Whenever I think about dogs being "Zen" for some reason I think about a really mellow, pudgy pug sitting up with his Buddha belly hanging out and his little legs stretched out in front of him. It makes me smile when I think of such strange things. Today, I've also been thinking about Zen Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and how these principles can be applied to dog training.
In his book, The Four Noble Truths, Tashi Tsering Geshe explores the foundation of Buddhism by taking a closer look at the truths by which one can follow on their path toward enlightenment. They are as follows:
1) The truth of suffering
2) The truth of the cause of suffering
3) The truth of the end of suffering
4) The truth of the path that frees us from suffering
The truth is, human life (and dog life) is full of suffering, uneasiness and unhappiness. In sanskrit, the word for suffering is "dukkha". Maybe that's where the word "dookie" came from. Life can just be crappy sometimes and s$%# happens. Dog owners are very well aware of this. Dogs bring us a great amount of happiness and contentment, yet all dogs poop. Dogs are also a big source of love and a big source of guilt. We feel bad when we have to leave them for long hours to go to work. We feel bad when we don't have enough time to take them to the beach and we can feel guilty when they gobble up their food in a second and look at you wanting more (maybe this is just my golden retriever chow hounds). Dogs experience a great amount of unnaturalness and uneasiness living in our human environment because they are so confined by small living spaces, fences and leashes. As a result, anxiety, unhappiness, destructive behaviors and other stress related behaviors cause a lot of suffering for the dogs as well as their owners.
The second noble truth states that the cause of suffering is created by our external attachments and our minds. We are independently dependent on all things. Meaning there is the self and within the self and our own mind we can choose to think and act upon our external attachments based on the law of cause and effect. The law of cause and effect is karma. Through intention, thought and action we are in control of our effect on ourselves and others. By being conscious of the fact that suffering is a part of life we can learn to accept this fact.