I love animals to be well taken care of and happy. ~ Tsem Tulku Rinpoche
It’s not common for people to rescue birds; usually dogs or cats get more attention and like most people I’m not really a big fan of birds. I would never think of adopting birds, and learning how to care for them was the definitely not on my list of things to learn in life. All that changed when my Guru, H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche decided to rescue a few birds from dingy pet shops. That’s when everyone in Tsem Ladrang (Rinpoche’s residence) got to learn more about birds, how to care for them, their likes and dislikes. Rinpoche even went out to get books for us to read up and basically we gave ourselves a crash course on birds like Cockatiels, Sun conures, Cockatoos and African greys. Rinpoche’s motto is – “we’re never too late or old to learn new things”, most importantly to learn how to CARE for another being especially those who cannot speak up to ask for ‘help’.
The first birds that Rinpoche adopted were two Sun conure parrots and from there more birds came into the picture. We had Love birds, Cockatiels, Malaysian Parrots and a Cockatoo which Rinpoche affectionately named Drolka (White Tara). That’s when Rinpoche decided to convert one side of his car porch to a small aviary to give the birds more space. At that time the Ladrang was in a housing area where houses were linked and there wasn’t very much space. But Rinpoche was determined to transform his car porch into an environment that is as lush and natural as it could be for the birds. You see Rinpoche’s care has no limit and it doesn’t just stop at rescuing the birds. Instead Rinpoche will always think of ways to improve to benefit the other, in this case how to give the birds a better life, a better home. Hence the aviary grew and expanded from a mini aviary to a larger one when we moved to a bigger Ladrang, and finally to our 4000 sq ft aviary amongst nature at our retreat centre – Kechara Forest Retreat (KFR). Earlier Rinpoche made a promise to Drolkar the cockatoo that He would one day provide her a bigger better home where she could spread her wings and fly… so this promise came true when we moved to KFR.
One of the many tasks I used to do in the Ladrang was caring for the birds in the aviary. This involves cleaning the aviary, replenishing their food, looking out for their well-being and the general up-keep of the aviary such as making sure new toys are being replaced as and when necessary. Toys keep the birdies entertained as they are very intelligent creatures and can get bored easily, when they are bored they can end up plucking their own feathers which leads to psychological problems.
When replenishing their food and water, Rinpoche asked us to chant Medicine Buddha mantra and Manjushri’s mantra to blow on their food. This is to be done with the motivation for Dharma seeds to be planted in them so that they can gain a good rebirth and be Dharma teachers in the future. Rinpoche explained how fortunate we are to be able to create future Dharma teachers just from this simple act of caring for the birds.
Everything we learnt and did was not just to benefit the birds but to nurture our empathy and the compassion in us for all without bias, without expecting anything back in return, not even a verbal “thank you”. It is to teach us to give unconditionally. Slowly I learnt to appreciate these adorable feathered friends. Most people are unaware of how intelligent and sensitive birds can be; hence it’s uncommon for people to rescue them. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Rinpoche does so.
Besides that, the aviary adds in creating the causes for us to one day have an animal sanctuary. It is a start for Rinpoche’s dream of an animal sanctuary where more abandoned, sick, abused or neglected animals can be rescued.
I am grateful that Rinpoche gave me an opportunity to learn how to care for birds, or any animal for that matter. Because of this, I am a vegetarian, because of this I learn to feel empathy towards another being, and because of this I believe many of us can reconnect with our innate nature of loving kindness; being more conscious, responsible and aware of our actions towards other living beings. Thank you Rinpoche for constantly teaching us what it means to care, to show compassion at the very gross level to all beings, big or small, human and animals alike.
To find our more on our aviary and how you can help contribute, see the links below:
Tsem Tulku Rinpoche and Cheeky Birds!!!
This was the first two Sun conure birds that Rinpoche first rescued…
Animal Care – A Project by Tsem Ladrang
This was the early days of our first aviary and how we started to care for birds…
Tsem Ladrang’s 1st Aviary – Sun Conures dancing
Birds Paradise in Kechara Forest Retreat
Today the Aviary has expanded to this…