborn to suffering in the lower realms. Thanks to the kindness of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and all his advice on how to benefit animals, she now will definitely reach enlightenment.
What to Do in a Disaster
Over and over again we hear about the tragedy of people losing their pets in a disaster. If a disaster is approaching, please remember the animals. There are things you can do to help them even if you have no veterinary skills and particularly if you keep animals yourself. Make sure you have a disaster plan which includes your animals.
Some things you should consider beforehand include:
- Getting a rescue alert sticker. This sticker, when placed somewhere visible like your front window lets rescue workers know what species and number of animals you have.
- Arranging a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation prior to it occurring. Call your local veterinarian, shelters, friends, family, etc.
- Keep a clearly labeled pet emergency supply kit handy. It should include a blanket (to wrap a fearful pet); an extra leash or harness; about a week’s supply of pet food and water; disposable litter trays and litter; recent photos (in case you are separated and need to make “lost” posters); photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires; blessed water; a copy of the mantras beneficial to animals; and Recitations for Animals, a CD by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
- Store your emergency kit close to an exit in your home along with a labled pet carrier.
- Ensure your pet is wearing proper identification. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number, and any urgent medical needs. Better still, get your pet microchipped in addition to tags (which can come off easily during a crisis).
- Keep up-to-date vaccinations and veterinary records (many shelters will not accept unvaccinated animals).
- Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm, disaster, or fear-producing event (this includes fireworks celebrations). Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home during a crisis.
- Find out which local hotels and motels allow pets and where pet boarding facilities are located. Be sure to research some outside your local area in case local facilities close.
The floods in Australia were a terrible tragedy. While the media focused on the few human deaths and huge economic cost, very little was said about the huge loss to animals, particularly wildlife. With climate change well and truly upon us, the number of animal victims will only increase proportionally with the occurrence of disasters such as floods. While not all of us can rush out and physically rescue animals, we can at least say prayers and follow the advice for disasters given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche. And in relation to our own animals, be prepared. Most importantly, however, is to make sure your animals receive lots of Dharma imprints before there is any obvious risk to their lives.
For more information, please visit Enlightenment for the Dear Animals.
TAKING CARE OF OTHERS: ANIMAL LIBERATION
By Phil Hunt and Tania Duratovic
Whether you attend Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teachings in person or read his words, you will often find him talking of the suffering of the animal realm. When you reflect on animals’ suffering, it should bring about a wish not to be born in a similar situation. In studying karma, the law of cause and effect, we can learn what actions can lead us to such miserable existences and how to avoid creating them. We can also learn what practices to do to purify the causes that we have already accumulated. Rinpoche tells us that as humans we have such an unbelievable opportunity to create the causes of happiness and purify the causes of suffering.
What about animals? How easy is it for them to do this? Rinpoche says that even if you explain the idea of cause and effect to a dog for a zillion years, as an animal he still won’t understand, whereas as humans we can grasp the idea in an instant. We all have buddha-nature and the potential to reach enlightenment, but beings in the lower realms are continually creating negative karma.
If we consider that fellow sentient beings, our kind mothers from past lives, are trapped in the animal realm, compassion may arise. When we really investigate their situation, the wish to do something naturally becomes stronger.
“In your early meditations on compassion, take as your object a sheep being slaughtered by a butcher; you will easily and quickly develop compassion. You must contemplate the way the sheep dies, the sadistic way it is killed, and how it dies in a state of unbearable agony and terror. The sheep is turned up-side-down and laid on its back. Its legs are tied together with rope. It can tell its life is threatened, but it is helpless, cannot escape, and has no protector or refuge to turn to. Its eyes are full of tears and it stares into the butcher’s face.” (Pabongka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand).
What can we do? There are three things: 1) do your best not to contribute to the harm that befalls animals; 2) give them protection; and 3) give them Dharma. The first can be achieved by examining your own life and seeing how it may adversely affect animals (including insects). Which beings live with you or around you, and how does your lifestyle affect their daily struggle for survival? What do you eat and use that may involve the killing and suffering of animals? Becoming vegetarian or vegan can greatly reduce your financial and social support of harmful practices. Just think, some of the cosmetics that you use, even shampoo, may have come from a company that used outdated animal testing in its production. Rabbits locked in racks have various products poured onto their eyes to determine how bad a reaction there is and what is an acceptable irritant level. Just think, if you buy a product that says “not tested on animals,” you are directly, and with market force, supporting the reduction in harm to animals.
Just think, if you buy chicken you are supporting an industry that kills 9 billion chickens in the United States alone every year. The vast majority are kept in terrible conditions to ensure high production. Just think, if you give up eating meat, you are directly, and with market force, supporting the reduction in harm to animals.
The second thing we can do to benefit animals involves directly protecting animals that are at risk from harm: animals rescued from being euthansized, insects caught in puddles, animals about to go to slaughter, injured wildlife on the side of the road. You can also do this by helping those who are primary carers of animals in need of financial support to provide shelter, food, medicine and veterinary care.
