Nov 27 2014

The Prayer Dog and the Eastern Wall

Category: cosmology,Epistemology,Ethics,Evil,goodness,Morals,religionJames @ 9:33 am

A spiritual teacher would meet with others for prayers at his home once a week. His dog, though, would always cause a commotion and distract them from their prayers. The teacher thus began tying up his dog outside each week at the start of their meet­ing, and would then release the dog after they had finished their prayers. The teacher eventually died, but a spiritual community had grown around his teach­ings, and they continued to meet and pray together weekly at his house. Every week, they would tie up the dog before prayers and then release him afterward. Eventually the dog also died. As a way of remembering the quirks of their beloved teacher, the community adopted a new dog to tie up before their prayers and release at their completion. After many years had passed, the original reason for this practice—to remove distractions from their prayers—was eventually forgotten, and also it was forgotten that the second dog had been adopted in remembrance of their teacher. The practice became a tradition, though, and continued through the years as a part of the community’s weekly prayer ritual.

Many decades later, after all who had known the teacher had died, some members of the community began to question the need for tying up the dog, and whether it served any real purpose. The commun­ity’s leaders were horrified to hear such talk, and considered this questioning to be blasphemy. The learned members of the community took for grant­ed the necessity of their ritual of tying up the dog. In response to the questioning, they offered long discourses and wrote complicated treatises, justifying the importance of their dog-tying ritual and its spir­itual symbolism.

The questioners eventually left the community and started a new one with no dogs. They would meet in a building with a noisy street to the east. Eventually, they filled in the windows and doors on the east of their building to block out the sound and create greater peace and serenity during their meetings. When that building grew too old and fell into disrepair, they tore it down and built a new one with no windows or doors on the east. Many decades later, they moved to a new location surrounded by quiet peaceful streets. So much time had passed that the original members of the communiy had died. The re­maining members did not know the purpose of having no windows and doors on the east. It felt improp­er and irreverent to most of them, though, to construct a new building that was not faithful to their previous one, so they built it with no windows and doors to the east.

Some members of the community began to ques­tion this decision. The leaders saw this questioning as blasphemy, and their learned members offered long discourses and wrote complicated treatises explaining the spiritual symbolism of this practice. . . .

**Inspired by an old Buddhist story, source unknown.

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