Two liberated pigeons return
for "Dharma food" as Bhiksu Heng Shou recites the Great
Thirty-four pigeons were numbered among beings
freed at "Liberating Life" ceremonies held by the Sino-American
Buddhist Association this past spring. On each occasion the pigeons
were purchased from butchers a day or two before the ceremonies, and
were administered the Three Refuges, becoming disciples of the
Buddha, before they were released.
On the evening following one of the ceremonies,
two of the birds, recognized by bands numbered seven and twelve
placed on their legs long ago, returned to the Buddhist Lecture
Hall. They perched on the porch outside the Hall while The Lotus
Sutra was explained, and then left. They came again on the following
day, and soon someone noticed that they had taken up a nest site on
a nearby building ledge. At the end of a week they had entered the
Hall, and had strutted around at the feet of the Buddha.
Shortly thereafter a disciple brought some
mixed grains to feed the birds, and in another day or two they were
fearlessly perching on the arms of the young people and eating from
their hands. Only these two, named Seven Bodhi Shares, and Twelve
Conditioned Links, returned; the others were not seen again.
In their three months at the Buddhist Lecture
Hall they have attained great fearlessness and ease. They have been
seen following students circumambulating the Buddha, bowing to the
Buddha, and lately have been seen entering the Master's room. The
rapidity with which they took up new habits reveals their deep
conditions with the Buddhadharma.
The largest "Liberating Life" ceremony to date
was held in honor of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva on July 19th in
Marin County on the hills overlooking Muir Woods. On this day more
than 250 birds, originally intended to be used to train dogs, were
freed. The elaborate ceremony, after directing the thoughts of
participants to be mindful and repent of all past karmic offenses,
ended with the release of the birds in a sudden joyful burst of wings.
Bhiksus and laymen, chating mantras,
surround a circle of boxes filled with
several hundred pigeons awaiting release.
Now that some small animals have been released,
all the old animals are jealous, running around making trouble
everywhere. Wherever they go they say that we are not compassionate.
Old animals don't be nervous; later on you will be liberated too,
but your turn hasn't come around yet.
In the meantime, don't bellow too much, for if
you do, the ears of the people of the world will not hear clearly,
and their eyes will not see clearly. In the meantime, be quiet.
Don't cry like babies, breaking the peace of your parents' hearts.