The third, giving Dharma, is sometimes the easiest but also the most important. Stopping to blow a mantra on an insect, reciting a sutra to the birds in your backyard, playing a Dharma CD to your pets while you are out, And, of course, circumambulating them around holy objects are all excellent was of contributing to an animal’s happiness. .
How many of us are around animals including insects and never think to give them Dharma? Or perhaps we say a few mantras now and then, but don’t consider circumambulating them. How often do we really investigate the opportunities that we have to help these beings who are trapped in the lower realms, with so few opportunities to create merit and the causes for higher rebirth and enlightenment? If we don’t take these small opportunities, how much longer will that being have to wait for the causes and conditions to come about for greater happiness?
Enlightenment for the Dear Animals promotes World Animal Day (October 4) as a day for FPMT students to take extra time to think about and do practices to help beings in the animal realm.
This year, several groups came together at different places to practice for the benefit of animals. In San Jose, California, Gyalwa Gyatso Buddhist Center, Geshe Wangdu visited and gave a teaching on the plight of the animal realm and the benefits of practicing compassion. He then led everyone in chanting the Chenrezig mantra. “We came away with a renewed appreciation for the suffering of being reborn in a body with such a limited capacity to accumulate merit and practice the Dharma,” said one student.
MAITRI Charitable Trust in India did a huge animal blessing, with dogs, goats and chickens receiving extra imprints for enlightenment. Jamyang Centre in London organized a day for students and visitors to reflect more deeply about animals while students at Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, Perth, Australia did the Chenrezig sadhana and recited mantras.
In Australia, one group of prisoners (from Area 2 and 3 of Long Bay Correctional Centre) did Chenrezig practice and dedicated the merits to the animals. Anna Carmody, who led the practice says that “several of the prisoners took the practice away with them offering to continue in their cells.” Also in Australia, Vajrayana Institute did an animal blessing with many pets and people circumambulating their big stupa.
Enlightenment for the Dear Animals traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania and the following weekend to Ljubljana, Slovenia to help Buddhist study groups conduct their first ever animal blessing day. People came to listen to a talk on how they can reduce harm to animals and bring them the benefit of Dharma. With strong faith they circumambulated with their animals while reciting prayers and mantras around many holy objects including relics and holy objects donated by many lamas. Later, animals at Farm Sanctuary, California, were bopped on the head with a special statue, and many mantras were recited for those animals that have escaped the horror of US agribusiness.
Many people also did mantras and practices at home. One student wrote saying, “We shall say om mani padme hum with our goldfish, guinea pigs and chooks all weekend for the benefit of all sentient beings.” Another ventured into her local bushland saying mantras to the wildlife: “The bushland near where I live is full of wildlife, so I am sure there was lots of benefit for them.” One student reported doing mantras for all the animals in the oceans while he flew over the Pacific.
Enlightenment for the Dear Animals also supports activities where animals are directly rescued from harm such as the animals at the Animal Liberation Sanctuary, Nepal, the many animals at MAITRI, India, the companion animals at Metta Cats, Singapore, and the dogs in Dharamsala treated by Tibet Charity. We also hope to aid in the treatment of the many dogs at Sera Monastery in South India. With your support, we can grow to help even more animals and people. Please visit our Enlightenment for the Dear Animals for more information. And remember, buddha-nature is the same in all living beings, only the form is different.
This section of Mandala, Animal Liberation, features stories of your work to eliminate suffering for all sentient beings.
Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tania Duratovic
February 7, 2009 will forever be known in the minds of most Australians as “Black Saturday.” This was the day deadly bushfires roared through several communities in Victoria about one hour north-east of Melbourne. The fires raged out of control for weeks. Tragically, 173 people lost their lives and 414 were injured. Close to 1,100,000 acres (450,000 hectares) were burnt and over 3,500 structures were destroyed with thousands more damaged.
We don’t find adequate statistics on the millions of animals in the fire’s path that were killed or subsequently died as a result of injuries.
My former employer deployed me to lead a team to help with the rescue and treatment of both domestic and wild animals who had suffered terror and burns ranging in scope from moderate to severe; accidental injuries such as collision with fences, trees, etc. while trying to flee; dehydration; starvation; heat related stress; environmental exposure; loss of habitat; separation from peers and human caregivers; motor vehicle accidents; being orphaned or some disability resulting from the fire.
We set up our treatment site at the main staging area for the Kinglake-Murrindi fire complex, the largest of the many fires burning and the region where 159 of the 173 lives were lost. We were the only non-government animal rescuers allowed into the fire area. Even residents were not allowed in.
Upon arrival, we passed the police checkpoints and entered the burnt area. As it had only been two days since the main fire had passed through, the visual impact was immediate. It has been said that the amount of energy released during the firestorm in the Kinglake area was equivalent to the amount of energy released by 1,500 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. The fire had obliterated everything in its path and all that was left in many places were bits of brick and corrugated iron, the only evidence a family once lived there. Yet in other places, the house next door stood unscathed.
We passed cars on the side of the road, some fused together from the heat. We drove by silently, all thinking the same thing. A day or so later, these same cars had teams of police forensic experts swarming over them – people had died in them trying to escape the fire.
