All Life Forms Memorial Service


Grade Level: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Keywords: Basic Buddhism


  • By honoring and appreciating all life which helps to sustain us and our pets, who love us unconditionally, the lesson helps students to understand the concepts of interdependence and impermanence.


    1. Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas
    2. Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya
    3. The Heart of the Buddha-Dharma by Rev. Kenryu Tsuji.
    4. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
    5. Reflections on the Pet and All Life Forms Memorial Service by Rev. Marvin Harada (below)
    6. All Life Forms Memorial Service Form – to be filled out by the students (below)
    7. Silver or gold-paper covered box—student forms are placed in the box and placed on front table on the Onaijin.


  • Prepare the covered box
  • Make sufficient copies of the All Life Forms Memorial Service Form


  1. Opening Gassho
  2. This lesson before the service covers two concepts. One is on the concept of interdependence. For young children it is a lesson on where food we eat is derived from. For example: From pigs we receive pork, bacon, hot dogs, ham, spare ribs, baby-back ribs, etc. It is important for students to understand that animals and plants have given their lives to sustain us. This is explained in The Heart of the Buddha-Dharma by Rev. Kenryu Tsuji.
  3. When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree and contemplated on life and the world, he came to the supreme Enlightenment that everything in the universe was interdependent, nothing can stand alone. From this conception of the universe, it follows that the self, as an integral part of the universe, exists in an interdependent relationship with this universe. The air we breathe, the food we eat, our inherited political ideas and systems, cultural values or religious teachings make up the “I”. Man leans on others for existence, whether those objects are objects, ideals, or fellow beings; wise indeed were the masters of China when they composed the character for man as one line leaning against another. The knowing person understands that he or she is inextricably interrelated to everything in the world.
  4. Remind the students to say “Itadakimasu” (I receive my food) before eating and “Gochisosama”(That was a delicious meal) after eating to show appreciation for the animals and plants that gave their lives to us.
  5. Attached is an article in Discovering Buddhism in Everyday Life by Rev. Marvin Harada, in which he write about his “Reflections on the Pet and All Life Forms Memorial Service.”
  6. When thinking about the death of a pet, a person contemplates the impermanence of life. We recommend reading one of the books listed above according to your class level. The story/ies will motivate a class discussion on their experiences of his/her pet’s death.
  7. After a discussion, students should have the opportunity to write about their pet, draw a picture and share their special moments. This is a sad reality of life and we try to shield our children from this reality, however hiding this truth makes it harder for a child to accept death. Experiencing and coping with the death of a pet is a very good way for a child to understand the meaning of impermanence and that experience helps one to accept the death of a member of their family, when that occurs.
  8. During the service, the sensei reads the names of all the Sangha pets, who have died. We give our appreciation for our pets’ unconditional devotion, love and care. We honor them at this service.
  9. Through the participation of these lessons, we hope the students will gain an understanding of the Buddhist concepts of interdependence and impermanence and in turn have a greater appreciation and gratitude of their daily lives. Namu amida butsu


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Marion Nishimura, Orange County Buddhist Church, 2014