“Has a dog Buddha-nature?
This is the most serious question of all.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your own Buddha-nature.”
A poet had written a love poem about his dog and reading it reminded me of this story from the Myths of the Hindus: Five royal heroes recognising that there time had come, resigned the throne to their successors and set forth on their last solemn journey — the pilgrimage of Death — followed by a dog who would not leave them. The last to die refused to enter Indra’s heavenly chariot —without the dog. He cannot imagine happiness, even in Heaven, if it were to be haunted by the thought of one so true who had been cast off. The god pleads and argues against the dog coming with him. The noble hero replies “To cast off one who has loved us is infinitely sinful.” The test is finished. Refusing to enter Heaven for the sake of a dog —and the dog stands transformed into a shining god, the God of Righteousness. The mortal is acclaimed by radiant multitudes and, seated in the chariot of glory, he enters Heaven...
On hearing the story the coincidence amazed the poet as it paralleled a recent experience of his own: “I have a painting of my little dog in the arms of Jesus as seen one early morning at sunrise. A friend of a friend came to visit this heathen and preached that in the rapture only the righteous would enter the kingdom. I asked the lady about my dog, taking her to see my painting, and she said, “No, only humans, there be no animals in heaven (paradise).” I said, “Well madam, in that case, I'd rather not enter, for it would not be paradise for me without my dog, a much better being than I ever was or ever could be.”
Intrigued as to what the true answer might be to this “most serious question of all...” I asked Brian Taylor, author of the remarkable book CENTRE The Truth about Everything: “Do dogs go to Heaven?”
He didn’t answer “yes” or “no” but replied, “Only if the astral leaves its dog behind.”
“What would the astral of a dog look like?” I asked.
“A dog,” Brian replied. “However, astral forms are mind-made, so they can be changed at will. Usually astrals are not aware of this.”
It became obvious that the same question and answer might apply to humans: "Do humans go to Heaven?" the equivalent answer being, "Only if the astral leaves its human behind." I asked Brian if this was the case and he replied, “Yes.”
He went on to say that “Livingness” - life is a constantly changing continuum. “What I am now I was not then...” “What I will be I am not now...” This is described in his book - the truth being (discovered by using the Centre) that what seems to be an individual is a continuum and not an entity that continues indefinitely. At any moment it is not the same as at any point in the past, but it is not different either. He quotes the poet Tennyson who described the continuum as “rising on stepping stones of our dead selves to higher things”.
These ‘higher things’ according to CENTRE are to be discovered within us. The physical body (human, animal, fish, bird, insect…) is described as functioning only when it is inhabited by, and impregnated with, an astral body which can provide a non-physical link between it and the origin of life which is the Centre.
The astral body, as described in the book, provides “livingness” by means of subsidiary centres which themselves are derived from another body inside the astral body. This is the “deva” body, which derives from yet another body inside it, the “brahma” body. Inside the brahma body is a fifth body - the “Buddha” body.
This makes five bodies that have forms: one material and four mental. The author suggests that it is helpful if one thinks of these five bodies fitting inside each other like a set of Russian dolls. Each being the result of karmic actions, in some cases a very long time ago.
Each of them is described as containing the same Centre. They are like tentacles (see The Universal Octopus image) which reach out from the Centre to take on material form. They are manifestations of the Centre and therefore not identical to it. But not separate from it either. The Centre is the centre and circumference of everything. The tentacles reach out from it and subside back into it. There is no other. Only appearances of the same thing: the Centre. If a tentacle strikes a tentacle, it is not striking another. It is striking the One. It is striking itself. The author states that this is why karma works as it does. “What you do to another you do to you. It is done to you by you.”
One sees, writes Brian Taylor, that the road home leads ever further and further inward into oneself rather than outward into the increasingly material forms of outward bodies. In withdrawing inward to more refined forms one is in fact retracing one’s steps. This is the way all beings have come on their journey - outwards from the Centre via subtle mental forms into the labyrinth of material evolution. “The spider, the amoeba, (the dog), the archangel and you are all fellow travellers on this journey from a single departure point. Who could have predicted it?”
Now the truth of the Zen verse is clear! And the royal hero and poet are right in their love and loyalty for a “fellow traveller”. Not only do we lose ‘Buddha nature’ when we view any of the tentacles as separate; but more seriously (think of vivisectionists...) by causing harm to ‘another’.
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”−Pierre Teilhard de Chardin