How would you save this bear?

Rusty the Bear

There is a little bear who lives opposite me. When i first saw him, at dusk, I didn’t see anyone with him and I couldn’t figure out what manner of being he was, even though he was clearly very cute. I exclaimed to my companion: “What is that!” “That” turned out to be Rusty, the little Pomeranian. Life was not always easy for him. Literally thrown around as a puppy (two boys were found playing catch with him on the beach), he was rescued by someone, only to spend the next five years in a cage, let out just to pee. Our neighbor Amanda from Columbia found him when she was cleaning the house where he was living packed in with many other animals. She asked if she could have him. Luckily for both of them, she could. He is now nine.

Everyone who sees him loves him, including the big builders next door who went gooey when he gambolled across the street toward them. I am no exception — i have to stop myself stalking poor Amanda whenever she appears at her front door with Rusty in tow. But he and I do have a good relationship already.

So, thinking of him spending five years in a cage is guaranteed to help me develop love and compassion for him, and then for all animals, and then, with a little further contemplation, for all beings caged in samsara in general. This in turn helps me develop bodhichitta, the wish to become a Buddha as quickly as possible so I can bust everyone out of this dreadful prison.

The way to rescue him and every other living being not just from current suffering but all future suffering is to develop the real capacity to do that, a capacity possessed by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, not yet me.

If you look at this world clock, see if you can get the chicken counter to stand still:

It is scary. There are limitless living beings who need our protection and love. A person who has realized their full potential and possesses omniscient wisdom and the universal love that can actually protect living beings is called a Buddha, or Awakened One, or enlightened being. Anyone can become a Buddha through training in wisdom and compassion. Can anyone other than an enlightened being do anything really effective about what is happening — the cycle of birth, death, & suffering represented by these rapidly changing numbers?

Here is a conundrum for you to solve. So my friend asks me: “If you had the choice to save 100 little Pomeranian bears from cruelty, torture and life in a cage or develop spontaneous bodhichitta, which would you choose?”

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

14 thoughts on “How would you save this bear?”

  1. It seems to me that saving 100 bears is an action and bodhichitta is a motivation, so could you not save 100 bears with bodhichitta motivation? Or at least try to save the bears with a facsimile of bodhichitta. No one can give us that choice anyway, we have to decide for ourselves. As you said earlier Luna, it isn’t an either/or. I think my mind was particularly in need of blessings today, so just thinking about this has helped a little to lighten my mind. Thank you once again for pointing me in the right direction.

    1. Yes, that would be the best solution, save them all with bodhichitta. I have just been at Doctoberfest today, a huge event run by my shelter, and over 50 dogs were adopted, all of them well deserving and adorable in their own ways. I remembered my bodhichitta and there was much to rejoice in all day. I dedicated any good actions to Bear, who, as you know, died two days ago. I pray that he goes straight to Avalokiteshvara’s heart, where he belongs.

  2. As much as I know intellectually that bodhichitta is more beneficial, I don’t really feel it in my heart. For me the idea of becoming a Buddha to benfit others seems very abstract, compared to directly helping beings now. Have any of you got any advice on how to increase my faith that developing bodhichitta is the best way to help others?

    1. Hi Guy,

      For one thing, it is not an either/or, in the sense that if we are not trying to help any individuals now as well, it is hard to say we are working to help everyone!

      The way I see it is that we already want to help others and we already want to improve ourselves (largely so we can be of more use to others.) If we increase both those wishes — wanting to help more and more people until we want to help everybody, and wanting to improve ourselves more and more until there is no further room for improvement – we have bodhichitta. So the seed is there, we just have to keep watering it.

      Hope this helps, and look forward to seeing others’ comments too.

        1. Hello again, your comment came into my mind this morning when I was meditating with my small cat Nelson purring next to me. He looks to me for protection, love and food, which I try my best to provide him, but I’d like to scoop him out of samsara altogether. To do that, and to help all my current nearest and dearest, I need to generate bodhichitta because I need to become a Buddha with the necessary power. To develop bodhichitta, I need love and compassion for all living beings at least equal to what I have for Nelson. He is an example showing me what I need. So even to help our nearest and dearest, we need bodhichitta, let alone to help everyone else.

  3. I would pick bodhichitta. With bodhichitta I can become a Bodhisattva and then a Buddha. I would have the tools to save not only the 100 precious pups, but I would be able to save all living beings.

    I am on the path to becoming a Bodhisattva. It is a wonderful path. I know with faith and reliance I will be there. The Buddhas were once just like us. Walking around attached, deluded, and angry. I remember this every time I feel like the path is too hard and my sense of “I” is so strong.

    I believe it is important to remember to not overwhelm ourselves. We need to take the path moment by moment and learn from mistakes and success.

    My son and I volunteer at a pet rescue. We get to see these animals come to us in not so great shape. We work with them, love them, train them, and find them a forever home. It is such a wonderful feeling. I look at this as just a glimpse of my potential. If I can help save one little furry being, just imagine the joy and bliss there will be when I can pull every living being out of here.

    1. A beautiful comment, thank you. I love this: “If i can help save one little furry being, just imagine the joy and bliss there will be when I can pull every living being out of here.”

  4. Oh if only I had spontaneous bodhichitta, then I’d have the energy and wisdom to save them all anyway!

    Without that beautiful mind we just keep wiping the damp off the wall of samsara instead of tackling the root of the problem. We could save 1 million lives but there’d always be another million immediately taking their place.

    Thank you for that much needed boost of compassion and wisdom – it just shows how much we need both of those wings to fly to enlightenment!

    1. It is true that we need the energy to save them all… and for that we need to identify with the solution or we will get upset or compassion fatigue. Bodhisattvas are tireless and blissful. Why?! How?! We have to copy them!

  5. I would pick spontaneous Bodhichitta, on faith, since I am told that when I have that, I am well on the way to helping all living beings to escape suffering of every kind. It is especially nice to think of how Buddhas cannot help but help all living beings – effortlessly – just by existing. (Think I will have to re-study the stages on the way to Bodhichitta and Buddhahood and their features!).

    Must admit, I despair a lot of the time though, feel so far from being able to help and feel especially upset when I hear stories of wilful cruelty to animals.

    This is a type of laziness apparently, the laziness of discouragement but then I have all the lazinesses! (Not funny really).

    It is very nice to be reminded of Buddha and Bodhichitta though and hopefully such exposure will help me and others on our way so thank you Luna!

    1. Just thinking about bodhichitta with a happy mind is immensely purifying and creates merit.

      Probably, bodhichitta is our best defense against despair. When I read the PETA FB comments, of course people are often very upset and angry about the plight of animals, and I sympathise with how they are feeling even though anger cannot help. But instead of misdirecting that passion outward toward blaming others or inward toward blaming ourselves (i.e. despair and identifying with our limited self that doesn’t even exist), we can remember that our real nature is our Buddha nature, and we have within us everything we need to help these poor animals. We can decide, like the man in the wheelchair watching his child burn in the fire (a story Geshe-la tells in Meaningful to Behold) that this is the cue for becoming a Buddha now, what are we waiting for? We can imagine that we are already a Buddha, sending them light rays of love and protection. We can do taking and giving. We can pray. These thoughts are capable of dispelling the darkness of our despair and the laziness of our discouragement and will quickly lead us to helping more and more cats, dogs and bears.

      1. This is very helpful Luna, sooo true!
        But Sometimes it feels like as it is not a mind ( dispair) that is at control and so it just happens to appair….. and once you have it, here you go….

Leave a Reply