September 14, 2008

What to Do when your Pet Dies (Buddhist Tips & Mantras to Help you Grieve).


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“In Mongolia, when a dog dies, he is buried high in the hills so people cannot walk on his grave. The dog’s master whispers into the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life.” ~ The Art of Racing in the Rain

No one wants to think about losing their beloved pet.

Especially when connection with animals is one of our greatest energetic gifts in life.

But death is inevitable for us all, so here are some spiritual practices to help you cope when your pet passes away.

Life and Death are but an illusion.
Happy and Sad are just a state of mind.
Love and Compassion alleviates the suffering
Of All sentient Beings—those who have been
our Mothers and our Fathers.
To recognize the interconnectedness of all beings
Is to know peace! ~ a Buddhist Homage.

A letter from N., a Shambhala Buddhist: What to Do When Your Pet Dies

Dear all who responded to my question about ceremonies for beloved dead pets,

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 okay 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 freestyle, 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.”

A Buddhist Mantra to Say Goodbye to Your Furry Friend

Here is a link to further explanations.

The heart sutra could also be used, especially the mantra.

I have also received this mantra


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: Waylon & his best friend Redford:


author: Waylon Lewis

Image: Marvin Meyer/Unsplash

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rozellebantjes May 5, 2019 5:05am

I also wrap my furbaby in a cloth and then bury him or her. It is a sign of respect for them. And we have a funeral and I talk or sing to them and tell them how much I love and appreciated them.

Deep Sep 5, 2014 2:31pm

Dear all, Please Please do pray for my darling 15 year old doggy Blacky who passed away early morning on the 4th september 2014. Many times i stroked his head and chanted , when he died I was dumb struck and did not chant and berried him. a few miniutes later i put the cd of suthra chanting as usual prayin for him, daily i pray for him to have a happy rebirth. we berried him in our garden, can i do anything to make things be serene for him? Blacky my loving dearest family memeber may you attain Nibbana.

Ed! Sep 25, 2013 9:06am

I've never heard teachers make a distinction between what to do for an animal or for a human.

Sur (burnt offering practice) is considered to be especially helpful to those in the bardo as they will still experience hunger and craving, but with only a mental body, they cannot find sustenance. The burning of specific blessed food substances and other things both satisfies their hunger and helps them tremendously due to the blessings and the intentions of the practitioner.

One can get a Sur practice text and instructions from a qualified teacher. May all beings benefit!

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.