Adi Da Samraj: “If you are going to bring animals into your sphere and take them out of theirs, you have to make some sort of arrangement with them in which they have the potential, through their contemplative life, to be just as happy as you want them to be. But in that process of sensitizing yourself to non-humans and placing no barriers between yourself and them, you have to go beyond your previous mind about non-humans as sort of “non-beings”. ~ January 1996
People often wonder what to do when their pet, or another animal, dies or is dying. How can we best serve an animal through this inevitable, and natural, bodily life process?
Adi Da Samraj has given invaluable instructions about the death process for humans in His landmark book “Easy Death”.
The death process for non-humans is essentially the same, however, there are some unique things to consider in serving an animals’ dying, including whether and when euthanasia may be appropriate.
Serving Dying Animals
When animals begin to enter the death process there are some very simple things we can do to assist and support them. Because of their already deep level of contemplation, and natural participation in Divine Awareness, most non-humans have much less difficulty than humans with releasing themselves into and through the death process. Sometimes the best help we can give them is simply to leave them alone… Set them up in a comfortable, safe, quiet place and allow them their space.
Once the death process is under-way and soon after the death has occurred, minimize physical contact with the animal. At this point, physical contact—though perhaps reassuring to the grieving person—can be disturbing and distracting for the one who is involved in the letting go of the body.
If it is a natural death, whether through old age or illness, you will hopefully have had time to express your love and gratitude to your animal friend well before the actual death process is fully underway. Both leading up to and at the time of death, it is most helpful to the animal if you have come to the point of acceptance and loving release.
Allow and support the animal to relax its attachment to the body. Because many animals form strong loyalties toward their human caretakers, if they feel you are not ready for them to die they may resist letting go. If they start resisting their ability to transition smoothly will be compromised. This is an important point. If needed, talk with your human friends to gain the emotional support and overall understanding to allow you to accept what is occurring so you can serve as a helpful participant.
Pain medication, antibiotics, and other veterinary care might serve the dying animal’s comfort and relaxation. Consult your veterinarian.
For people following Adi Da’s Teachings anointing the animal with holy water and sacred ash is often recommended. You might also bring fresh flowers to the dying animal. Flowers exemplify, communicate and celebrate the benign cycle of living and dying.
When around the dying animal, rather than indulging in fear, sorrow, helplessness or anger, or in your attachment to the now, or soon-to-be, transitioning individual, invoke the disposition of Blessing, and surrender your attention into the Mystery. Release all negative emotion, guilt and regret. The death of another is a profound lesson in what the actual circumstance of our life really is.
After death has occurred, let the body rest in place for 12 to 24 hours, then bury or cremate. It also serves to do a simple post-death ceremony on the body, and a burial ceremony later, on the body or the ashes. This is not really needed by the deceased animal but it often serves those grieving to honor their beloved non-human friend in such ways.
Take up the animal’s “belongings”—bedding, bowls, leashes, toys, and so forth. Clean them and put them away. This helps make conscious and tangible the process of release, and puts it into action.
Meditate. Go on retreat. Become a more serious, happy and surrendered human being.
Serving Wild Animals
If you come across a wild animal who has been mortally injured or killed it is fine to offer help, but be very careful not to get hurt.
Help given to a dying wild animal should usually be simple and brief. Wild animals are not accustomed to human contact. If they are hurt or recently killed, they already have a lot to deal with. Your unfamiliar human presence will very likely be very disturbing. Remain calm.
There they are, in pain and shock, faced with the death process coming onto them, and suddenly they have to deal with their inbuilt fear response toward humans! If one is not sensitive to this, even well intentioned help might be more disturbing than useful.
If the dying animal is injured on a roadway you might calmly, as gently as possible, move the animal off the road and into the bushes nearby. Then leave it there, alone, to die quietly and undisturbed. (You may consider calling a trained professional about euthanasia—see below.) If the chances of survival with help seem strong you might proceed in that direction. Always be careful not to get bitten or kicked.
Through the actual psycho-physical death process wild animals do not need any human help at all. Their inherent Spiritual sensitivity has prepared them well for death. Simply let them be. Later, you might go back and deal with the body in an appropriate way, or notify relevant authorities about the carcass.
The Question of Euthanasia
When we employ euthanasia with animals we interrupt the natural course of their karmic release and purification. If possible, allow your animal friend to live as long as it is humane to do so—preferably until a natural death has occurred. Weigh the virtues of this against the animal’s state of pain and disturbance, and be sensitive to what the animal wants.
Sometimes it’s very clear that it wants your help; other times it may wish to go through the process without intervention. It is important for both you and the animal to feel what is happening and freely release the event without clinging. They will always sense your communication and supportive intention, and this will help to guide and relax them.
Being natural contemplatives, non-humans readily accept the process of death once it comes. Adi Da Samraj’s Instruction is that as long as the being maintains the impulse to life, we should fully serve and support that impulse.
Only when the individual turns its energies toward the actual death process should we turn our supportive energies in that direction. And always support and serve the intuition of Life, rather than mere death.
Adi Da Samraj recommends great restraint in resorting to euthanasia. Use it only where absolutely necessary, and when an animal is in a circumstance of dire pain, bewilderment and suffering, with no prognosis for recovery.
Adi Da Samraj (in response to a question about right use of euthanasia): Is the animal suffering pain, fear, or debilitation? What is the individual’s state? Should the animal be permitted to live longer? Are there any procedures that might prolong the life, and should they be implemented or not? Should the animal continue to live and should medical things be done to help it live or not? Is the animal able to function? Will it be able to feel or not? Or is it just suffering? How does the animal communicate its state? Is it disturbed, in great pain, or is it comfortable? If it is not functioning, can it be healed to be able to function well enough again? Consider whether the animal should be allowed to die naturally or whether it should be put to sleep through medical means. And if it is to be put to sleep, this should be done in a non-disturbing way. What would occur over time if the process were one of allowing it to go through the death naturally, keeping in mind that it might need to be terminated at some point along the process? – October 25, 1991
Use the above questions to guide your care of your animal companion or friend, always staying sensitive to the life-process of the animal, honoring the life at every step, and not moving to euthanasia prematurely simply to avoid the difficult confrontation death presents us with.