The Tibetan phrase Semchen Tamche means "all sentient beings." A sentient being is defined as any being that has a mind. While sentient beings have different bodies, shapes and colors, some with two legs like us, and some with four legs like KarmaShawa
Although generally it is taught that it is more advantageous to be born as a human being than as an animal, because it is easier to attain enlightenment in a human body, I would dare to say that some animals are better than some human beings because I can see that they have more love and compassion than us humans. The source of Buddha Nature is love and compassion, and that is the cause of enlightenment, so the more love and compassion one has, the closer one is to actualizing their Buddha Nature. That is why I love all animals like cats and dogs and they love me in return.
Sometimes, when I meet people and their pets, the people have asked me why their pets take a liking to me immediately, and seem to love me more than their owners. Even though the pet might have been with its owner for more than 10 years, they say that their pet never showed as much affection to them as they did to me. Some say that animals sense our energies. Maybe that explains it.
The first time I saw Karma Shawa coming to my garden with his mother in the evening, he was still very tiny. He couldn't even walk properly then, but the sight of him brought me so much joy. I said to them "Welcome to my garden. But don't eat my flowers." I never thought that they would stay overnight in my garden, but when I woke up they were still sleeping peacefully there. Every morning
they would go out for a walk at 8 or 9 AM. Mother deer is extremely smart. She knew how to look out for cars before leading baby across the road. There are lots of cars here in front of my house and sometimes I worried for them. But they would come home at exactly the same time every evening at approximately 6 PM.
For the first three days, they slept together, but after that, mother deer went over to my neighbor's lawn to sleep. Maybe she thinks it's safer for her there, as my neighbor has a fence all around the house while mine doesn't. Karma Shawa on the other hand, preferred to sleep in my garden right in front of the Buddha statue. I have three Buddha statues in my garden, but he loved to sleep right in front of two of them.
I bought some fruits for them and I placed some blessed nectar pills from His Holiness the Dalai Lama into their water. The next day I checked and they had finished the water and fruits. Sometimes they ate the fruits I gave them but other times they didn't. One evening while cleaning my garden, I saw Karma Shawa fast asleep behind the bushes. Then I chanted the Amitabha mantra and Karma Shawa woke up immediately and he jumped right next to me. He allowed me to touch his head and ears and this made me really happy.Most deer are shy and stay away from humans. Unfortunately I didn't have my cell phone with me at that time to capture this special moment. I didn't want to go back into the house to get my phone because I thought he might run away and I didn't want to miss this magical moment. He stayed like this with me for about 15 minutes. Then I went back into the house and he went back to his favorite spot.
Tibetan Buddhists believe in past life connections and reincarnation. I have so many students and he might even be a reincarnation of one of my students. Sadly, Karma Shawa passed away on the 27th of May in the early hours of the morning. That morning I woke up at 4 AM and did my meditation session. After making my morning tea I headed out of the house to check on Karma Shawa which I had been doing faithfully every morning. I checked his three favorite spots but he was nowhere to be found. I thought he had already left for his morning walk with his mother.
Then I headed back home to continue my morning prayer session which included prostrations. But I kept having a nagging feeling that something had happened to Karma Shawa
I really couldn't believe that he had died in such a tragic way. I touched his body but he had already turned cold. This made me extremely sad and I was really at a loss. I went back inside and kept asking myself what I should do. I was completely devastated. Finally, I called my neighbor Keith, since he also tends to wake up early every morning.
He suggested calling the Animal Association as they would know how to handle these cases. But I told him that in our Tibetan tradition, we try if possible to keep the body of a deceased loved one in our home for 49 days. This is what we did for my father when he passed away in 1996. We were able to maintain his body for 49 days. In the sacred text Bardo Thodrol, commonly known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, there are clear descriptions of the Bardo, or the intermediate state after death and before rebirth. The consciousness of the deceased person will still be near its body for a while after death. There are many things one can do to benefit the being who has passed through prayers and practices, if the body is kept close. So I told Keith that I would keep Karma Shawa's body in the shrine room for at least one day .
Then we both carried Karma Shawa's body into the house and I placed a protection cord blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama around his neck. I placed many flowers around his body, and I lit 100 tealights. Then i invited all my lama friends who were with me during my Three-Year Retreat in Tibet to join me in reciting the Prayer for Rebirth in Sukhavati on Zoom. Around 14 or 15 lamas joined in this Amitabha Puja. I also contacted His Holiness's main office in Dharamsala and requested prayers to be recited on Karma Shawa's behalf. All my family including monasteries in Tibet will also be praying for him.
The next day my sangha and I held a beautiful memorial ceremony for Karma Shawa in my backyard. Afterward, his body was laid to rest. All my sangha helped set up the lovely Buddha garden in memory of him. We dug a deep hole, placed all the flowers into it, and lowered his body into the grave. We also made a plaster mold of the tiny hoof print of Karma Shawa, using his front hoof. We also placed the mold in the Buddha garden. It was a truly emotional ceremony. Everyone was deeply touched and cried for Karma Shawa.
Karma Shawa came to our center for refuge so this is the least I could do for him. His death was very tragic, but I prefer to think that when his time came to die, he would have chosen to die right here in his favorite garden. I have named him Karma Shawa because Shawa means "deer" and Karma follows my first name and my dharma lineage. I gave him this name because I felt such a special connection with him. This is my story about Karma Shawa He will live forever in my heart.
Protector Amitabha of Sukhavati,
Supreme Deity of Infinite Light, closest to our lives,
As you hear my bereaved, yearning request,
Quickly come, unimpeded, to the space before me!
During this time when images of Dharma can still be seen,
Though our bodies were different, me, a human being,
And you, a dear little animal, we came together
In this place, here, like a father and his son.
Separated in the briefest moment, the nature of impermanent things,
Yet, by power of our profound connection during this short time,
And the positive potential of your good instincts for compassion,
Through forceful methods, may you take birth in Sukhavati!
Even if you are not reborn in Sukhavati,
May you take ordination, meet a Virtuous Spiritual Guide,
Train your mind in successive hearing, contemplation, and meditation,
And finally become irreversible on the path.
Supreme Deity, Amitabha, Lord of hundreds of Buddha families,
Through blessings of your compassion, coming close from afar,
Please calm all frightening visions of the fawn’s intermediate state
and swiftly guide the departed Karma Shawa to Sukhavati!
For your parents who are left behind
May our sorrow for you be consoled
May we enjoy health, peace and happiness,
And never part from Dharma for a moment of the day or night.
Three days since the death of my dear son of the animal realm, the fawn, Karma Shawa, I, the human, Khenpo Karma Tensung, who had the karma to become like his father, wrote this prayer on the first day of Saka Dawa, May 30, 2022. May it be fulfilled just as made!