A Lesson About Life from A Zen ‘Dog Master


by Jayaram V

Every day when I sit down for a few minutes to do meditation in a quiet room, my dog sits at the main door of the house and keeps barking at anything that moves on the road. In the beginning, it was distracting enough to feel disturbed. However, on second thoughts I realized that my dog was serving me like a Zen master.

His bark had a cryptic message for me. It was not the dog, but it was I who was the problem. My mind was barking in response to his bark. In his own mysterious ways, the Buddha in that dog sent me a clear message, that I should use the distraction to practice meditation and learn not to be disturbed by it or by any other distraction. He also sent me another message, to see things clearly and not keep shouting and defending against nonexistent threats, problems and enemies.

Life creates numerous opportunities for us to practice the stillness of the mind, cultivate some virtue, or become a better a human being. You may have an annoying friend, spouse, boss, teacher, work environment, a certain food item, movie, book, an email, or a troublesome child. You may either view them as problems and lose your peace over them or use them as opportunities to strengthen yourself and become immune from the ups and downs of life. They say that when God loves you he creates numerous distractions and problems in your life to toughen you up and make you eligible for liberation. There is a lot of truth in it, provided you know how to get the message instead of blaming the messenger.

You cannot control the world outside. You cannot stop the world from happening. You are but a broken leaf in the whirl of life. If your first and immediate response to any problem is calmness, you have won the first battle against life and Nature. You do not have to be submissive or surrender to situations and problems. The Buddha was a reformer, not a passive witness to the suffering that he saw in the world. He wanted to do something about it, and he did it with courage. He did it after thinking about it for years, wandering in the wilderness, in search of a permanent solution. He used hunger, starvation, loneliness, rejection, insult, and infamy to learn important lessons about suffering.

Therefore, the message is not that you should do nothing, if things are not happening according to your expectations. The message is that you should tackle the problems of life with clarity, with a clear and peaceful mind, and with right awareness, right thinking and right discernment. First, bring the mind under your control. Second, learn to think and see clearly. Third, make choices, after considering their long term and short term consequences. Most importantly, when problems arise, make sure that you respond with a peaceful and thoughtful mind that sees clearly and mindfully. It is the right way to peace and equanimity and clear the fog that accumulates around your intelligence in the winds of Samsara.

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