(Reuters) – Instead of plunging headfirst to their death in a pot of boiling water, 534 live lobsters escaped the dinner plate and belly flopped to freedom into the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
A group of Tibetan Buddhists flanked the sides of a whale-watching boat at dusk on Wednesday, sprayed the lobsters with blessed water, clipped the bands binding their dangerous claws and released them one by one into the deep water below.
The 30 Buddhists of all ages trekked to this northern Massachusetts fishing hub to buy 600 pounds of lobster from a seafood wholesaler and save the critters from imminent death.
The lobster liberation was scheduled for August 3, which is Wheel Turning Day on this year’s Tibetan lunar calendar, the anniversary of the first sermon Buddha taught. On this holiday, the merit for positive actions is multiplied many times.
“Even if they get captured again, they’ve had a longer life,” said Wendy Cook, former director at the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies in Medford, north of Boston.
Buddhists from the center typically liberate masses of the expensive seafood a couple times each year.
Cook, a yoga instructor, led a ceremony that included prayers, mantras and walking boxes of the lobsters in a circle around blessed objects. This develops a karmic connection for the animals’ future lifetimes and help ease future suffering, she said.
Monk Geshe Tenley, Kurukulla Center’s resident teacher, who was wearing a saffron robe, released the first lobster.
In India, Geshe Tenley said, cows, sheep and even goats are purchased and saved from slaughter. But here in New England, saving the lobsters and extending their lives — even if just for an hour — is most practical and a real way the group can make a difference in the lobsters’ existence and their own.
“It’s rethinking the way you normally see these creatures,” said Victoria Fan, a graduate student who participated in the ceremony steps away from a sign for $15.99 lobster dinners.
“You’re supposed to view them equally. Their happiness is as important as your happiness, their suffering is as important as your suffering,” Fan said.