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Free Your Body, Free My Heart
Life Releasing

7 August 2007

With regard to karma, it is said that of all negative ones, killing other beings is the worst; and of all positive ones, saving life is the best.

So some days ago, a grand life saving operation took place in Guangzhou in which one million delicious seafood-would-be creatures were set free to the sea. Among the lucky million, there were 23 giant sea turtles with the oldest reportedly aged 113.

Life Releasing (放生) undertaking, coupled with vegetarian diet, has a long history in China. In 511 AD, Emperor Liang Wudi (梁武帝), after reading Lankavatara Sutra (《楞伽经》) that made him realise Buddha nature is in every being and thus all forms of life are of equal value, wrote Let’s Abstain from Alcohol and Meat (《断酒肉文》), urging his people to abandon animal sacrifice and the monks to stick to vegetable dishes, and that practically started an unique tradition of Han Chinese vegetarian Buddhism. During his reign, from time to time a large number of horned, winged, furred and finned folks were saved from the butcher‘s knife, and released to the sky the land or rivers, which is considered as the beginning of the Life Releasing custom. Before long, the practices became integral parts of the Buddhist life in China, and the tells of the miraculous effects derived from these exercises made entry into various historical documents.

Not everyone endorse the practices though. Some oppose the ideas on the ground that we shall observe the natural order, and others argue from the perspective of helping the animals in their karmic debts repayment.

Yet the supporters dispute against these notions by reciting Surangama Sutra (《楞严经》), in which the Buddha denounces the act of killing other sentient beings, for it not just causing sufferings on the slaughtered, generating unhappy karmas for the slaughters, but planting negative seeds in the consciousness of the perpetrators which would see them stuck deeper in the karmic loop. Therefore, as the Life Releasing participants believe, what have been released are not just those trapped animals, but their own trapped hearts.

Thus we heard Chinese monk Xuanhua (宣化上人) once said: “Your world is the reflection of your heart; you are what you want to be.”

Thus we hear Chinese monk Jiqun (济群法师) keep saying: “What we once pursue will be what we repeatedly chase; and what we keep chasing will be what we eventually attain.”

And thus we venture to anticipate that the Life Releasing practice would continue, and would even become more popular. And why wouldn’t it?

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