Death is a particularly important topic among Buddhists. There are many articles and books about death and dying, how to approach it for oneself and for others. However, this information generally deals with human death. For animals, much less information is available. The topic of this post is Buddhist practices for sick and dying animals, particularly family pets.
As family pets reach the end of their lives we naturally wish them happiness and a beneficial rebirth. Sometimes a pet dies suddenly, but often they die of old age while in our care. What can we do to help them attain a good rebirth? I’ve heard that reciting the mantra of Avalokiteshvara is an acceptable practice for wild animals that have recently died. But the death of a pet brings additional questions (see below). We often develop very close relationships with our pets, making strong karmic links as we do with other members of our families. Understanding what to do before and after a family pet dies may help us to create beneficial circumstances for its rebirth.
For a Buddhist, the death of a loved pet brings many questions. Do pujas or mantras exist specifically aimed at protecting and helping dying animals as they approach death? Following death what is the recommended way to deal with the body? Cremation? Should a period of time be observed before disturbing the body of a pet? How best can we observe and respect the karmic bonds we have made?
Terminal illnesses raises additional questions. For humans, I’ve heard that it is best to avoid the use of drugs that alter the state of consciousness. It is important that we are alert and fully aware at the time of death as it lessens our confusion during the transition. Is the same true of animals? What should one do for a terminally ill pet? Is it better to let it die naturally (sometimes in great pain), or is euthanasia acceptable?
Are human and animal deaths equivalent from a Buddhist’s perspective? What does the community think about this topic?
Yours in Buddha Dharma,