Some people know I've done something on dialogue between Buddhists and Jews. But they may be less aware of my work in another significant dialogue: that between Buddhists and dogs.

Here's the story. A few years ago a learned Tibetan Buddhist teacher from Montreal came to my house to give a teaching. His driver was Garry. They were coming up from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. I told Garry it might take an hour and half. He arrived in a half hour. I'm not sure how he did that.

Geshe Khenrab was wonderful. We talked for hours about his life in old Tibet--he had been living in exile for quite a while, but as a young boy in the Amdo region he had loved being a monk. I asked him what sort of animals they had there. He said, "Oh, rabbits, deer, yeti, mountain lions..." I said, "Wait a minute, hold on, what did you say?" He said, "Rabbits, deer, yeti, mountain--" I said, "Stop. Yeti? The abominable snowman? Did you see one?"


"What did he look like?"

"Like a man but very big and hairy." Geshe leaned forward across my kitchen table. "If they find you alone, they like to tear off your face." He gave a deep laugh.

I realized Geshe Khenrab came from a realm where there were other kinds of realities, not ones I knew about.

"When a dog keeps coming into the temple, it means he aspires to learn dharma," said the Lama.

Meanwhile, Garry rearranged our living room, covered our book shelves and TV with a Tibetan thankga [a scroll painting of a buddha or deity]. And he took up our nicest stuffed chair for the teacher to sit in, and moved a table near him with a bouquet of flowers that someone donated.

That evening, the room filled up with Buddhists and seekers, who came to hear Geshe Khenrab's teachings. My dog liked the teaching a great deal. Taxi was a pretty good size mature mutt. He had beautiful sad brown eyes, and a broad forehead like a Labrador, but he was hairy all over like a Muppet. He was extremely intelligent. He walked into the room and put his big head on Geshe Khenrab's knee. Geshe-la gently moved him aside, but Taxi came back and put his head on his knee again, so Geshe Khenrab simply let it rest there.

It didn't seem to bother anyone.

The next day Geshe Khenrab was leaving. I saw him in a nook of the house talking to my dog. I came closer, he was saying something in Tibetan and Taxi was taking it in very carefully. I said, "Geshe Khenrab, what are you doing with my dog?"

He said, "When a dog keeps coming into the temple, it means he aspires to learn dharma. So I am saying prayers that when he is reborn, he will be reborn as a human so he can learn dharma."

People say all traditions say the same thing but use different ways to get there. For instance, the Dalai Lama teaches that Tibetans say every person is your mother. Since there's been an infinite series of rebirths in the past, then at some point, every person you encounter in a previously life was your mother, and you have been a mother to every person you encounter.

On the other hand Judaism is a householder family religion. So to get to the same place--which is the idea that everyone is related to every one else--we say that the first human beings were called Adam and Eve and that everyone is descended equally from them. So in terms of lineage, nobody really has any bragging rights. We're all equally descended.

And then there's another statement from Hasidism, which is that before every human being you encounter, there's a retinue of angels saying, "Make way for an image of the Blessed Holy One"--because each of us is a fractal or an image of the face of God. And that's another way to get there. It's also a nice meditation when you are feeling grumpy and unsociable.

So Geshe Khenrab left in his nice used convertible car that he purchased for the trip. Then Taxi ran away.

He usually ran away whenever I left town because my wife said, he missed me. I think so. We had a special relationship. After all he'd been my mother once, and I'd been his mother. But this time, I was still home. So why did he leave? Clearly, because he was trying to follow Geshe-la to Houston. They'd already made a deep connection.

So time went by. I heard that the car broke down in Texas. That they got a new car. That Geshe Khenrab arrived in San Francisco and stayed with a friend of mine. Meanwhile, Taxi came home after two weeks. A little later, he was clearly in pain. An X-ray showed the bone was rubbing in the socket of his rear leg. So we did the surgery to fix it, and I spent the summer walking this dog by holding his rear legs up in a towel.

Finally Taxi got better; he could walk on his own. Then I got the bad news. Geshe Khenrab unexpectedly died just after returning from his fund raising mission.

Taxi lost his energy. He just lay down all the time. He lay in his favorite spot, on a rug near the front door where he can still pretend to guard the house. Or I took him outside, but I had to pick him up and carry him because he couldn't do steps anymore.

One day, he was lying out in the carport where I could see him, and I was typing, when I heard barking. There was Taxi at the bottom of the steps, standing. He hadn't done that for a while, and he was just looking up at me.

So I went down and picked him up and carried him up the steps. We got inside the door, on the rug, and I put his head on my knee, and I looked into his brown eyes and they looked into mine, and then he was just gone.

Here's what I think. I think Geshe-la's prayer had its effect. I think Taxi followed Geshe-la and finally caught up with him. And if you check around in a monastery somewhere, two little boys are hearing about the dharma; they are inseparable.

Because otherwise it doesn't make sense. Otherwise I don't know how to explain how that dog who couldn't move, got up, barked, looked at me, and told me to pick him up and carry him upstairs at that moment so he could die in my arms.

And if you can explain it better, OK. But I'm sticking to this story. Because I do believe there are things we don't understand and unless we make room for them we'll be living in a very flat world.

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