(updated March 2018)
Hot, dry summer weather is hazardous for our friends the earthworms. Crossing the sidewalk is like crossing the desert. The ground is so hard, the worms seem to pop out and roll onto the pavement. Tenzin (age 12) and I found a worm that was half dead – half its body was already shriveled up and hard, it barely responded to touch. To our amazement, the worm cast away the dead section and revived after a few hours of gentle soaking.
This is Tenzin’s account of how to rescue worms:
- Bring the worm to a safe place.
- Examine it carefully to see what’s wrong.
- If it looks too dry, take it home.
- Build a habitat using a container filled with damp soil and leaves.
- Place the worm in a damp paper towel inside the habitat in a quiet place.
- Let the worm rest, this may take a few minutes or a few hours depending on whether it needs to discard a dead section of its body. Keep it captive for the shortest amount of time possible.
- Say many prayers for the worm, surround it with holy objects, play recordings of the Medicine Buddha prayer.
- When it has fully healed, find a shaded area in the woods. Water the ground if it’s too hard. Make sure there aren’t any ants nearby. Ants might attack the worm. If possible, water the area regularly if the dry weather continues.
In contrast, on rainy days, worms come to the surface and are washed onto the streets and sidewalks where they can be crushed by cars and pedestrians. More often than not, they end up drowning in puddles. You can save them easily by placing them under some leaves in a quiet, safe place. If they’re cold from exposure and not moving, cup them in your hands, recite mantras and blow on them. They’ll start to wiggle when they warm up.
By setting your motivation correctly and dedicating all the merit from your efforts, you create immeasurable good karma and please countless Buddhas. Rejoice!
This is an easy way to engage kids in practicing the Dharma. It shows them how to respect living creatures and to be mindful of others’ sufferings. Instead of lecturing kids about love and compassion, save a worm with them. If it survives, they’ll be heroes, but even if the worm dies, you’ve set an example by trying to save it. The kids will get in the habit of being on the look-out for those in need.
I wrote this post because when I was a kid growing up, I used to hunt for worms to use for fishing. I guess I really didn’t know any better. So I hope that by rescuing worms now, I can purify some of the negative karma that I created earlier in my life.
OM MANI PADME HUM – mantra of Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion
TAYATA OM BEKANZAY BEKANZAY MAHA BEKANZAY RADZA SAMUDGATAY SOHA — Medicine Buddha