By Kellie Schorr
“The Buddha in the Corner” is a six-part series based on the six realms of existence in the Buddhist Wheel of Life as they are found in everyday experience. In the Bhavachakra (Wheel of Life) there is a Buddha in the upper right hand corner pointing to the way out of the cycle of suffering.
My dog is Jurassic.
At 15 ½ she’s quite different from the bounding, digging Beagle puppy we brought home right after Valentine’s day in 2004 who was nothing but a ball of love and chewing. From her days eating Birkenstocks left on the patio and pulling up the cable TV wire to now, Buddy has lived through several attempts on her life by the cats, getting West Texas sticker burs in her paws, a cross-country drive from Texas to Virginia, bringing two other beagles into the pack, dementia, eyelid tumors, and a bout of “Old Dog Vestibular Disorder” which left her head tilted to one side and messed up her sense of balance.
Her fur is thinning and slowly falling out, leaving the tip of her tail looking not unlike a rat’s. She’s a wreck. She makes me smile all the time.
Despite her head tilt, and wonky staggering walk, she still manages to check on us any time we are in the bathroom, beg for everything in our hands (edible or not), and sniff dandelions in the summer sun. She has advancing liver disease, and we are pretty sure this summer is the twilight of her life. She is sweetly, gently, aging away from us.
We are so thankful to share this time with her.
As I watch her toddling like a drunk Charlie Chaplin in the yard, chasing dragonflies then waiting patiently for me to go pick her up after she falls down, I’ve beheld a dog who has seen her abilities fade one by one and yet still manages, every day, to be living her best life. She spends no time moaning over what she can no longer do, and every moment enjoying what she can. I told my partner, “I think Buddy is teaching me how to grow old.”
In the six realms, the Animal Realm is not considered a high or fortunate placement.
Animals have all kinds of instincts and abilities, but have no way to enforce a will of their own (don’t tell the cat that), and are dependent on the earth and the humans who inhabit it for their care. Without their consent they can be worked, hunted or slaughtered. Whatever “purpose of life” means to those in the animal realm, it is not in any way disconnected from the meaning of our own. From their space in the world, each and every one of them is trying to teach us something.
The Luna Moth champions impermanence with a silken green grace. They spend about eight weeks growing from egg to their final form, then only get seven days as a mature moth with wings before they die. How much of our lives is spent “becoming” before that glorious portion when we enjoy flying? How short that time can seem.
Horses teach us that gentle nobility can be housed in even the most powerful of bodies. Scorpions in our shoes let us know that we should be mindful of where we put our feet, and that it is always natural and okay to use your stinger and protect yourself from being crushed by someone who isn’t paying attention.
Aggressive, unpredictable predators like the saltwater crocodile or wolverine (the weasel, not Hugh Jackman) teach us over and over that nature isn’t all cuddles and whisker kisses. It’s a cycle of beings, some of which will kill you if they can. Don’t worry though, the deadliest thing on the planet is still us.
We all have different ideas of what happens in the next step after we leave this earthly home, but it’s fun to imagine a rebirth in the animal realm. If I get to pick, I want to come back as your cat.
I want to sleep when I’m tired and pounce when I’m grouchy. I want to lie in a sunbeam until my whole world is warm and soft. I want to leave little bits of my beautiful coat all over the house and on your work clothes, so there’s a little bit of me everywhere in your world.
I want to eat the best food—not the dry, nasty bits on the edges—the sweet good food in the center. I want to refuse anything below my palette and look at you with the eyes of pure offense if you dare offer something substandard. I want to push things off counters, just because I can.
I want to trust you to take care of me and protect me. I will bring you bloody offerings and assorted dust bunnies to show that you can trust me to take care of you too.
I want to lie on your keyboard and remind you there is so much more to living than that glowing screen and tappy communication box. Then, I’ll run up and down the hall meowing at midnight, because sometimes you just gotta let it all hang out.
I want to ignore you when I feel like I need some space, and purr in your arms loudly without any sense of shame when I’m ready to be loved. I want to sit on you and comfort you when you need love as well. I want you to know that even if I’m not doing what you say, I’m here and you’ll never really be alone.
I want to stretch my entire body until it’s twice its normal length then put my head in one direction and my tail in the other, because that looks like it would feel so good. I want to climb places you think I can’t reach and pull down screens that obscure my vision. I want to walk over your body the minute you start to pray or meditate, so you don’t fall into the delusion you’re anything more than my human, which, really, is enough for anyone to be.
I want to live each and every day satisfied with the act of simply being alive. I want you to live that way too.
Until that golden day arrives when I become your cat, I will continue to carry my ancient hound to the yard so she can enjoy life as she loves it.
Yesterday, in the dusk of a beautiful evening, Buddy saw a large frog sitting on the sidewalk. She wobbled toward it so curious and ready to say hello then, in her excitement, fell in the grass about half an inch from landing on top of the frog. It hopped away so I picked her up and put her paws back on the ground. She sniffed where it had been and looked at me, ready to go inside to see if any new food happened to appear on the kitchen floor since the last check. For Buddy, every moment is a precious adventure. Loving her, my moments are the same.
The Buddha in the corner of the Animal Realm points us all to…life.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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