Monday, October 20, 2014

Does Man's Best Friend Have Buddha Nature?, by Neil Anthony Swanson

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Student Neil
Neil Anthony Swanson
There is a famous zen story about a master who was asked if a dog also has Buddha-nature, to which the master basically just barked back at the student. I love how the enlightened beings in these old stories are able to push their students past conceptual limitations into a new level of realization. Maybe a barking Buddhist master could be said to have dog-nature? How about if Buddha-nature and dog-nature are one and the same?

Ever since I was a small child, I have adored man’s best friend. There were times in my adolescence when I had all but lost my faith in humanity, and yet throughout those periods, some of my closest companions were dogs. I have no doubt that the soul in a dog is no less full of love and sentiment than any person I’ve met. And so the Buddhist teaching that all sentient life, including animals, is imbued with the same potential for realization as people has always rung true for me.

I don’t see it as a coincidence that, since I began studying Buddhism with Shang Rinpoche over a decade ago, I have been given constant opportunities to help take care of all sorts of animal life. Over the past decade, I have heard Rinpoche reiterate countless times that we must not harm a single living being, and that, according to the core tenants of Buddhism, we should go even further to protect all those who are weaker than ourselves and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to help dogs as part of my practice. I have bathed these animals, fed them, taken them to see veterinarians, cared for them through long nights when they were in need, and watched many get placed into loving homes. Looking into those eyes, you do not see a dog, a pet, an animal. You see a soul in no way lesser than any human who ever lived.

I am honoured to be part of a tradition that insists upon this principle, and blessed to have a teacher who reminds me all the time. Cherish all life and protect those beings that are weaker than yourself. This is what the Buddha taught.

1 comment:

  1. I do wonder if a Buddhist master has dog-nature... It's a fair point you bring up!