I recently hosted a friend who is primarily a retreatant in India – as in he sits in a small room doing specific Buddhist practices day-in and day-out for about seven months a year. He has been doing this for a number of years, which is inspiring in and of itself, but doing so requires a special type of dedication, good fortune and organization (most of us could not afford to take this kind of time off from our families, etc).
However, one thing he mentioned stuck with me, actually a lot of what he said stuck with me. He has become skillful and patient in his time in retreat (surprise surprise!).
He mentioned that, in order for an animal to eat our food or to bite us (think ants in your kitchen, mice in your pantry, mosquitoes or ticks, etc), there must be a karmic connection to that animal and we must owe that animal a debt. Maybe we ate that animal in a past life, maybe they loaned us money and we didn’t repay it! Who knows? But what we know is that we have to repay that debt before the animals will leave us alone.
So how do we repay that debt? That is a great question. I primarily have experience of this through Buddhism. I was raised Christian, but you don’t hear about the methods for how to repay karmic debts in Christianity. Just saying. So in Buddhism there are many methods to repay karmic debts. I know there are methods in other religious traditions – but we must be careful such that we do not create more negative karma in conducting a religious ceremony (do not sacrifice an animal or use animal parts if possible).
For one, we can do a smoke offering puja (ceremony) where we offer burnt substances to unseen beings – wisdom beings, local spirits and others. Apparently there are some beings whose karma is such that they can only enjoy food when it is in smoke form. Another method for repaying a karmic debt is to do a Sur Chod or feeding the ghosts offering. I have heard that when someone dies, they go into the Bardo state for up to 49 days – this can be animals dying or humans or other beings. The Bardo is an intermediate state where the being is ethereal in form – most humans cannot see Bardo beings. And it is a state where they hang out and explore while they wait for their next rebirth.
The Sur Chod is the method for feeding these Bardo beings – because they too can only imbibe what is offered to them (and I am guessing this is through smoke). I am not an expert by any means, however, I have conducted a number of these ceremonies – both Sur Chod and smoke offerings. If you have questions, you should find a qualified spiritual teacher, like a Tibetan lama or monk or nun and ask them. 🙂
I suspect that another way to purify this karmic debt to animals is by freeing animals that are set to be killed. Buying back a crate of live shrimp or lobsters for example and putting them back in the ocean – with the motivation of freeing them from harm, of preserving their life, might help to produce some positive karma. This might start to add up though, as far as the check book is concerned.
Just be mindful though – if we poison the termites or ants or wasps in our house or deck, we are actually making our negative karma worse. The pest problem can only get worse in the future if we do this. Sorry to say it, but if you are involved in extermination, I can’t imagine how much negative karma is getting accumulated every week – unless it is a green pest control system? Maybe we can use Have-A-Heart traps that trap a live mouse and transport it miles away from our house – this is better than poison or mouse traps.
This is a very precarious topic though. So many people hate the pests in and around their homes (with good reason!). But what if we gave a smoke offering a try first? What if we participated in a Sur offering ritual? What if this improved the situation with the ants in my house? Wow – that’d be pretty cool right?
Thanks for reading as usual!