The Dharma and its Relationship to Animals


I’d love it if you could meet at Chippy! He’s very cute. He is the guinea pig of my youngest son. Chippy isn’t full grown yet. He has a spacious cage and a large plastic igloo as his hiding place and nest. He has his food dish and a large water bottle. My son takes very good care of him. He takes Chippy out several times a day to play with him and pet him. About once a week Chippy gets a treat by being placed in nice warm, very shallow water.

However, he’s a very nervous little guy. See, his kind is originally from South America. They are prey to the plethora of predators there. They have no real self-defense at all. Any loud noise or fast movement causes Chippy to jump and often start squealing in fright.

Chippy is also very scared to be without water. Every three hours or so, Chippy starts really squealing loudly because he is afraid his water will be empty. He screams when my son takes his water bottle to refill it. It must be because he went awhile without water at the pet store. He was in among many other guinea pigs and I am sure it was hard for the employees to get to the water bottle right away when it was empty.

I frequently hold Chippy and pet him gently and recite or sing mantras to him. I want Chippy to have a fortunate rebirth.

We also have three cats, a dog, a cockatiel and a fish (a betta).

What does this have to do with the Dharma?

Lord Buddha taught that one can be reborn into one of six realms, three higher, three lower.

The upper realms are:

* The Heavenly or Deva Realm
* The Asura or Demi-God Realm
* The Human Realm

The lower realms are:

* The Animal Realm
* The Preta or Hungry Ghost Realm
* The Hell Realm

Some of these realms are further subdivided.

Of all these realms, the hardest to obtain, the most auspicious, is the human realm. Why? Because here we have just the right amount of happiness versus suffering to want to and be able to practice and learn the Dharma.

There are afflictive emotions, actions, etc., that when predominating in life, tend to get one reborn into a certain realm. In other words, karma. For the Animal Realm, the main predominant emotion is Ignorance.

Lord Buddha taught kindness to all animals and to never, ever sacrifice an animal.

It’s controversial among Buddhists whether the Buddha taught us to be vegetarians or not. He did tell us not to eat any animal slain just for our consumption. He also taught that certain jobs, like being a butcher, where one actually slaughters the animals, is not in accords with Right Livelihood. Some people cannot physically tolerate a vegetarian diet.

I think the safest thing to say is that perhaps trying to be a vegetarian is best. If not, then perhaps eat as little meat as possible.

Our animals cannot learn the Dharma. They are mainly all instincts. The animals that are prey are in constant fear of predators. The predators are driven to kill by instinct and fear starvation. They are at our mercy as we destroy their habitats, pollute the air, land, and water. Like us, they want to be happy and free from suffering even insects and bugs.

How many humans don’t even think twice before they step on an ant, a spider, swat a fly, etc.?

Why not let them be outside and inside why not try to gently capture them and put them back outside? Even my children do this. It is touching and funny to see my tall, lanky 15 year old son trying to catch a moth and then gently take the moth outside and release it. He does so with all the creepy crawlies we get in the house.

What is more tricky is when our homes are swarmed with ants, cockroaches, mice, etc. This is a good example of why it is so beneficial to have a spiritual teacher we can ask. Of course, there are many things we can do to try and prevent any of this from happening in the first place.

We have a four-year-old tiger-striped tabby cat named Tigger. As hard as we try, we cannot always keep him inside. He waits for an opportunity for a door to open, and he went! Tigger, sadly, is a great hunter. So far he’s killed at least four baby bunnies we know of, plus many baby rats. Tigger doesn’t understand this is not a good thing. However, we’re at least keeping his kills down whereas many would just let him out and not care about his hunting prowess and even praise him for it.

I recite Dharma and chant or recite mantras to Tigger and to all our animals as much as I can.

Our other two cats are happy to stay inside and are not hunters and our dog (German Shepherd) is so kindly and has never killed except perhaps by accident like stepping on an ant with a paw. When we used to have hamsters and they’d escape, our dog would always find them or lead us to them. They were always wet when we picked them up from her licking them. To her, all the animals in our home are part of “the pack” and to be protected. I hope she has a much fortunate rebirth.

Try and be mindful of our friends in the Animal Realm. Be kind, gentle and loving to them. If you’re so inclined bring pets into your home and give them a wonderful life and love them and care for them. If you’re a Buddhist, think of reciting Dharma to them to create positive karma for them. When you dedicate merit, remember you’re including animals too. Stir within yourself the most positive aspirations for them to have an auspicious rebirth.

“Whatever merit I have generated I dedicate to all sentient beings.”

“May all beings be well and happy and free from suffering.”

Much metta!


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