Tuesday, April 04, 2006
My dog in samsara
I was letting my dog out this morning and I had a bit of an epiphany.
I was watching him sniff around the backyard when he stopped and started nibbling on grass. Now, Jakey does this from time to time but every time he does—no matter where he is or what kind of grass he eats—he throws up. "Hey Jakey," I said, trying to distract him from his would-be nibble, "don't do that, you'll just throw up." He looked up, somewhat startled, then trotted over to me to be let back inside.
Why does he eat the grass when it makes him sick every time he eats it? Why do any of us humans do things that are unhealthy or unwholesome when we know we will reap the consequences later?
A few minutes later, back inside the house, I was preparing breakfast (Kashi with sliced strawberries and bananas). Jakey was doing his usual, sniffing around the kitchen floor, hoping to find something to eat, perhaps a morsel that a human dropped last night. He was grazing, even though he had a bowl full of fresh, tasty dog food right around the corner.
Don't we all do this? We graze, always looking for something, that special whizbang doo-dah, even if we have no need for it. There's a multi-trillion dollar retail industry out there that preys on our neverending desire for the next doo-dah. Perhaps because we feel incomplete, empty or unsatisfied psychologically, or perhaps because of what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our habit energy. We spend our lives, sniffing the floor of the cosmic kitchen, looking for the next morsel, even though we don't need it and whatever loot we find may in fact be unhealthful.
The Buddha didn't say it this way, but the second and third Noble Truths could really be summarized thus:
"Don't be a dog! Quit nibbling and sniffing, let go of the wanting and live."