A life release ceremony in Hong Kong
On the morning of January 26, 2013, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa conducted a life release ceremony. The meeting point was North Point Pier at Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour where two large ships were waiting to take His Holiness Karmapa, along with his entourage and devotees, out to sea. Each ship had thirty-two beautifully laid tables, seating twelve people each. By the time the ships set out from the harbour every single place was taken.
In preparation for the fish release His Holiness gave a short introductory teaching about the mindset and attitude to develop during such a practice:
“We should offer our aspirations: may these animals that we are going to release today gain freedom in this life, may they take rebirth as human beings in the future, and from rebirth to rebirth, may they progress towards the Pure Land. May we always have the opportunity to offer support to sentient beings, not just in this lifetime, not just here and now… May we always be able to offer our time and energy for the benefit of all beings.
The merit we generate in this way will be timeless, meaning that it will never be exhausted, since it comes from a pure intention.
And then this timeless merit that we have accumulated, we once again offer it to all sentient beings. In this way, our merit becomes ceaseless, continuous. So at all times, we must be aware of all sentient beings: those who are present in this world now, pursuing happiness, those who are in the various stages of passing away, as well as those who are in the process of taking rebirth, which is also a very challenging journey.
So we should be aware of all of them, recite the six-syllable mantra of Chenresig and offer our merit. This in itself is a meritorious act, but on top of that, it reminds us of the nature of life. This activity that we are carrying out today reminds us of the three stages of the lives of sentient beings. Therefore, we should rejoice and develop gratitude that this very existence, not matter how challenging it may be at times, is always offering us opportunities like this.”
At the end of his speech there was an opportunity for group photos with Gyalwa Karmapa, and then everybody enjoyed the all-vegetarian lunch.
After the meal, the fish release itself started. For the ceremony, Gyalwa Karmapa and some of his lamas climbed down to two small boats carrying thousands of live fish. Once on board the boats, they performed a ritual, chanting prayers and blessing saffron water. Then Gyalwa Karmapa blessed the writhing fish with the consecrated saffron water before releasing them into the sea.
Once the ceremony was completed, Gyalwa Karmapa mounted the second passenger ship for the return trip to North Point Pier.