How to Benefit Insects and Other Small Beings [Video]
A student wrote to Lama Zopa Rinpoche in October 2016 to ask what to do when finding dead insects. Rinpoche responded from Buddha Amitabha Pure Land in Washington State, taking the opportunity not only to give advice but to describe in detail how he and Sangha members work to benefit insects, birds, and other small animals there.
My most dear, most kind, most precious wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you for your kind email. With respect to dead insects, the main thing you can do to benefit them is to recite the mantra of Compassion Buddha (OM MANI PADME HUM), Stainless Pinnacle mantra, Stainless Lotus Pinnacle mantra, the short Namgyalma mantra, and the Five Powerful Deities mantras.
After reciting a few times—or it can be fifteen times, twenty times, or one mala of each mantra, whatever you can—blow over the dead body of the insect to purify its negative karma and obscurations collected since beginningless rebirths. Then, visualize that it generates into the deity of the mantra you recited.
Of course to begin with, first generate a bodhichitta motivation to free numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and to bring them to full enlightenment, especially these insects, these dead animals, who are my mother sentient beings, from whom I have received all my happiness, and not only today’s happiness, but next life’s happiness and ultimate happiness—enlightenment. It is received from each of them and they have all been my mother and kind to me since beginningless time.
After the mantra recitation and blowing on the insects and visualizing them as the deity, then dedicate: “Due to all the merit created in the three times by me, by sentient beings and numberless buddhas, may bodhichitta be generated in the hearts of all the six realm sentient beings, then the sentient beings in this world, particularly the students of FPMT and benefactors. May everyone who sees me, touches me, remembers me, thinks about me, talks to me, hears my voice, sees me or my photo, dreams of me, helps me or harms me, dislikes me or likes me, praises me or criticizes me, including my friends and family, never ever be reborn in the lower realms. May they be reborn in a pure land, where they will be enlightened or receive a perfect human body, meet the Mahayana teachings, and meet a perfectly qualified Mahayana guru who reveals the unmistaken path to enlightenment. And, by pleasing the holy mind of the virtuous friend, may they achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.
“Due to all the merit created in the three times by me, by sentient beings and numberless buddhas, may each animal or insect be reborn in a pure land where it can be enlightened, or at least have a perfect human rebirth and meet the pure Mahayana teachings and a perfect guru who reveals the unmistaken path to enlightenment. And, by pleasing most the holy mind of the guru, may it achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible.
“Due to all the merit created in the three times by me, by sentient beings and numberless buddhas, who do not exist from their own side, may the I, which does not exist from its own side, achieve buddhahood—peerless happiness, which does not exist from its own side, which is empty—and then lead all sentient beings, who do not exist from their own side, to that buddhahood, which does not exist from its own side, by myself alone, who does not exist from its own side.”
For any prayer, sadhana, or mantras that you do in your daily life, as commitments or practices, you can keep a bottle of water next to you. After each recitation, blow into the bottle of water. When you see a living or dead insect or animal, you can sprinkle the blessed water on it. A monk in Washington has been doing this every day. When he does his prayers, after each mala of mantras, he blows in a bottle of water and mixes this water with tsampa (roasted flour), sugar, butter, and blessed pills (mani pills) from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, which are crushed very well. All this is mixed as a dry fine powder. Then, he goes to about twenty different ants’ nests around the retreat land and he does the practice of charity to ants by sprinkling this mixture on the ants’ nests while reciting mantras, in this way benefiting the ants. After one week all the tsampa has been eaten by the ants. This practice started a few years ago when I found two ants’ nests on the retreat land in Washington and I did this practice for them. Now it is being done every week.
In addition to this, every week worms are bought. These are worms that otherwise would be used as bait for fishing. The mantra water is also sprinkled on them and then they are taken around many holy objects, mantras are recited, and then they are released into the garden. Each week about 1,300 worms are liberated like this. [Read about the Animal Liberation Fund.]In the past we collected all the dead insects around the house, dead moths and bugs, and we even asked the neighbors to also collect all their dead insects and to give them to us. We put all the dead insects on a cloth above a bucket and then poured the mantra water over the insects (so they would stay on the cloth as the water drained through it, blessing their bodies). Also, we would recite different mantras: the Compassion Buddha mantra (OM MANI PADME HUM), the Stainless Pinnacle mantra, the Stainless Lotus Pinnacle mantra, the short Namgyalma mantra, and the Five Powerful Deities mantras. You can do the Vajrayogini mantra if you are practicing that. Normally, it is the Five Powerful Deity mantras—these mantras are extremely powerful—and also the Mitrugpa mantra. However, the main one is Compassion Buddha mantra, the mantra of Chenrezig.