What was equally distressing were the bodies of the larger animals such as horses and kangaroos lying scattered across paddocks. Many we saw were not even externally burnt, but had likely died from internal burns caused by heat and smoke. There was so much death all around us.
For the next three weeks I slept on site in a van which I shared with my good friend and veterinarian, Dr. Ralph, who I had asked to join me in the rescue. The two of us were on call 24-hours a day, with most days beginning early in the morning and not stopping until after 1:00 am.
As a Buddhist, the most challenging thing I found was dealing with the death process. If I was in my own at home, it wouldn’t be such a challenge. I would follow the prayers and practices as advised by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, circumambulate the animal around many holy objects, chant lots of mantras loudly and play CDs, give blessed water if possible and so on. This, of course, was not possible in the context of working with non-Buddhists. Yet, it didn’t seem enough to just secretly do visualizations when these animals were dying, dead or being euthanized in front of me. This was such a critical time in the lives of these fellow beings.
We are taught by Lama Zopa Rinpoche that to deliberately stop a living being’s life prematurely without clairvoyance can often simply lead to more suffering for them in the animal realm, or worse. However, most people view euthanasia as the humane thing to do. At the fires, many animals were in the position of being euthanized. Fortunately, my team tries harder than most to keep an animal alive if there is a possibility of survival and rehabilitation. But at other times, the decision is made to not keep the animal alive. This scenario can be a huge dilemma for a Buddhist with vows.
A local resident had seen a large male kangaroo moving slowly around her property for a few days. A kangaroo moving slowly is not a healthy sign. With some careful planning, we managed to catch the ‘roo, and in what looked like typical Steve Irwin fashion, several of us held him to the ground while Dr. Ralph sedated him for closer examination.
The kangaroo was badly burnt, his paws covered in maggots (this in itself is not a bad sign as the maggots help keep the wounds clean). The ‘roo would need to be kept in care and the burns on all four paws treated daily, including bandage changes, which are very stressful. We thought long and hard about who would be able to do this. No-one we knew had the facilities to keep such a large animal and be able to treat him daily. He really needed intensive care but there was no-one who could give it. He was clearly in a lot of pain. And so both vets who came out with us agreed that the best course of action was to “put him out of his misery.”
“OK, this is it,” I thought. “He’s about to be killed, his life is about to end. Critical moment. Gotta do something.” As Dr. Ralph sedated him, the president of the wildlife group we were working with and I remained with him. This woman kept stroking him while I was quietly doing prayers and mantras. I didn’t want to be too overt as I was working with peers.
Then I thought, “This is really, really important for this animal. This may be his ONLY chance to get out of the lower realms for eons.” I said to this woman, who fortunately I knew quite well, that I just have to do some Buddhist prayers for the kangaroo that will help in his death. She was quite upset that the ‘roo was going to die and so was happy for me to do the mantras.
I was there saying these mantras in the kangaroo’s ears for several minutes, thinking I would continue until he died. Everyone else by then had backed off. Then Dr. Ralph asked me, “Are you OK?”
Trying to act professionally and not show my distress and desperation at this creature’s impending fate, I replied, “Yes, but he is still breathing, I can feel his pulse. The Lethabarb hasn’t worked yet.”
It turned out that the ‘roo was only given a sedative. There were no drugs at hand to deliver the lethal injection. As he was now heavily sedated, the quickest and most humane method to euthanize him was to shoot him in the head at close range!
I despairingly thought, “I can’t say mantras in his ears while this happens!” I moved back, keeping away from everyone else as I continued with the prayers, etc. The man who delivered the fatal shot was himself almost killed in the fire while trying to rescue his horses – he refused to leave one of them behind. Following the firestorm, he spent all his time searching for injured animals to bring to us to be treated. For him to have to kill an animal was not something he did lightly. I knew he would take his utmost care.
I heard the shot go off, followed by another. I felt like I had been thumped in the heart. Everyone else was by the cars, talking to the resident property owner, distracting her. I waited for the guy who shot him to move far enough away that he couldn’t see me approach the body. As bizarre as it sounds, I really felt that I had to be the first one to touch the body, on the head, and say mantras in his ears. I took a deep breath, dashed up to the animal without looking too closely, bopped him on the head with a blessing cord from Rinpoche (I didn’t have anything else on me at the time) and quickly said some mantras. I ran off before people could see what I was up to.
Throughout the fires there were other similar incidents that I faced. As traumatic as they were, and as helpless as I often felt, I could rejoice in the little fact that because I was there saying even one single mantra, that that would make the difference between eons of suffering in the lower realms and planted the seed of enlightenment, of ultimate happiness. This is actually a very powerful gift, one that each and every one of us can give. Indeed, it is our duty to our fellow sentient beings to share that gift with them.
Tania, an ecologist, zoologist and animal welfare consultant, is co-director and co-founder of Enlightenment for the Dear Animals, an FPMT project that aims to help people benefit animals. The project website will be a resource for students and centers, providing advice, news, and linking projects and people who are helping animals around the world.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche has taught extensively on methods for benefiting sick and dying animals. Liberating Animals (book) and Recitations for Animals (CD) are both available through the FPMT Foundation Store.
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