Welcome to Mangala Shri Bhuti’s Dharma Blog
Welcome to Mangala Shri Bhuti’s Dharma Blog, where we explore the dharma, which we have been fortunate to come into contact with. In a word, what is “dharma”? We can say it is the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. We can also say dharma represents certain truths or “the facts of life”. But most essentially, we’ve found that dharma comes to mean an awakening of our own active intelligence about the causes of suffering and happiness. This process is ignited by the teachings we hear and catalyzed further by our contemplation and practice. Join us in appreciating and deepening our understanding of dharma through these excerpts by Mangala Shri Bhuti’s teachers and senior students.
These comments were made by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche prior to releasing crabs and mussels back to their native habitat in San Salvador, Brazil. The MSB sangha regularly sponsors these events by collecting funds, and purchasing animals to liberate. These formal events occur regularly at Guna Norling, our center in Brazil, as well as through our northeastern U.S. center, Pema Osel Do Ngak Choling, in Vermont. Several times each year, groups from these centers travel to the ocean to release crabs, lobsters, and other sea creatures that were destined for slaughter. The “ransom and liberation” of animals is a traditional Buddhist practice—often at markets in Tibet or other locations with live animals for sale. Of course, such practice may also be accomplished less formally by individuals, for instance with trapped or drowning insects, earthworms, and other sentient beings. The Buddhist practice of “life release,” is called “tsetar” in Tibetan. To participate, or read more about these events, please click here.
It is very clear that everyone cherishes their life on earth. Everyone cherishes their life through the dual experiences we all have of pain and pleasure. While we are always strongly opposed to pain, and we shy away from it, we are drawn to pleasure or comfort and always try to achieve and grasp as much of it as we can. So from that standpoint, all sentient lives are alike. Releasing the lives of any beings back to their natural habitat for the time being, in order for them to have a natural life-and-death cycle, gives them great relief from their pain, and is a great practice to provide them the relative safety of their natural cycle of life.
What is very significant to me about the life release practice is that it really responds to that call to do something for another being whose life is in grave danger. It’s not that we could always do something, but when we can do something to release them from pain, it is really the starting point of all religion and of the practice of our humanity.
I also feel that, as Chandrakirti has said, ”This is the beginning of the movement of the human spirit to become less ignorant and more awakened.” Of course there is a lot of merit as well, and we want to dedicate the merit, and do mantras so that we have an even bigger impact on the lives of these crabs and mussels so they never have to return back to that state of pain. They can have higher and higher births and go from light to light, with the grace of the bodhisattvas and through the power of aspiration, and the power of the mantras.
So in this way whatever little trouble we may endure, or whatever little resources we are able to spare on behalf of the life release, we can provide a tremendous amount of direct and immediate benefit to the lives of others. And there really is no greater practice, or practice of generosity. You can immediately feel the sense of joy and satisfaction, without having to wait for the result sometime in the future, or think about what might happen.
I specifically want to thank the people here at Guna Norling, and everyone in general who has contributed to this practice, as well as all the Lamas who are here today. Guna Norling has been serving the cause of humanity through this practice with contributions from people all over the world. I rejoice in their efforts, which exemplify the core aspect of Mahayana Buddhism.
We are going to be releasing some thousands of crabs. If we hadn’t made any connections with these crabs and were not able to come and save them today, their fate would be to be boiled alive. Just think about how painful it is when even a small spark lands on your skin. It is from that stance that we can imagine how much pain they would have to endure. It is not as though they will be completely free from pain, considering the way they must live. But at least they are not to have this level of pain inflicted from outside in this lifetime. And that is such a great thing to rejoice in.
These crabs are very intelligent, actually. Many people think that sea creatures, and particularly the crabs and lobsters, are much like vegetables. But it really is not so; they have all five skandhas (Buddhist: the five ‘aggregates’ of individual existence): they obviously have form, they have feelings for sure, and they also have perception or conception, along with mental formations, and consciousness. When we say “consciousness,” they have sensory experience for sure, and along with this sensory awareness, when we come close to the water they try to crawl out of the bucket or out of the sack and try to get into the water as quickly as possible. So you could see that in this respect they have a very sharp sense of critical thinking and thought process, in responding to their immediate experiences—whether it is pain or pleasure—by withdrawing from the pain and moving closer or as near as possible to their comfort and joy, and relief of their pain.
So they definitely have a self that is responding in this way. They also have the karma which they have engaged and which they are enduring now, so in that way also they really are no different from any of us human beings, or anyone on the planet. When we are able to acquaint ourselves with others like this, we just really see how there is no difference between ourselves and others. That is truly the starting point of development of the spiritual path, and being able to change the direction of all the lifetimes of being ignorant or desensitizing ourselves from acknowledging that, and instead start to sensitize ourselves to the pain and pleasures of others. This is what I find to be the very true practice of all religion, and particularly the wisdom of the Buddhadharma that the Buddha has tried to convey to his followers.
The kind of feeling we have when we put ourselves in their shoes and imagine what their experience would be; when we feel an unbearable sense of shivering fear, and the pain of their status—that is really the experience of so-called compassion. For all of us who have some connection to the Buddhadharma, who have some hearing wisdom through the Buddhadharma, and who can now respond to the lives of others in this way, it is truly our great fortune of this life. Hopefully this understanding increases as well, and this knowledge increases to become much more a core part of our being. In the lifetimes to come this will protect us from falling down, and will bring us higher and higher toward the state of enlightenment. That is what I find to be the real power of the ‘hearing wisdom.’