We all say we love animals, but just how much do we really “love” animals? To what extend would we go to help an animal? Well H.E. Tsem Rinpoche is one person I’ve actually witnessed showing what it means to love animals. Rinpoche does not just say he loves animals; he transfers that love in to action by feeding strays on the streets, even in the middle of the night.
One day while we were driving with Rinpoche returning to Kechara Forest Retreat in Bentong, we saw some stray dogs rummaging through some rubbish, next thing we know, we were buying bread and feeding them and any stray doggie we see along our journey. From that day on, Rinpoche asked us to make sure all the cars he was travelling in would always be well stocked with dog food, and even fish food. When we are giving food to the strays, or any animal, Rinpoche would always ask us to chant mantras of the Buddha of Compassion-Chenrezig; Om Mani Pedme Hum, Buddha of Wisdom – Manjushri; Om Ara Padsa Na Dhi or Medicine Buddha’s mantra, and to blow them on to the dogs’ food when we were feeding them. This helps to plant seeds of enlightenment in them so it may ripen in their future lives.
So why am I grateful for this and what has it got to do with me? Well for one it made me reflect what it truly means by “I love animals”. It taught me some very precious lessons about caring and giving to someone who could never ever say “thank you” back. Somehow that makes the action of giving all the more rewarding. This is perhaps the best way to practice generosity and kindness because you can’t possibly expect anything back from a stray dog. Hence the act itself becomes virtuous especially if we start with a good motivation to be of benefit to others. What Rinpoche did was showing us what it really means by focusing out and thinking about others – in this case the stray dogs, the animals who are weak and voiceless.
Without Rinpoche’s consistent effort in showing care for animals, I don’t think I would know what it really means to “love” animals, and to transform that in to positive actions. Rinpoche’s simple idea of having dog biscuits available in the car, ready to feed strays have inspired many of us to also start carrying dog biscuits in our cars. From such a simple act of kindness, Rinpoche showed us what it means by caring for others. Doing something for another without expecting anything in return can be liberating, and if only we can transfer this to all aspects of our lives, with everyone, then our world would probably be a better place.
There are many stories about Rinpoche’s simple yet great act of kindness towards animals, and this is one of them that I am so grateful to have the merits to participate in. And like what Rinpoche says, “Helping others is not a duty but a privilege” and it was certainly a privilege. Thank you Rinpoche for these precious life lessons that make my human life a tiny bit more humane.