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Animals are completely sentient beings. All animals possess Buddha nature.
A human can be reborn as an animal, and an animal as a human. Therefore, animals have been our mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, children, or friends in past rebirths.
Animals suffer so much at our hands. Some Buddhists believe, then, that an animal is an unhappy rebirth. But I see great dignity and honor in animals; many times - in fact, most often - more so than in humans.
There are of course, ways of twisting out of this: animals struggle for habitation, food, and safety. They live short, often brutal lives. But they do so almost exclusively at the hands of humans; this does not dictate their place in Samsara. Things could be different, if humans understood and practiced compassion.
Lots of animals move through our gardens. Rabbits, deer, chipmunks, squirrels, birds, possum, and red fox. And lovely insects of all kinds. We even have a black bear who visits regularly to raid our garbage.
Then there are the dogs. Lots of dogs have been born into my life, and then, too soon, died. When my beautiful Daisy Sage died on July 7, 2014, my heart bled out. But this rebirth of hers had great meaning; she was here with a profound purpose. And now, she has moved on to a new rebirth. From the life she lived here next to me, there is no doubt that her next rebirth was or will be an auspicious one.
Now, there’s Lily Dawa. She’s a little tyrant, with a strong will of own. But Lily is as enlightened as any animal.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the release of animals from captivity as a declaration of their integrity and an act of compassion is called ‘Tsethar’. I have encouraged my husband to practice Tsethar when he fishes, and now, he returns the fish he caught to the water. And he has not gone deer hunting once since we married. His mind state is improving!
This morning, I discovered that Lily Dawa had gone into my purse sometime during the night, taken out a new, pretty pink lip gloss, and ate it (see the photo above). It was pretty hilarious. And a lesson in patience and love. This lovely little bodhisattva is teaching me about compassion. I’m teaching her what God is.
God is love.
God is compassion.
God is joy.
God is equanimity.
More news – last night, my husband and I tilled and planted a 30-foot-long cutting garden, our first. This is strictly for cut flowers for the altar and for our parents and friends. We planted a riot of colorful seeds – forget-me-not, sunflower, cosmos, moonflower, zinnia, marigold, baby’s breath, red poppy, borage, and a wide variety of wildflowers, to name a few. I also threw in some herb seeds. Herbs make a fragrant addition to bouquets.
And on a last note, a friend and I are embarking on a juice fast together, starting in a few days. This will be her first fasting experience. I am excited for what she will gain from it. And I’m looking forward to this latest body/mind/spirit cleansing myself.