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Instead of plunging headfirst to their death in a pot of boiling water, 534 live lobsters escaped the dinner plate and belly flopped to freedom into the dark waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

A group of Tibetan Buddhists flanked the sides of a whale-watching boat at dusk on Wednesday, sprayed the lobsters with blessed water, clipped the bands binding their dangerous claws and gently released them one by one into the deep water below.

The 30 Buddhists of all ages trekked to the North Shore beach community known for its massive lobster hauls to purchase 600 pounds of lobster from a seafood wholesaler and save the critters from imminent death.

The lobster liberation was scheduled specifically for Aug. 3, which is Wheel Turning Day on this year's Tibetan lunar calendar, the anniversary of the first sermon Buddha taught. On this holiday, the merit for positive actions is multiplied many times.

"Even if they get captured again, they've had a longer life," said Wendy Cook, a yoga instructor and former director at the Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies in Medford, Mass., a town just north of Boston.

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