Saving the lives of beings with pure motivation
Given that one’s life - and survival - is the most precious thing to each and every one of us, there is no greater act of compassion than saving a life. It is, in fact, the ultimate act of compassion. Particularly in the Mahayana tradition, cherishing others and focusing on their happiness and well being forms the basis of the practice of nonviolence. For centuries, saving the lives of animals about to be slaughtered has been a thriving tradition and it is continued by a great many practitioners to this present day.
In the Tibetan Buddhist world, one of the greatest Lamas performing the practice of saving lives is Kyabje Chatral Sangey Dorje Rinpoche. With his tireless dedication and immense compassion, he has shown us the way to do this through his example and his teachings. Chhoje Rinpoche found the inspiration for this practice from Kyabje Chatral Rinpoche. We continue to release fish and other animals on a regular basis, saving the lives of beings who would otherwise be condemned to die.
In the case of “fish liberation,” live bait is purchased and then released into a body of water, such as a lake, bay or ocean. During the release, prayers are performed, and the beneficial merit is dedicated for the welfare of all beings. Not only does this purify past harmful actions, but, with compassionate (Bodhicitta) motivation, we include all other beings so that their negative actions will also be purified and all can achieve happiness and enlightenment from the cycle of suffering, samsara.
Rinpoche reminds us that this is a profoundly meaningful activity when done with pure motivation. He states, “The positive merit generated by saving even one life is inconceivable in terms of merit which can lead to temporal happiness and ultimately to enlightenment.” The merit can also be dedicated to someone who has recently lost his or her life, to someone who is ill, or who is encountering great challenges.
Typically, the practice is done on auspicious dates such as the full moon, as the power and impact is multiplied. When someone passes away, however, Rinpoche recommends that beings be liberated as soon as possible, on behalf of that individual so he or she can attain a higher rebirth.
How to participate
We do “fish liberation” ceremonies in California at least once a month. Prayers may be submitted for yourself, on behalf of people who have recently passed away, for those suffering with serious illness or coping with difficult situations. Live bait will then be released during the ceremony on your behalf. Please email us with details of your specific situation and note that donations for buying the fish must be received prior to the release.