When you hear the word lobster, do you think mayonnaise, butter or bisque? Members of West Tisbury’s Bodhi Path Buddhist Center released over 100 lobsters back into the ocean on Sunday to encourage you to think of them as living beings instead.

A small crowd gathered at the Memorial Wharf in Edgartown in the early afternoon. The Chappy Ferry cruised back and forth. A scuttling could be heard coming from the large cardboard boxes on the picnic table. Trinlay Rinpoche closed his eyes as he blessed the lobsters inside. The Rinpoche, or honored teacher of Buddhist Dharma, was on his fifth visit to the Island from his home in Paris, France. Earlier that morning, he taught a lesson on Karma at the Bodhi Path center, a fitting segue to the afternoon ceremony.

Sharon Gamsby and Barbara Dacey are the co-coordinators of Bodhi Path on the Island. The Vineyard location was founded by Shamar Rinpoche in 1999 as part of an international network. Ms. Gamsby and Ms. Dacey have been involved since day one. The lobster release is an extension of the center’s mission, Ms. Gamsby said.

“We just want to encourage awareness,” she said. “We don’t want to tell anyone what to eat, but we just want to invite them to consider not killing and eating these animals.”

The $1,000 worth of lobsters were bought from Stanley Larsen of Menemsha Fish Market earlier that day. “Stanley’s so great,” Ms. Gamsby said on the wharf. “He gives us a good deal.”

In accordance with their vows to do no harm, many Buddhists are vegetarians. But not all abstain. The point for Ms. Gamsby is just to make conscious decisions about the living creatures. “Do you kill the spider in your shower or do you bring it outside? Do you blow the mosquito away or do you smack it? Maybe both, honestly, but we just hope you’ll consider it.”

The way in which lobsters are killed, usually being boiled alive, is notable for Trinlay Rinpoche. At the wharf, the Rinpoche poured a blessed greenish-yellow tisane of medicinal plants over the lobsters. “Crabs and lobsters are particularly treated in an inhumane way,” he said.

A young boy helped Trinlay Rinpoche carry one of the cardboard boxes to the edge of the wharf. The lobsters had a small notch taken from their tail, the symbol to fishermen that it’s not for sale, usually because it’s an egg-bearing female. “My secret wish is for there to be a marine sanctuary for the safe treatment of animals here or nearby,” the Rinpoche said.

But that’s for the future. Under a clear sky, bystanders reached into the box and tossed the lobsters into the water. After a gentle smack, they tumbled down and out of sight.

Jen Brown had driven to the event from Menemsha harbor, where “people were dining on lobster,” she said. “People think that when you’re on vacation you need to eat lobster.”

Ms. Gamsby reiterated that the demonstration, like the teachings offered at Bodhi Path, was not intended to be didactic. Her son is a commercial fisherman and like many Islanders relies on fishing for his income. But in Buddhism, increased awareness is never a bad thing. What you decide to do with the information is your choice, Ms. Gamsby said. “The lobsters were at the market this morning. At least we’re giving them a chance at a different life.”

Attendees chatted with Trinlay Rinpoche and said goodbye, bowed and headed back through town. Down below, the lobsters got back to whatever they do when no one’s watching.