The Dog Story
Yesterday, I mentioned just how ingrained some of the ideas of Buddhism are in the East. Here is a little story that I think exemplifies the differences and just how deep they go.
One day in Japan, I had the afternoon off and was watching TV. My Japanese was limited, so TV was always a challenge, but once in a while I found a story I could follow. That afternoon, I tuned in to a children’s movie about a dog. I turned it on in the middle, and I assume the dog had gone on various adventures that I missed.
At the point in the story where I started watching, he was going to one of those schools that teach dogs how to assist blind people. Upon the dog’s graduation, he was assigned to a nice old man who was mostly blind. The dog and the old man lived together several years, and they loved each other very much (cue the ‚Äúhappy master and dog montage‚Äù). Then the old man suddenly died. The dog missed his master, and went to live with a younger couple who took care of the now-old dog. The dog too, grew sicker, finally having an accident that left him on his deathbed.
The old dog lay there on his bed, surrounded by his new family, all in tears. The camera looked down on the scene from above. The dog’s breathing grew shallower and shallower, the camera started to go dark. The dog’s eye’s closed and the camera faded to black. The heroic star of the movie, the dog, was dead. Yes, I was sniffling too by that time, but that’s not the point!
OK. So far, there’s nothing there that we all haven’t seen before in a tear-jerker dog movie, right? What do you suppose came next? I absolutely expected to see the camera fade back to a new scene with the dog, now in a cloudy realm. The dog would look over and see his old master, no longer blind, and probably a lot younger too. after a joyous reunion, the the two would walk off into the mist together, a happy ending after all. Does that seem like a normal story to you? Here in the West, that’s how it would have ended. Not this time.
Instead, the camera faded in to a blurry scene with lots of fuzzy action. The image clears, and we see a batch of newborn puppies, minutes old, drinking milk from their mother. The camera zooms in on one of the puppies, who we now realize is the reincarnation of our former hero-dog, ready to start some new adventures. The End.
That just blew me away at the time. For Japanese, reincarnation is every bit as accepted and ‚Äúnatural‚Äù as someone in the West going to Heaven. I[‚Äòm not saying they all believe it, any more than all Westerners believe in Heaven, but they all accept it as part of their culture to the extent that it’s in a children’s dog-movie and doesn’t require any explanation. Reincarnation is possibly the toughest part of Buddhism for Westerners to really accept, and here it is just an accepted part of children’s television.
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