[the below is from N., a Shambhala Buddhist]
first of all let me thank you again for all your loving, understanding, sensitive and respectful responses. It was great consolation in this time of grief – a grief surprisingly strong even for ourselves. My wife said this morning that we did not even realize how much we love this cat. And now, as usual, it’s too late. I can see the spot where we buried her from my window.
But I will not bother you with more personal observations. The reason why I am writing this is in fact that some of you requested to share the answers I received. I will gladly do so.
Most people, almost everybody, said that they felt it’s ok and appropriate to do a Sukhavati [traditional Buddhist funeral in which one lets go of one’s attachment to your loved one and wishes them well] ceremony. Someone said that animals (or their minds, rather) go through the Bardo [state of mind halfway between life and death] more quickly, so we are not sure about the 49 days [traditional period of time the Bardo lasts] here.
Also Tonglen, other kinds of bodhicitta [compassion] practice and Mantras [chants] in general were felt to be appropriate for animals as well as humans, the same goes for aspiration prayers and dedications. Someone suggested Phowa if you have received the practice [you’ll know what ‘Phowa’ is if you’ve received the practice!’].
A smaller animal, like a cat, could also be put in a box or wrapped in a cloth and put next to a [meditation] shrine to do the ceremony there. (In our case, however, Detta’s body had begun to decompose, so we actually wrapped her body and put it into the open grave and then did the ceremony, somewhat free style, before filling up the grave with earth.)
Another short chant that could be done for as long as the bardo lasts, was suggested:
“Oh Buddhas & Bodhisattvas of the ten directions and the three times,
Please protect and guide (your animal’s name) on her journey.
May she be free from fear and clinging to this life.
May she have a favourite rebirth.”
A long teaching on helping dying or dead animals was sent to me by Nancy (thank you!); it’s too long to include here, I guess, but I am sure if someone is interested she will be able to forward it directly to you.
Someone suggested to sing the following song by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche three times (many of you know this song):
/All you sentient beings I have a good or bad connection with/
/As soon as you have left this confused dimension/
/May you be born in the West in Sukhavati [mythological heavenly realm of nirvana]
/And once you’re born there, complete the bhumis [stages of enlightenment] and the paths.
/Another suggestion was to put amrita [sacred] pills or salts from Trungpa Rinpoche’s kudung [cremation’ (if you have them) into the mouth of the animal or on top of her head. In relation you could also buy animals that are going to be killed (like bait worms for instance) and set them free. Another suggested liturgy was the “Aspiration of Samantabhadra”.
Some suggested using the Medicine Buddha mantra, which is TADYATA OM BHAISAJAYE BHAISAJAYE MAHA BHAISAJAYE RAJAYA SAMUDGATE SVAHA.
There is a link to further explanations http://www.purifymind.com/Practice.htm
The heart sutra could also be used, especially the mantra.
I have also received this mantra
NAMO SUGATA RATNA SHIKHIN
which someone has used for dead and dying animals for many years and found it helpful to keep thoughts and feelings positive in such difficult times.
So, I think that’s about it. The gist seems to be that whatever works for humans who are dying or have recently died also works for pet animals.
Thank you again — a few personal responses are in order, I will try to send these soon. ~ N.
Bonus: elephant’s Waylon & his best friend Redford:
How to care for their diet while alive: