Probably not many books are dedicated to dogs. Nevertheless, I dedicated this book to my dog Truffle, a Goldendoodle. To explain why I did this, I need to talk about Buddhism.
I spend a lot of words in my book on religion. Not a single religion, but all religions. The reason is that religion is pervasive among humans and has a strong impact on intercultural relations, for both good and ill. One of the religions that I find most appealing does not have a supreme being: a creator god who gives orders, makes judgments, and sends people to heaven or hell. In fact, I am not sure that Buddhism even qualifies as a religion in the same sense as Christianity or Islam, but its goals are definitely worth pursuing. I find karma and reincarnation to be a little farfetched to persuade me, but the concept of “infinite compassion” strikes me as a desirable goal for all of us. It requires a strong dose of forgiveness to be infinitely compassionate. Although I will continue to aspire to this target, I am still a pilgrim at the start of my journey.
I also find the concept of “detachment,” sometimes called “non-reactivity,” to be another of Buddha’s useful although complicated concepts, based on the idea that human suffering exists in our minds, not in the objective world. Reading about Buddhism forced me to reflect on those aspects of my life that disturbed me, troubled me, or caused me to suffer. Road rage, for example. And I concluded that Buddha was right – these unskillful thoughts are only in my mind. They have no independent existence. I was convinced that if I could train myself to avoid reacting to them, I would find peace, happiness, and harmony.
This brings me to my dog. Truffle was a typical dog in certain ways. She loved to eat dead birds, rolled in the remnants of decomposing organic matter, and reveled in her disobedience.
But in other ways, she was unique. Truffle loved everybody. Without exception. Taking her for a walk was a long, drawn-out process because she insisted on stopping to greet every human, canine, and feline we passed. She even made friends once with a mouse. And by “greet” I mean that she would walk up to all sentient beings, lean against their knee, wag her tail, and lick whatever body part was available. She developed a habit of licking babies on the face, which caused the infants to shriek with delight. No exceptions. Truffle had infinite compassion. And not surprisingly, everybody loved Truffle. No exceptions. Truffle demonstrated that infinite compassion is reciprocal. If you love everybody and treat everybody the same, they will return the love in equal measure. I learned this from my dog, a Buddhist.
Beyond infinite compassion, Truffle also understood and practiced detachment. She never reacted to provocations, insults, or even assaults. On our walks together, we occasionally met other dogs who were unfriendly, with behavior ranging from growling to acts of violence. Truffle always walked away from confrontation, and her equanimity was never disrupted. She was never insulted, never sulked, never sought revenge, and never had a bad day. Her disposition was uniform because she had no unskillful thoughts. I learned this from my dog, a Buddhist.
This is why I dedicated my book to Truffle. I learned important lessons from this Buddhist dog, and I will try for the rest of my life to follow her example, seeking to enhance human flourishing through infinite compassion.