Why is Tsem Rinpoche so kind to animals?

31 May

Caring for animals is linked to the Buddhist teaching on compassion. It is obviously a physical expression of compassion and one of the noblest because unlike humans, animals are basically unable to reciprocate kindness. And that’s one of the reasons why Tsem Rinpoche encourages people like me – a typical self-absorbed, self-centered modern individual to take care of a pet like my housemate’s Schnauzer, Zamkar. Taking care of animals does not necessarily mean one is spiritually evolved but it is a tool to help one create that sort of mindset of giving and caring for others with no or less of an agenda.


You see, for Rinpoche, caring for animals is not practice but second nature. As far as I recall, Rinpoche had always noticed hungry stray animals and would always try to feed them with some food he hastily bought from 7-Eleven. He is always the first to notice the beggar on the street or the hungry little puppy rummaging through the rubbish pile. Rinpoche had once said that it is very easy to develop compassion for scruffy cute animals but would it be as easy if we knew what they did in their previous lives to create the karma to land them in that situation? Hence, we should have equal patience/compassion for nasty people in our lives because they are creating the karma to take a bad rebirth. Hence, looking at suffering animals is also a reminder of the effects of our negative karma that will definitely come to fruition one day. Perhaps, if we are kind to those already oppressed by negativity, we might be able to inspire these people to change.

Besides his efforts of having huge fish tanks, aviaries and such, Rinpoche always ensures his assistants stock up his cars with dog food and packets of milk. He is very food of feeding the hungry stray dog. He had taught us to recite Medicine Buddha mantras and blow the mantras into the food to bless them. Even when there was no food available, Rinpoche would at least recite mantras aloud to bless them. He taught all his students to do that, especially to the live fishes kept in aquariums at seafood restaurants. There was once, Rinpoche bought out all the live fishes from a seafood restaurant with the purpose to free them into a lake. This practice of ‘ransoming/liberating’ animals is a unique Buddhist practice that if done with proper prayers and motivation, can extend one’s life.

Although Rinpoche cares so much for animals, the fact remains that animals are unable to practice the Dharma and  transform. They can only be blessed with mantras,which will open up in another more conducive lifetime to practice the Dharma. Therefore, Rinpoche takes real good care of his Schnauzers, birds and fishes in his huge aviary and fish tanks. It is Rinpoche’s dream that Kechara Animal Sanctuary would take off to benefit both the animals and the people who take care of them. Rinpoche invests a lot of time, money and effort to ensure they are well-taken cared off and he hopes this will inspire many to do the same. As of writing this, Pastor Susan, an ardent animal lover herself has taken it upon herself to managed this new department and take it off the ground.

3 Responses to “Why is Tsem Rinpoche so kind to animals?”

  1. Charlotte Ostrowski August 13, 2015 at 8:07 am #

    It is not true that animals are unable to return kindnesses. I’ve had cats groom me, bring me dead mice as gifts, and cozy up to me when I was sick. There is also a Polish black cat on the internet — Radamenes –who comforts sick and injured animals at the veterinarian clinic that rescued and adopted him. Radamenes must be one spiritually advanced animal indeed.


    • Pastor David Lai September 3, 2015 at 8:35 am #

      You are right. Actually, what I am meaning to say is that they are unable to express it in words like the way humans do. Sometimes, some animals are far better at returning kindness than most humans do.

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