Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saga Dawa Duchen

I have been told that: “Buddhists are religious atheists” many times, but have yet to divine a good primary source for the saying. Most of the people who have said it to me were evangelical Christians so they meant it as a terrible insult. It is always important to know one's audience when delivering insults or punchlines.
A smiling TV corespondent with perfect hair decides to crack a little joke for the Dali Lama.
“OK, so, A guy walks into a Pizza parlor and says 'Can you make me one with everything'.” he says
“We can help you with that” Says DL.
“You get it...right?” asks the TV person.
“What is 'Pizza'?” asks DL.
Today's full moon marks the anniversary of Buddha Shakyamuni’s enlightenment at the age of 35 in Bodhgaya, India. It is a great day to go out, enjoy the summer's first real full moon, and circumambulate a stupa.

I will not be out circumambulating much of anything as I was savagely attacked by a dog last night, and have four deep puncture wounds in my left calf. The attack occurred over 18 hours ago, and the wounds no longer bleed whenever I stand up.

There are so many things I like about Buddhism that I find it easy to both ignore and focus on the things I dislike about it. I can ignore the unsavory elements because they are outweighed by so much non-theistic (should I say trans-theistic) practice. I can focus on them because they form a small enough definable subset that I can wrap my mind around them.

One of the things I can't swallow is the whole reincarnation thing. Though this concept is quite central to Buddhist philosophy it is rather ancillary to the details of much Buddhist practice. By this I mean that many practices can survive the substitution of more rational motivations for that of reincarnation, and retain significantly purposeful attributes.

I'm sure it can feel comforting to believe that a long-time-pet might “come back” as a human. Some folks even take their pets on long walks around stupas hoping that their clockwise “walkies” will translate to much needed pet-karma. I'm also sure there is some sort of severe karmactic penalty for not cleaning up after your pet on such walks.

When I had our feline-pet of several years put down a couple of springtimes ago I felt guilty. Perhaps if I had banked up a bunch of walking karma for our cat I would have felt better. However, our cat was never one for being taken for a walk, especially on a leash.

He was a particularly large black long-haired cat; we named him “Merlin”. He was a stray. We live at the edge of town, and every couple of days someone deposits a no-longer-cute former kitten near our house; the coyotes love this practice.

A couple of years into Merlin's residency with us he developed a condition called “mega-colon” which is a usually fatal progressively-severe blockage of the large intestine. It is probably due to a paralytic infection caused perhaps by a species of neurotoxic Clostriduium. Though it has been suggested that it could be Mycobacterial.

For several years Merlin suffered through monthly, then weekly, then (for the last few weeks) daily enemas.  I had never before considered the posibility of cat enemas, and would have told you they were imposible to perform on an unanesthetized cat if I had.  Finally he was reduced to being unable to walk more than a few steps before doubling over in pain.  Then he would announce his discomfort with a mournful wail that only a dying cat could muster.

AOD and I took Merlin to the vet. I think it is best to hire someone to put down one's pets. I think it is just a bit more civilized to not kill one's pet with the same hands that nurtured, stroked, and fed it.

I was worried about how the putting down would go down. We only had one other pet die in our household. It was a Chameleon named “Bob” that was little more than a energetic houseplant, and only survived a few weeks before kicking the bucket. Bob's funeral was a splendid affair. AOD said a beautiful eeulogy for Bob.  Everyone's eyes watered up.

We called the vet, and set up an appointment. Though we were not a minute too early they ended up not being ready for us, and so we waited with Merlin in the pickup for 45 minutes. He was more animated than he had been in weeks. He tried climbing from AOD's lap to mine. He pushed his head under our hands insisting into each stroke by arching his neck. When his damaged intestine caught up with his movements he would try to slip to the floor of the truck. He was strangely silent except for the now weakly purring motor that sputtered with pain.

“I think he is getting better” said AOD through hopeful tears.

He was limp from exertion when the vet was finally ready for us. I carried his unprotesting body into the examination room. He was calmly purring under my stoking as the vet explained that he would be injecting him with a lethal dose of tranquilizer.

Tears freely flowed from AOD's eyes. She was silent except when an inhale would catch unexpectedly on something invisible.

I think I remember Merlin responding to the hypodermic needle as it was inserted into his paw. The response was very small. Like his involuntarily flinch after I caught his ear wrong while scratching his head.

AOD said nothing till long after we got home.

Behind our house there are a couple of gamble oaks that have Tibetan prayer flags draped between them. Millennia from now someone will uncover a parcel of bones wrapped in non-biodegradable polyester blankets, and surrounded by a assortment of small seemingly random items.

