Introduction - Liberating Life
To liberate the living means to respect the right of all living beings to live and be free. Liberating living beings enables us to transform our hateful and defiled thoughts into thoughts of kindness and purity, and obtain the benefits of longevity, health, and peace.
"Liberate the living" is a traditional Buddhist ceremony which involves purchasing birds and fish from slaughter houses, transporting them from the edge of death to the ocean shore, and setting them free.
The elaborate ceremonies concentrate participants' thoughts on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in repentance of all karmic obstacles to liberation. Then the animals are released in a joyful burst of wings. The message: oppression, war, and killing can be rooted out without violence if we respect the right of living beings to live and to be free, and liberate them. We can do this by transforming our hostile, aggresive, and jealous thoughts into thoughts of compassion and peace; in liberating other creatures, we liberate ourselves.
In general we must all realize that our actions are usually motivated by other than pure principle. We must all, young and old, leader and citizens, give birth without cease to hearts of great compassion, break free from harmful habits, and apply the true principles of human life to the community of all living beings. We must renounce ourselves and rescue others, benefit ourselves by benefitting others, respect all creatures, and see the universe of beings as one family. This is the true meaning of the heart of liberation.
Vajra Bodhi Sea, June 1974
Buddhism regards all living creatures as being endowed with the Buddha nature and the potential to become Buddhas. That's why Buddhism teaches us to refrain from killing and to liberate creatures instead.
~ Venerable Master Hsuan Hua