Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Little Dog which prays to the Buddha

Last week there was an article reporting a certain pet dog living in a Buddhist monastery in Okinawa, Japan. The 18-month old long-haired Chihuahua is named "Conan" and the strange thing about it is whenever the abbot does his sutra-chanting, Conan will stand on its hind legs and clasp its front paws in reverence. Like the monks, it would also do a "gassho" before it eats or go out.

The Mahakaruna Citta Dharani Sutra says:

"If I must head for the Animal realm, let all animals become wise."

The Bodhisattva cannot be seen, but he manifests in all the 6 realms to help sentient beings. If a common animal is wise enough show reverence for the Triple Gems, how much more so for us humans? On the other hand, some may ask why is Conan in the body of a dog, when it obviously deserve to be in a higher form. Ven Zhaozhou's Koan of a dog's Buddha-nature comes to mind. Does a dog have Buddha-nature? No. But all beings have Buddha-nature, why not the dog? Because it did wrong even when it knew better. Does a dog have Buddha-nature? Yes. Then why is it in the body of a dog? Because past karma obscures its consciousness. So from this we know that taking refuge in the external Triple Gems is not enough, for they are unstable like all other sankharas (formations). Only by taking refuge in the inner Triple Gems could one find the true path to the end of suffering. What does it mean to take refuge in the inner Triple Gems? To take refuge in the Buddha means to take refuge in your own mindfulness, to be constantly aware of the movements of the mind in the form of likes and dislikes. To take refuge in the Dhamma means to take refuge in your own wisdom, which knows better than to let the mind follow its own likes and dislikes. To take refuge in the Sangha is take refuge in the harmony of mindfulness and wisdom, understanding that they are fundamentally non-dual. Seeing that the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha arise only to deal with defilements and dissolves when defilements are no more; such that nothing really arises or dissolves is called the highest refuge - Nibbana. Let us all take refuge in the inner Triple Gems, sadhu.

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