Farther up the hill behind our house (several hundred feet of elevation gain farther up the hill) is a spot with a beautiful view. From high on the hill I can sometimes catch a glimpse of a fluttering red or blue or yellow flag. In the winter green seems easiest to spot. I bicycle up to it often. It is a strenuous climb. Yesterday AOD bicycled up to it for the first time with me.
Tooele Panorama

The mad rush downhill from the overlook is slowed by only a couple of dips. The trail becomes a paved road for a few blocks and dips through a small development with six custom homes. Then it veers off pavement for another almost mile of gravity fueled thrill before popping out a half-block from my house. My enormous gravitational advantage over AOD gave me a fifty-foot lead when the dog came out onto the road.

It was an old fat dog. I instantly knew I could outrun it, but if I did it would be on track to intercept AOD. The typical bike-dog interaction is one where the dog comes bounding off the porch and barks till you have passed out of it's territory Then it goes back to the porch confident that it has won. This dog was not barking.

I slowed down a little hoping that AOD would pass while the dog was interested in me. AOD slowed down also.

I think the dog was a little surprised to so easily catch me. It may have wondered for a second what to do. In my mind's replay I imagine tazing the dog at this moment,and avoiding what came next.

The dog latched onto my calf, and then began violently shaking its head trying to dislodge a mouthful of AOA meat. I dismounted (perhaps fell is a better description) jamming my hip, arm, and scratching the shiny new look of my not-month-old hardtail 29er mountain bike. I positioned the bike between the dog and myself, brandished it as a weapon, and began yelling in French. People miles away looked around in horror to see who was yelling at them.

The dog was confused by my transformation from lunch wagon to aggressive, armed, and very loud stranger. It was effectively channeling its inner Cujo, but I responded to it's bare-toothed lunges with deftly-wielded aluminum bike-frame.  It cowered, and I pressed my advantage.

I was not going to allow the dog to focus it's attention on the now horrified AOD.  A bike-frame is an awkward weapon.  I tried to identify cobble-sized rocks which could be used to severely wound the animal.

The irony of planning the violent putting down of someones aged pet in front of the same young woman who witnessed me facilitating the caring and protracted putting down of Merlin was lost on me till some hours later.

I was still yelling at the top of my voice when we saw a woman in a red shirt come out of one of the larger (probably 8,000 sq ft) houses and call to the dog. The dog wisely thought going to it's master was the best choice, and took off running.

I tried to sit down, but ended up on my side. Blood was pouring out of my leg at a rate that would have given me at least a half hour before passing out. I yelled to the woman's back for help. She disapeard. I continued yelling as I removed my jersey and applied pressure to the wound. For some reason I distinctly remember the sensation of my sock being wet; the wounds did not hurt.

AOD was shocked, but scared. I asked her to go to our house so that I could be taken to the hospital in the truck. I was drenched in sweat from overheating my way up the mountain, but I was cold now, and shivering. AOD began biking back up the mountain to a cutoff trail that was a shortcut for home. It was a technically steep trail, and I began picturing her also going to th hospital for injuries incurred during her mad dash home. I called her back. She bicycled back to me, dropped her bike and began running for home. She was running in the wrong direction. I called her back again. She was shaking too.

It looked like the pressure was stopping the free-flow bleeding. I continued to yell for help, but none came. I did not trust the idea of sending AOD up to these unconscionably uncivil people's doors to knock for help. I tied the jersey around my calf, and l limped home using my bike as a crutch.

By the time we got to the urgent care facility the swelling was pronounced. The wounds were also making up for their tardy messaging of my pain receptors.  Like all good point swelling we compared its extent to sports equipment.

“Ping-pong balls”

“No, they are all fused together into half a baseball.”

All dog-bites that require hospital intervention result in a mandatory police report. After we had picked up my antibiotics, and a question of jurisdiction had been resolved (The location of the attack was just outside the city limits) I was visited by the sheriff.

Ever noticed how an injury and hospital visit makes you smell weird? Since that was coupled with the sweat of the pre-attack hill-climb I was ripe. The doctor told me to avoid getting the wound wet for a while so I smell worse right now.

Still the young tattoo-ed sheriff took my statement, and went up to deliver a citation to the dog owners. It was around midnight.

Shortly after he left I got a call.

“You sure this is the right house. They say they don't have a dog.”

I said I would show him, then hopped in the truck, drove up, and pointed out the house. He went and knocked on the door again. After quite a while it opened. They spoke for a bit, and then he came back and asked if I was sure about the description of the dog.

“Was it a poodle?” he asked. 
“No, a old fat cream colored lab. Definitely not a poodle.”

He went back up to the dog owners, and after another 15 minutes of conversation the attacking dog appeared on a leash. I identified it, spoke to the sheriff a little more. Then went home.

The owners apparently “never heard nothin”. The dog was “Never out of the the kennel all day”. And of course “would never attack nobody”.

The moon that to some signifies the start of Saga Dawa Duchen was full by the time I went to bed. Supposedly this holiday is a dharma multiplier day. The karmactic effect of whatever one does is multiplied by ten million.

How auspicious!

1 comment:

Joanindc said...

I got another Buddha joke for you: Why can't the Buddha vacuum under his couch? Because he has no attachments....