Setting Lobsters Free

Releasing lives is a practice that Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche does often in Maine


During the Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche’s tour to Vermont an appeal went out for people to donate funds to release lobsters. As I found out, releasing lives is a practice that Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche does often in Portland. I wrote out a check and gave it to the person collecting the funds. When he saw the Maine address on my check he told me that I should come down to Portland for the release. I especially wanted my son, who was turning 15 the day after the release, to meet Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche. My son thinks of himself as a semi-Buddhist, but he says that he has too many questions that need to be answered before he can claim to be a real Buddhist. Possibly Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche could answer some of them, at the very least Alden is so close in age to the Yangsi.

I found the Portland Pier easily enough and we walked down to the end to find a beautiful setting right at the end of the pier. There was a floating dock rocking gently in the wakes of the passing boats. On top of that was a canopy to shade the Rinpoches, chairs, a carpet and lovely brocades covering the seats. Every detail was attended to. We got there almost two hours early but there were people already there, arranging and cleaning, doing all the final preparation work. As it was in Vermont all the people working so very hard were at the same time very kind and accommodating. The event was being hosted by the Ellsworth, Maine sangha, but many students of Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche from the Portland area had come, too. Since it was a week day, I thought many people had to work and would not be able to attend so the crowd was small, to begin with. As the time drew nearer for the party to arrive more and more people showed up. In all I think there were around 75 people. It was a small but devoted group.

All of the Rinpoches and many helpers first released all the lobsters, being careful to remove the rubber bands around the claws and place the animals in the water gently. This took a good long time, and there were crates and crates of lobsters. One could hear the gentle plick, plock of the lobsters going into the water and the creaking of the docks as they bobbed in the water. Occasionally boats would go by. There was one launch for the Portland Yacht Club that took a special interest in what we were doing. It must have looked a little strange to see all these people lining the pier and then to see that the gentlemen in robes were throwing the lobsters back into the water. They watched us with great curiosity for several minutes, then went back to their duties of shuttling people to and from the yachts further out in the harbor. I can only imagine what they must have thought.

Finally all the lobsters were set free and we began the liturgy for the release. We had been given the wrong copy of the liturgy and so we just listened as the others chanted. It was quite calming and gentle in the quiet surroundings, even though the business of the harbor was to our front and the bustling city of Portland was at our backs. It seems that practice brings that sense of quiet, no matter where one is.

After the liturgy was finished Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche announced that we had released 1020 lobsters for the benefit of all sentient beings. The party prepared to depart and there was a feeling of sadness that this was the end of this segment of the visit and our personal connection with it was departing, too.

In the last minutes before everyone left I managed to introduce Alden to all three of the great Rinpoches. The whole visit was a total success at that point. I just wish that I had remembered my camera was around my neck and I could have taken a picture.