After I was ordained, I intended to open a Zen center, but I happened to bear witness to cows going to slaughter, and it was a kind of awakening. I realized we don’t have a center for animals where we can provide spiritual and physical refuge.

I host weekly Sunday livestreams and conduct services usually reserved for humans, like funeral rites and empowerments. But really, the animals teach me more than I teach them.

All of our residents have been rescued from a factory farm or slaughterhouse. I believe all sentient beings deserve the right to be rescued. It may not always be the legal thing to do, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

A very important part of the bodhisattva path is bearing witness and realizing the suffering of others, including nonhuman animals. It elicits the compassion needed for you to take action.

Pictured here is Odi the turkey, Sabrina Mei the rooster, and Gloria the hen. Our residents have special dietary, medicinal, and emotional needs due to past abuse. Caring for them is the best lesson in patience and compassion.

buddhist animal sanctuary


See more of Rev. Yamada’s day on Instagram @tricyclemag.

Check out previous installments of “A Day in the Dharma” featuring Brad Warner, Shifu Shi Yan Ming, Roshi Joan Halifax, Vanessa Zuisei Goddard, Mindy NewmanWangmo DixeyJosh KordaSensei Koshin Paley Ellison, the members of the Village Zendo, and six Buddhist teachers in quarantine.

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