Lodro Denpa to Geshe Loden: Compassion in action

Conqueror Maitreya said, “Bodhichitta means for the sake of others, wishing to attain complete perfect enlightenment”.

We all know these words. They are planted firmly in our minds, rehearsed over and again. Such a key teaching, and foundation of the mahayana.

Bodhichitta was the practice that Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden emphasised. Meaning “mind of enlightenment”, it is of two types: wishing (or aspiring), and engaging. Think, Shantideva’s “Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds”.

For those of us who knew Geshe-la, it is a given that he exemplified this practice. It goes without saying that he was a role model for us all, regardless of faith or spirituality or other merely labelled boundaries. He was always working for the welfare of sentient beings.

I only knew Geshe-la for the first 11 years of my life. 11 years on, and a lot of what I do remember are the second-hand stories that family and friends tell me about these early years. Though my memories may be faint, these stories – whether personal or about others – reaffirm this primary goal of enlightenment.

One such story that has always stuck with me is from Geshe-la’s biography. Contained at the end of his prayer book, Prayers for the Path of Indivisible Great Bliss and Emptiness, it is the story of the yak.

Lodro Denpa and a Tibetan yak

Lodro Denpa: Unchangeable Wisdom

Geshe-la was born “Lodro Denpa”, Tibetan for “Unchangeable Wisdom”. He was an extremely compassionate child, and was moved to tears seeing animals be tormented or killed by others.

At age seven, Lodro Denpa saved the life of a yak who was to be slaughtered by a butcher. Witnessing what was to happen, the murder of a sentient being, he begged and pleaded the butcher to free the yak.

Seeing the distress of this young boy, the butcher was so affected that he abandoned his trade on the spot and vowed to never kill again. He had great fondness for Lodro Denpa after this experience.

This innate compassion is within us all. It is the fundamental potential for enlightenment. The bodhichitta that is sparked by seeing the unbelievable suffering that others experience.

Many of us recall this story, we recollect it when discussing Geshe-la’s intrinsic compassion.

Bodhichitta means...

But what message do we actually take away from it? When we speak of sentient beings, whose lives are we actually discussing?

I may not remember Geshe Loden as strongly as others, as he passed away half my lifetime ago, but I remember the connection I had with him. As my guru, he impacted my life and drove its direction.

I understand that bodhichitta was his principle teaching; bodhichitta, aspiring to liberate all beings from suffering.

All beings. Humans, and non-humans.

The human side of things we seem to grasp. I believe that we operate from a human-centric model.

The non-humans however, are the sentient beings that we often forget.

These include the animals that we exploit needlessly, for food or clothing, entertainment or experiments.

They are mother sentient beings, who wish for happiness just like everyone else. The same beings we include in our prayers.

...for the sake of others

While on our cushion, we wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering, and yet consume their flesh and secretions in the form of our next meal.

The flesh that results from their murder. Their milk the result of rape, stealing, murder. Eggs, theft and murder likewise.

This is not an issue of favouring one group of sentient beings, namely farmed animals.

The ethical argument comprises only one element; the knock-on effect is even greater.

There is a chain of causality, an interdependence.

To consider the detrimental impact that their exploitation, under our own hands, is having on the environment as a whole cannot be ignored. Through desire for transitory taste pleasure, our breeding of these beings is driving the climate crisis.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.

All sentient beings are affected.

Break the chain of causality

There is something we can do.

The solution is simple. It considers all beings.

Be like Lodro Denpa. Break the chain of causality.

Personally, I do not consume animal products.

In meat production, mother sentient beings are bred to be murdered so you can consume their flesh in a fleeting moment of satisfaction.

In dairy, cows are forcibly impregnated (raped) for the production of milk. When they can no longer lactate, they too are killed. Their babies are stolen. If they are male, they will be killed, and females will be subject to the same life as their mother.

A similar story unfolds in the egg industry. The fate of a male baby chick is to be gassed or ground alive.

I ask, what part of this is in line with Buddhist principles?

How can we take the precepts that prohibit such acts as killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and yet turn a blind eye to these very practices. We are only lying to ourselves if this is to be seen as in line with an ethical life.

If you can get enlightened, you can go vegan!

As a young person, I am told I am idealistic.

To this I ask, is enlightenment not the most idealistic goal?

And if you can attain enlightenment, you can go vegan.

(Oh, and by the way, Loden Rinpoche will be a young person.

What’s not to say they’ll be vegan too?)

© Taradical Compassion 2024

Taradical Compassion comprises dharma thoughts and expressions, original artwork, motion visualisations and meditations on the lam.rim (the graduated path to enlightenment) with great emphasis on the need for compassion and bodhichitta for our fellow sentient beings.

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