Animals are regarded in Buddhist belief as sentient beings. In this religion all life forms are sacred. Animals may have very different minds from humans but they are just as capable of suffering and many other feelings. Animals and pets are also looked upon slightly differently than in many other religions because of the doctrine of rebirth. The belief is that a person could be reborn as an animal, and an animal could be reborn as a person.
In Australia last year, a Tibetan Buddhist master came to help family pets on the path to enlightenment. This may sound laughable (or like a great idea to PetCrazy people), but many Buddhists feel very strongly about animals deserving Buddhist rights and treatment. Care for all living things is a central tenet of Buddhism. So Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a Buddhist master taught by the Dalai Lama, blessed about 100 cats, dogs, even mice and mudcrabs.
"Animals don't have as many opportunities as humans to attain happiness," said Lama Zopa. The master feels that animal blessings are a way for Buddhists to create compassion and amass merit. Basically, loving animals is good for the soul. There are stories of dogs arriving regularly at the Buddhist temple being treated as spirits wishing to embrace the religion. After all, they have expressed a desire to partake in the ceremony and may have the opportunity to do the same on two legs in another life.
Lama Zopa advises pet owners to not only give their pets creature comforts, but expose them to holy objects, recite prayers to them and bless their food. In Thailand's capital, Bangkok, they've gone one step further and begun offering Buddhist funeral rites to pets. This brings great comfort to Buddhists who have lost their beloved pets. Why not? There are many who believe that dogs are the perfect example of Buddhism.
Dogs live entirely in the moment. They have a limited memory of the past and don't seem to spend much time pondering future. To a dog only the now is important, the love that surrounds them, the pleasure in a meal or a game of fetch. Some people argue there is much to learn about proper living from a dog. So perhaps Buddhism is one of these things.
Many Buddhists also enjoy cats. Take for example the Maneki Neko ("beckoning cat") is a common lucky charm in Japan. You will see the Maneki Neko in shop windows where it sits with its paw raised and bent, as if beckoning customers to come inside. There are myriad superstitions regarding cats in Japan. Some Japanese believe that when a cat washes its face and paws in the genkan (parlor), company's coming.
Of course in most cultures and religions what all PetCrazy people share is love for their pets and a desire to enjoy their company, while giving them a wonderful life. Maybe you can share some of the Buddhist's deep respect for animals with your pet as well. And if you're Buddhist, maybe your pet can help remind you of your best qualities.
Some Buddhist Names for your pets:
Anzan : quiet mountain
Banko : everlasting
Butsugen : Buddha eye
Butsuju : Buddha-life, Buddha-age
Daiji : great compassion
Eshin : understanding mind
Gensho : original blessings
Hakuyu : unknown
Joko : pure fragrance, quiet lake
Kodo : the way of light
Kogen : wild, untamed source
Muji : ground mist
Ryoko : unknown
Shindo : new way
Taido : gentle way
Zenkei : inconceivable joy