Kukkuripa the Dog Lover

A classic Buddhist fable teaches that wisdom is in the eye of the beholder, even if what's beheld is a stray mutt

Excerpted from 'Buddhist Masters of Enchantment: The Lives and Legends of the Mahasiddhas' translated by Keith Dowman. Reprinted with permission from Inner Traditions.

In Kapilavastu there lived a Brahmin named Kukkuripa. Puzzling over the problems of existence, he came to place his trust in the Tantra, and in time chose the path of renunciation. He began his itinerant career by begging his way slowly toward the caves of Lumbini.

One day, on the road to the next town, he heard a soft whining in the underbrush. When he investigated, he found a young dog so starved she could no longer stand. Moved to pity, he picked her up and carried her with him on his long journey, sharing the contents of his begging bowl, and watching with delight as she began to grow strong and healthy.

By the time they arrived in Lumbini, Kukkuripa had become so accustomed to her affectionate, good-natured company that he could not imagine living without her. And so he searched for an empty cave large enough for them both. Every day, when he went out begging, she would stand guard, waiting patiently for his return.

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So deeply involved was Kukkuripa in the continuous recitation of his mantra, that twelve years passed as quickly as one. Almost without realizing it, the yogin attained the magical powers of prescience and divine insight. But the gods of the Thirty-three Sensual Heavens had taken notice. In fact, they were so impressed that they invited him to celebrate his achievements by visiting their paradise. Flattered, and amazed at their attentions, he accepted the invitation and embarked upon a ceaseless round of self-indulgent feasting and pleasure.

On earth, his faithful dog waited patiently for her master to return. Although she had to root around for whatever she could find to eat, she never strayed far from the cave. And, in truth, she was not forgotten. Despite his luxurious existence, Kukkuripa sorely missed his loving companion. Again and again he told the gods that he needed to return to the cave to care for her.

But his heavenly hosts urged him to stay, saying: "How can you even think about returning to a dog in a dark cave when you are enjoying our good favor and every luxury and comfort we can offer? Don't be so foolish--remain with us here." Time and time again, Kukkuripa allowed himself to be persuaded.

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