Sunday, October 30, 2011

Who Were You and Who Will You Be – My struggle with the dogs

(Nanako Ota)

During this summer vacation before coming to Bhutan, I tried to get information about Bhutan as much as possible; I closely read online news articles and books, and never missed any single TV program on Bhutan. My grand mother told me, “By now, you know too many things about that country.” And to some extent I believed what she said and felt good about it.

I was wrong, indeed – I never, never came across the fact that there are a number of stray dogs in Bhutan. On a car road, cars have to avoid dogs (and cows) because they appear randomly and cross the road. One morning, I woke very early and expected no one in the bathroom in my dorm; what I saw was a dog sleeping near the toilet. One night, my roommates and I did not lock the door, and a dog came into our room and tried to forage for food from the trashcan. When RTC male students had a basketball tournament at the gym, the game was heating up towards the end; then a dog came in, and crossed the gym from the entrance to the exit (It was so funny how the judge was trying to blow a whistle to the dog). I do not know how to tell exactly, but basically, we can find dogs almost everywhere.

Honestly, I am not fond of dogs at all. The time I feel most strange is when RTC students feed dogs during the tea break, which takes place from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the dining hall. Free tea (very sweet milk tea) and biscuits are served, and what some students do is grabbing a lot of biscuits and throwing them to the dogs near the entrance. However, the people working in the dining hall do not want dogs around there, so they try to keep the dogs stay away. I asked one of my Bhutanese friends why he feeds the dogs. I said, “We should not do this, the dogs will just keep coming, and it is not good.” He answered, “No, they are just hungry. And we have food. Why not giving to them.” Looking at him smiling and petting the dogs with his legs, I just did not know what to say.

I still cannot totally support this behavior of feeding stray dogs, but one book gave me a clue to interpret it as a valuable act. The book’s title is The Divine Madman, which is about Drukpa Kinley (Tibetan: འབྲུག་པ་ཀན་ལེགས་ 1455 - 1529). He was a great lama (master) of Mahamudra in the Buddhist tradition and is still respected and loved as a teacher of the Drukpa (Dragon) school. In the book, dogs appear as reincarnates of great lamas and kings, and people who do not treat the dogs well are described pathetically because they never know the hidden value of the dogs thus can never see the truth of nature. The Buddhist idea of reincarnation certainly changed my view towards the dogs here at RTC. They might have been some great beings before, or, I might have been a dog in the past world. Then, why cannot I be friendly to them…?

Now, during the tea break, I take some biscuits and give those to the dogs with my friends. Looking at the dogs eating together and playing with each other, once my Bhutanese friend said, “See, they are just like us, humans.” I still feel a little afraid but try to pet the dogs, and look into their eyes. They do not say anything, but in my mind, I say hello to their souls, which I never know where they have been and who they will be.

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