An innocent crustacean crawls about the ocean floor, enjoying its day in the muck, as any prehistoric creature that shunned evolution in favor of the briny status quo is wont to do. In the blink of a protruding eyeball, its claws are snapping in some upscale kitchen, and its torso is being lowered, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, into a vat of boiling water.
How many among us would step forward and intercede on behalf of those twitching antennae?
“Oh, please,” you reply. “Don’t stand between me and the garlic butter.“
But your reply would be tempered with kindness if you were a Buddhist monk observing the holy day of Chokhor Duchen, the anniversary of Buddha’s turning of the Dharma Wheel.
“Turning the wheel” refers to the master explaining the endless cycle of birth and rebirth to his first five disciples. Somewhere in Buddha’s “turning wheel” doctrine is the precept that liberating animals due for slaughter expresses compassion for all beings. Furthermore, freeing an animal scheduled for consumption accumulates karmic merit for the liberator.
The karmic merit points are believed to be multiplied if the toothsome beasts are set free on the day of Chokhor Duchen, which explains why on August 3 a group of Buddhists purchased 500 lobsters from commercial fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and released the living delicacies back into the sea.
Commercial fishermen, of course, cycle in their own wheel of birth and rebirth. Even now, their boats are on the sea, bobbing about like the seemingly random workings of karma. The Gloucester seafarers are in the business of capturing the very beasts the Buddhists had released, hoping to sell each of those lobsters a second time, pocketing a cash windfall that’s a byproduct of the Chokhor Duchen dividend received by the monks.