“Together with a growing appreciation of the importance of human rights there is a greater awareness worldwide of the need for the protection not only of the environment, but also of animals and their rights. Where there is a mind, there are feelings such as pain, pleasure and joy. No sentient being wants pain, instead all want happiness. Since we all share these feelings at some basic level, we as rational human beings have an obligation to contribute in whatever way we can to the happiness of other species and try our best to relieve their fears and sufferings.” – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Core to all Buddhist practice is the fundamental principle of non- violence, loving-kindness and great compassion. In the Mahayana Tradition, emphasis is placed upon the aspiration to develop great compassion and to dedicate one’s spiritual life for the welfare of all beings. Saving and/or liberating animals from imminent death is a wonderful expression of such an aspiration.
Simply being able to save the life of a helpless creature is motivation enough to do this practice for many of us. What is more, releasing animals is of great benefit to those who participate. Just as violent actions create the cause to experience harm and illness oneself, altruistic actions such as saving the lives of animals creates the cause to experience good health and long life.
During our animal liberation practice, the animals are blessed and many prayers and auspicious mantra are recited in their presence. This is an intent to create further positivity in the mind of the animal and increase the likelihood of a future rebirth where they can engage in spiritual practice just as we have the privilege to do, and ultimately purify and perfect their minds.
Smoke Puja is a profound offering practice aimed at purifying, cleansing and awakening.
It aids practitioners as a purification practice. As we perform this ritual, we focus on removing the impurities in the mindstream of the practitioners and all sentient beings. At the same time, we practice generosity by offering to all the ‘guests’ (see below). The physical ritual involves the burning of different woods and incense. We mix these together with many other substances that are described in the practice texts.
Led by the ritual master, practitioners will invoke various guests including, guests of veneration (the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, the guests of qualities (e.g. wisdom protectors), guests of compassion (i.e. the beings of the six realms) and guests with whom we have a connection of karmic debt.
Practitioners then visualize that from the fragrant smoke appear limitless offerings of every desirable object that pervade space. These objects can be anything that uniquely satisfies and cleanses the connection to each of these types of guests.
This practice represents much more than a simple offering of incense or smoke. It has great power to perfect the accumulation of merit and wisdom. Guru Rinpoche himself taught smoke offering in the treasure teachings. On the occasion of the new year, the smoke offering is made to ensure auspiciousness for the coming year.
Revision and Discussion
Aided by recordings of the teachings by H.E. Nephug Rinpoche, practitioners meet to review, discuss and clarify their understanding and practice of Dharma. The diversity of the Prajna Field Sangha helps ensure that practical aspects of the Dharma are dealt with in helpful ways. Sessions are facilitated by students appointed by H.E. Neyphug Rinpoche, who closely monitors the progress of the sessions and offers clarifications whenever needed.
These sessions are a great way to establish regular contemplation of Dharma and benefit from being part of a Sangha of practitioners.