So, do the purification like that. You can collect the dead animals and when you have quite a lot collected, you can do this, blessing them with the mantra water that you have already created from the mantras that you recite every day. As you pour, the water purifies all their negative karmas collected from beginningless rebirths. At the end, think that they are purified and all become the deity. After that you can put the blessed dead insects in the ocean or river, but you can’t throw them in the garbage after you have visualized them as the deity. Or, you can put them in the nighttime soup! I’m joking.
Any insects we find in the house, dead or alive, we use the animal liberation catchers to pick them up. As the insect goes inside the little box, because there are Namgyalma mantras on the tops, as the insect goes under that, however long they are there, they are always getting purified. On each of the small boxes are mantras that bless the insect while it is inside and also words, what to think and what the animals are saying, etc. The box also has other mantras on it so that when the insect goes under these mantras, 100,000 eons of negative karma are purified.
If an insect is still alive in the container, you can also take it around a stupa. Stupas have the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras. Usually they are written on gold on the life tree, as well as rolled around it. The stupas in FPMT have many, many of the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras inside.
If a stupa has even just one copy of the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras in it, or even just a single mantra, every atom of the stupa has great power, and insects that land on the stupa will be purified. If they even brush against the stupa, their negative karma will be purified. When rain comes down and touches the stupa, if that rain touches any insect on the ground or anywhere else, it purifies the insects. Even wind that has touched the stupa blesses any living being that it touches. After wind has touched the stupa, any human being or animal touched by that wind is purified. And any dust that touches the stupa purifies human beings or animals who touch it.
There are incredible benefits of the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras [read “The Four Dharmakaya Relic Mantras and Their Benefits”]. One of the mantras is the Secret Relic mantra. Even if there is only one of these mantras in a stupa, if you go around that stupa just one time, it purifies all your negative karma completely, even the heavy negative karma to be reborn in the eight hot hells, which are 1) Being Alive Again and Again, 2) Black Line, 3) Gathered and Crushed, 4) Crying, 5) Great Crying, 6) Hot, 7) Extremely Hot, and then 8) the Unbearable Inexhaustible Hot Hell, where if you are born there, it is for one intermediate eon. Even if this world becomes empty, but your karma is not finished, you are reborn in other universes’ inexhaustible hell realms. This continues until your karma finishes.
But by going around the stupa one time, it completely purifies all that, and you don’t have to be reborn in the eight hot hell realms. Not only that, your life continually, without break, will go toward enlightenment. And not returning to the lower realms also will help you to be born in a pure land.
There are so many incredible, unbelievable, unbelievable benefits, just from this one mantra. Here I am just talking about the essence of just one mantra, but there is also one mantra called Ornaments of Enlightenment. If you put even one of those mantras inside a stupa, you collect the same merit as having built 100,000 stupas. This is just the very basic essence of this mantra’s benefits, which are so vast. This mantra also purifies the negative karma of having killed one’s father or mother, killed an arhat, caused blood to flow from a buddha, or created disunity among the Sangha: those very heavy negative karmas that, if you have created them, you will have to experience the karma without a break. All these negative karmas get purified.
It is so, so, so unbelievable, the karma of circumambulating a stupa or statue that has the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras inside. These are just some of the benefits of some of the mantras, but there are far more benefits that also come from other mantras: the Stainless Lotus Pinnacle mantra, Stainless Pinnacle mantra, Stainless Beam mantra, and the Ornament of Enlightenment mantra. One of the benefits of the Ornament of Enlightenment mantra is that by putting this mantra inside a stupa, you get the same merit as having built 100,000 stupas.
These are the unbelievable, unbelievable benefits that you are giving to animals and insects by taking them around a stupa that has the Four Dharmakaya Relic mantras inside. And, along the way, you also get unbelievable benefits!
If you have a stupa in your home, when guests come over to visit you, you can also take them around the stupa, if that is practical. Or if you offer them a drink, as you do so you can carry the drink around the stupa. They will follow you and in this way circumambulate. Or, while you are conversing, you can be walking around the stupa. This is a way to create an opportunity for those who don’t believe in stupas to circumambulate them.
Of course, as I have already mentioned, any live insects you find in the house, you can put in a container and take around the stupa, like ants, bugs, moths, etc. And however many holy objects that are in the stupa, for example, if there are one billion holy objects in it, then if you have a bag with 1,000 crickets in it (sometimes you can get this from a pet store as they feed these to other animals), by taking the bag around the stupa, you help to create the cause of enlightenment one billion times.
So I just wanted to mention some ways you can help sentient beings. There are so many ways and it is so incredibly enjoyable. If you can, from time to time buy bait worms from the market. Buy whatever you can get, even two or three boxes, and then take them around a stupa, bless them with mantra water, and then release them in your garden.
