01: Why do Buddhists practise life
Buddhists practise life liberation to give the
priceless gifts of fearlessness (from being killed), freedom (from captivity)
and the Dharma (by connecting them to the Triple Gem through offering
repentance, refuge and a better future birth, especially in Amitabha Buddha's
The Avatamsaka Sutra says, "If the negative karma (of killing
in this and previous lives) is to take form, even limitless space cannot contain
it." Because we have accumulated immeasurable negative karma through killing
directly and indirectly in the past, life liberation (for creatures
great or small, of insects or animals of the land, sea or sky)
is the most efficient way of repaying our karmic debts of killing,
especially in this Dharma-diminishing age. Life liberation has immeasurable
merits because it saves the lives of animals, generating immeasurable gratitude.
This practice also fulfills the perfection of generosity in the aspects of
sharing wealth (in buying the animals), time, energy, fearlessness and the
Because we have been reborn for countless times already, many
beings, especially those we have the affinity to encounter, have been our
parents in previous lives. Think of it this way, if we do not liberate our
parents, are we not worse than animals? It is already very unfortunate that
our parents are reborn as animals, much more to say, to die painfully
through slaughter. Just as we take the trouble to save our present parents'
lives, we too should save our previous parents' lives. When we save animals, we
are also saving future Buddhas.
02: What are other benefits
of life liberation?
The merits from life liberation are varied
and boundless. Here are some, according to the Buddha and many Venerable
1. One will be unharmed by war or die by
2. One will attain longevity and healthiness with few
(Many pains and illnesses come from the karma of
3. One will be unharmed by natural disasters and
4. One will have abundant offsprings for future generations.
One will easily attain what one wishes.
6. One will prosper in official
positions without obstacles.
7. One will be a source of gratitude to other
beings and a source of joy to the Buddhas.
8. One will dissolve
vengeance, and vanquish evil influences and worries.
9. One will
experience joy and peacefulness in all seasons.
10. One will be
easier born in Pureland.
practices of developing faith
vegetarianism and single-minded chanting of "Namo Amituofo")
03: If life liberation is so good, why do so
many criticise it?
Life liberation is the easiest way
to dissolve negative karma. Because of this, our negative karma of many
lifetimes readily manifests obstacles to obstruct us from
liberating life. As many who criticise the practice are plain ignorant of
its benefits, we should share with them the benefits out of Compassion, so as to
benefit them. We have to be careful not to criticise (or to let others
criticise) life liberation as it creates great negative karma. We
should not discourage the practice without understanding as we will be
preventing many lives from being liberated.
04: How should we liberate life?
buy animals from any place selling them for slaughter (or plain imprisonment).
Before releasing them into the appropriate natural environment, we (with
venerable monks and nuns if available) should clearly recite (for the
animals to hear), the verses of repentance, threefold refuge in the Triple
Gem (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and "Namo Amituofo" (Homage to Amitabha Buddha)
and/or other mantras such as "Om Mani Padme Hum (the mantra of Compassion) as
many times as possible. We can also carry the animals while
circumambulating holy objects such as stupas, Buddha images and relics. We can
also sprinkle blessed water on them.
Through repentance, we remind
the animals to repent their misgivings which made them reborn as animals.
Through refuge, we wish the animals to be disciples of the Triple Gem. Through
recitation of "Namo Amituofo", we wish the animals to hear and be mindful of
Amitabha Buddha, so as to create a strong karmic imprint to make birth in His
Pureland possible in a future life. With repentance and taking refuge, this
can free them from future births in the three lower realms of hells, hungry
ghosts and animals. In Pureland, they will be able to attain Enlightenment and
return to Samsara to help other beings be free of suffering.
05: Sounds incredible. Seems like an easy way out for the
The workings of the law of karma are intricately
exact but difficult to fathom. However, the fact that the animals we chose
to liberate were chosen from among countless ones means that these particular
animals actually have the merit to be liberated. However, when we choose to
liberate them, we ourselves are actively creating positive karma by being part
of the process of ripening their positive karma.
06 : But there are endless animals to liberate!
We should just do what we can in the moment. Just
because we can't being peace to the world overnight does not mean we should not
start with our family. Likewise, just because there are many beings in suffering
does not mean we should not help any at all.
07: Won't life liberation over-populate the world with
We do not eat ants and worms but they do
not multiply in excess. They breed and balance naturally
- without over-populating our world. We worry too much, when we should
readily work in relieving other beings' suffering, in dissolving our own heavy
negative karma. We are like a farmer who hasn't planted his crops yet, who
worry about his fields being overgrown with crops.
