A blessing on the animals

By Kath Gannaway, Star News Group, June 30, 2009

His Holiness The 41st Sakya Trizin and the monks invokes blessing on the Australian Wildlife Health Centre and its staff and wildlife that perished in the bushfires

Healesville, Australia -- FOR more than 20 minutes last week the hustle and bustle of Healesville Sanctuary stopped as prayers were offered for the millions of animals that perished in the February bushfires.

On the lawns in front of the wildlife veterinary centre, where hundreds of injured animals were treated, Buddhist monks, led by His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin, invoked blessings, chanting the names of the Buddhas.

The Sakya Trizin is supreme head of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism and second only to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism.

Sanctuary staff, Yarra Ranges’ wildlife carers, followers of the Sakya Trizin and sanctuary visitors stood in silent contemplation.

The Sakya Trizin smiled as he tentatively patted an echidna, a survivor of the bushfires and later enjoyed a close encounter with a wedge-tailed eagle as it swooped down over his head at the Bird of Prey presentation.

He said he was saddened to hear of the millions of animals, from insects and reptiles to birds, possums and iconic Australian wildlife such as kangaroos and koalas, that had perished.

Chanting of the sutras evoked blessings, he said.

“We believe that, hearing Buddha’s names, the animals will have special connections, so that with them they get blessings in this life and in the future,” he said.

Denise Garratt of Help For Wildlife said the ceremony was very healing.

“I think it was a beautiful thing that people from across the world have come here and are honouring our wildlife.

“It shows that the wildlife belongs to all of us,” she said.

“It is recognition of our wildlife and that it is all part of the universe and we all have a responsibility for it and need to stand together to protect it.”

Healesville Sanctuary veterinarian Dr Rupert Baker showed the Sakya Trizin through the Australian Wildlife Health Centre which he and the veterinary team had set up as a triage point providing specialist help to wildlife carers and vets in fire-affected regions.

Dr Baker said the chanting offered time to stop and reflect but that a defining moment for him came during the tour of the centre when the Sakya Trizin spoke of the compassion of caring for the animals.

“He smiled and looked at me and said it was compassion in action,” Dr Baker said. “Compassion being so central to what we do.”

The Sakya Trizin and the monks attended the Bird of Prey presentation during their tour of the sanctuary with director John Gibbons.

He spoke of the terrifying circumstances in which many of the animals died. “It is a very difficult time but with all the people’s love and compassion and prayers, maybe they will be in a better place,” he said.

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