This thinking just came to me the other day. Buddhists in many countries often have the wonderful practice of buying animals to be killed and releasing them. There are some considerations to make sure one does this practice properly:
1. The animals must have good conditions of transport so that they will not die along the way to be liberated. The containers should not be crammed, should have good supply of oxygen and well aerated; and the distance should preferably not be too far to minimise their sufferings.
2. A good spot for liberating the animals must be found ahead of time and analysed to be suitable before proceeding with release. For eg, fresh water fishes should be released in fresh-water lakes and not into the sea. Whether frogs, worms etc will be quickly finished off by their natural predators where you release them should be considered. Don’t release fishes into a fishing pool etc. etc. etc. One has to utilise quite a bit of common sense. Another tip is that one should release fishes into the water during a cool time of the day, not when the weather is extremely hot. The sudden change in temperature can cause alot of sufferings. The main point to consider here is whether the animals can reasonably survive after the release and whether it seriously upsets the ecosystem. For these points to be carried out, some serious research and consultation with animal experts should be done. I have found fishing-forums to be a good source of information 🙂
3. The animals should preferably not be ordered ahead of time. The point is to liberate beings from the point of death, not to give the suppliers good business. If you order ahead of time, then the suppliers are just going to order more animals first to have brisker business. The best scenario is to release animals that are on the BRINK of being killed. That would truly be a gift of fearlessness. We can simply turn up at the market to buy animals unannounced in advance.
4. Put alot of emphasis on the giving of dharma, with loudspeakers preferably so that the sound of dharma can reach as many of the animals as possible. Recite many liberating mantras like the Mani, Akshobhya, Medicine Buddha, Heart sutra, 35 Buddhas sutra, Vairochana, Ah Ah Sha Sa Ma Ha and Amitayus mantra and Dharanis. Also recite Buddha names and offer these animals to the protection and guidance of the Triple Gem according to whichever liturgy you are following. The giving of dharma benefits them not just temporally but for lives to come so it is the main point of emphasis. But not to make the recitation too long that the animals can barely survive.
(Note: Some animals don’t have auditory organs or can’t receive the sounds of our chanting, therefore, another way would be to use blessed water – recite mantras and blow on the water with visualisation of light rays and nectar imbuing the water with blessings. Add sacred Dharma pills or substances, then sprinkle it on these animals and into the lakes and sea to benefit countless beings. Mantras like Akshobhya mantra, mantra of 6 liberations, Vajrasattva, Mani mantra etc can be utilised.)
5. One can also give them some food as they are probably not fed in their captivity and lack the strength to seek for food.
Coming back to the main thing i want to say, although releasing animals in this traditional way is highly recommended by many teachers but we have many other ways to give others the gift of fearlessness and save lives. For example, in another post, i gave the link for a teaching for suicidal people by Khenpo Choga. This is a good instance of saving lives. There is a high incidence of suicide in most modern societies and depression etc. If we can spread such messages and help those people who particularly need such positive counselling and teachings, then simply by changing their minds, one saves lives too.
Another way of saving lives that i can think of is by making many prayers and dedications of merit for the stopping of animal sacrifice as a spiritual practice which is done today in some parts of the world, in which up to millions of animals are slaughtered on a particular day. If many of us try to dedicate merit and pray for this purpose, creating the causes for this negative practice to cease, then who is to say that it will not be gradually overcome through the power of cause-and-effect. You can simply pray in this way: “By all the merit accumulated by myself, all sentient beings and all enlightened beings, may all the animal sacrifice practices in this world cease, may people turn their mind away from such a practice, may those groups of people who are supporting and encouraging such practice lose their power to do so or stop doing so.” We should also do such prayers for wars, conflicts, violence of any kind and that would really be saving lives in the long run. The power of all our combined prayers will definitely have an effect.
Of course, last but not least, one of the ways to save many lives is to become vegetarian and to encourage others to become vegetarian, whether part-time or full-time. One can just estimate how many lives have to be killed over the average lifetime of one human being to support his meat diet to see just how many lives would be saved by even one conversion to vegetarianism.
I am writing all these to give anyone an idea of the many avenues we have to save lives and thereby perform lives liberation as a Buddhist practice. It need not be limited to buying animals only. I believe that the merit arising from such acts with pure intents will be tremendous.