A reason why there
are many animals in our world is because many humans in the past have
killed animals. For instance, when a man eats a goat, the goat in a future life
might take a human form, who in turn eats the killer reborn as a goat.
Thus is the animal and human world full of mutual killing. This makes it even
more important to reverse the trend of killing animals, to stop perpetuating
this vicious cycle.
08: But I'll rather use money to help
needy fellow humans.
Helping any needy beings is no doubt very
commendable. However, if you analyse, with an equanimous
mind, the suffering of an average needy human and an average
animal about to be slaughtered, which is more urgent to
09: I'd heard of released birds which
fly back to their "masters", who re-imprison them for sale. What is
the point of liberating such animals?
We should only liberate
life with the best of intentions. Whether they get captured or not is another
matter. For instance, when we feed a starving child, we cannot guarantee that he
will not be hungry again. Similarly, a doctor who heals a patient
cannot guarantee his healthiness forever. But he does it anyway because it
should be done. Many matters are like that. We should not have
the biasness or hesitation to liberate life, while we might
not hesitate to do evil.
The shopkeeper's capturing and selling of
animals creates his own negative karma, while we create our own positive karma.
Of course, we should also try to dissuade him from continuing his wrong
livelihood. We should even dedicate merit to him, in the hope that he can change
his livelihood to one more beneficial for himself and others. We
should also approach shops selling animals randomly and without pre-order, so as
to avoid the shopowners from over-capturing animals for sale.
Isn't liberating animals through vegetarianism
Without doubt, vegetarianism is
a crucial part of the practice of universal compassion. In fact, if the
whole world becomes vegetarian, there will probably be no need to liberate
animals. However, it is only a passive way of liberating animals. In
the mean time, there are countless animals which get slaughtered everyday for
others' meals. The Buddhas taught us to "Avoid all evil, to practise all good,
and to purify the mind." In a sense, vegetarianism (and veganism), which is the
practice of not being directly or indirectly linked to killing, is just the
avoidance of doing evil - it is not yet active doing of good! Animal liberation
is Compassion in action, which also gives us golden opportunities to create
positive karmic links with countless beings. Life liberation also prevents
butchers from killing to some extent, relieving them of some negative
karma, even if in a relatively small amount.
11: Isn't is spiritually hypocritical for non-vegetarians to
practise life liberation?
Not really. Just as it is
better for a non-vegetarian to be vegetarian, it is better to be a
non-vegetarian who liberate some animals rather then be one who does
not at all. For instance, one who liberates chickens is not likely to
eat chickens again. The more kinds of animals one liberates, the more likely he
will become vegetarian. This is how life liberation teaches one to respect
and treasure the equality of all life, to realise that we all have
Buddha-nature. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the Buddha taught, "One who
eats meat cuts off the seed of compassion." If one is serious about
practising compassion universally, you should be vegetarian. Then
one would be doing "animal liberation" from one's dining table
all year round!
12: There are cases of liberated
animals causing other species in its environment to become
extinct. Isn't this harmful?
The fact that there are many
animals means there are many beings (including humans) reborn as animals due to
ignorance and negative karma. In this sense, a high animal population for every
species in not necessarily a good sign. The diversity of species is
not truly a "wonderful thing" as it means there is a wide spectrum of
animalistic karma. In the Buddhist perspective, the extinction of an
animal is not necessarily a good or bad thing. It means the
particular animal has been reborn in another form in another life, for better or
worse. But of course, it is important to survey the suitability of the
environment before releasing animals into it, as the animals and plants in it
play a part in supporting the interdependent web of life.
13: Don't we create bad karma when we liberate animals
which get eaten by other animals in nature, or which eat other
Unlike humans who kill for sport and to satisfy his
appetite, animals do not kill unnecessarily, other than for survival. If
you believe in the law of karma, the life and death of every being is the
fruition of its karma. There is no death for no just reason. The laws of nature
and karma are one. Animal liberation simply frees animals into their natural
environment which is their real home. Every animal would rather have freedom
than be imprisoned and slaughtered for food. Even if the animals were to die,
wouldn't it be better that they die free in nature, especially after having
strong karmic imprints of having taken refuge?
14: It still doesn't feel right that freeing some animals might
mean sending them to kill or to die.
When we practise animal
liberation, we have to be mindful of the purity of our intention and our well
wishes. What we wish to do is to give freedom, fearlessness and the
Dharma, for this life and beyond. Any captive animal will be appreciative
of that. It is inevitable that some might die in the process of liberation
through accidents in handling. But because they have taken refuge, their next
life will be better. Because of this reason, it is believed that those
animals who die shortly after taking refuge are the most meritorious of the lot.