Here in Washington, since we have to go to the shops regularly, I thought that each time we went shopping we could buy a box of worms. Then I could take them around our altars that have so many tsa-tsas, texts, statues, etc. Last time we went shopping, I did this. I bought ten boxes and I carried them around the holy objects, and then the monks here took them around as well.
I also wanted to mention some other ways we are trying to help the animals in Washington, just to give you an idea. Here in Washington we have a birdbath. One of the monks here puts water in it that has been blessed by the Padmasambhava mantra. By drinking that water, birds create the cause to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. It is a very blessed mantra. We do this by putting the mantra that is on glass inside a jug of water, then that water is poured from the jug into the birdbath. We don’t put the mantra inside the birdbath so that the birds don’t sit on top of it and create negative karma; instead, we put the mantra in a jug, fill it with water, and pour from the jug. In addition, we add water that has already been blessed by mantras as I mentioned above. In this way, when the birds drink or bathe, the water benefits them and helps them to quickly achieve enlightenment.
In addition to the blessed water, the monk adds to the birdbath very finely powdered mani pills that have been blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and thousands of monks. These pills are crushed and mixed with the water for the birds. In addition, we have a speaker by the birdbath and bird feeder. The speaker plays 24 hours a day the Golden Light Sutra, Sanghata Sutra, and Vajra Cutter Sutra, as well as different mantras, so that when the birds come, they hear these being recited and this purifies their minds and plants the seeds of enlightenment.
Actually, the birds and animals who get to hear these sutras are more fortunate than even billionaires and millionaires in this world who do not have the fortune to hear these sutras. When the birds drink the water, they are so fortunate, because it purifies them in many ways. This not only stops their thirst, it purifies the minds and negative karma of all those who bathe in the water or eat the seeds in the bird feeder. It purifies so much negative karma. So even the water given to the birds benefits them. On the bird feeder we have put mantras on the roof: the Namgyalma mantra and also the mantras that by seeing and by going under them 100,000 eons of negative karma are purified. Also, they hear the recitation of the sutras and powerful mantras day and night while they eat the seeds. In addition, feeding the birds stops them from having to eat insects and create negative karma that way. [Read “How to Benefit the Bodies and Minds of Birds [Video].”]The other day we went to a large lake and put in the same Padmasambhava mantra. We had it printed on tin and we stuck the tin mantra on plastic so we could place it standing up on the side of the lake in the water, so that animals don’t swim over the top and also so that the mantra is not on the bottom of the lake. We also put Namgyalma mantras into the water. They are laminated and then put inside hard plastic, so they float and are kept dry and the mantra protected. The mantra floats, so we put a few on the surface of the lake. Unless people find them and throw them away, they should bring benefit for a long time. Having the Namgyalma mantra in the water blesses all the fish and other sentient beings. It purifies their negative karma and if they die, they get born in a higher realm and hopefully they meet the Dharma. We are hoping to put more of these mantras in different lakes in the surrounding area. [Read “Lama Zopa Rinpoche Blesses Lake-Bound Beings.”]So these practices are different ways you can benefit sentient beings, including insects. This is what makes your life most beneficial, most happy, most meaningful, not only for you but for all sentient beings.
Thank you very, very much for your kindness. So your whole life, up to enlightenment, benefits by relying on Chenrezig and pleasing Chenrezig, this is so important, it’s very good. Thank you.
Of course, as you must do everything, please do whatever you do with strong bodhichitta. Recite each and every mantra for every sentient being, for ALL sentient beings, to purify them from the oceans of suffering and to bring them to Chenrezig’s enlightenment quickly.
With much love and prayers,
Transcribed by Ven. Holly Ansett. Edited by Mandala for publication on FPMT.org.
Watch on YouTube as Ven. Tharchin explains one way residents at Buddha Amitabha Pure Land try to prevent harm to living beings, in this case by protecting the ants that cross the road: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAMwkAQSDlI
To learn more about some of the mantras Lama Zopa Rinpoche mentions, please read
Essential Mantras for Holy Objects, available as a PDF: http://fpmt.org/wp-
Read about the benefits of the mantra of the Buddha of Compassion, OM MANI PADME HUM: http://fpmt.org/education/teachings/lama-zopa-rinpoche/the-benefits-of-chanting-om-mani-padme-hum/
Read more about FPMT’s activities to benefit animals at: https://fpmt.org/tag/animals/
Get Liberating Animals from the Danger of Death as an e-book or in a print copy from the Foundation Store and support FPMT International Office: http://shop.fpmt.org/Liberating-Animals-eBook_p_2334.html
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service.http://fpmt.org/lama-zopa-rinpoche-news-and-advice/advice-from-lama-zopa-rinpoche/how-to-benefit-insects-and-other-small-beings/
Caption: Amitabha Buddha Statue with flower offerings, Buddha Amitabha Pure Land, Washington State, USA, October 2016