I have been thinking that I should offer some gesture of atonement for the nastiness I was responsible for in that series of role play posts about the purportedly inevitable culture wars. Think of it as my attempt to propitiate Hindu Deities although, I am convinced they would know better than to think me so really presumptuous; Better safe than sorry, though!
This post and the next, then, will deal with a couple of my favorite sections of the Mahabharata.
I have elected to reproduce the following story partly because of this report of a weeping dog in a journey of pilgrimage to the shrine of the (8th Shi’ia) Imam Reza recently in Mashad.
These noble and much abused creatures have every right to be supplicating given their atrocious mistreatment in
So I think we should read very carefully a beautiful and poignant tale from India about a just and upright King that refuses to abandon his devoted dog even when told “there is no place in heaven for a man with dogs!”
From the Mahabharat 17 in this Sacred Books of the East version:
Vaishampayana said: "Then Shakra, causing the firmament and the Earth to be filled by a loud sound, came to the son of Pritha on a car and asked him to ascend it. Beholding his brothers fallen on the Earth, king Yudhishthira the just said unto that deity of a 1,000 eyes these words: ‘My brothers have all dropped down here. They must go with me. Without them by me I do not wish to go to Heaven, O lord of all the deities. The delicate princess (Draupadi) deserving of every comfort, O Purandara, should go with us. It behoveth thee to permit this.’
"Shakra said, ‘Thou shalt behold thy brothers in Heaven. They have reached it before thee. Indeed, thou shalt see all of them there, with
"Yudhishthira said, ‘This dog, O lord of the Past and the Present, is exceedingly devoted to me. He should go with me. My heart is full of compassion for him.’
"Shakra said, ‘Immortality and a condition equal to mine, O king, prosperity extending in all directions, and high success, and all the felicities of Heaven, thou hast won today. Do thou cast off this dog. In this there will be no cruelty.’
"Yudhishthira said, ‘O thou of a 1,000 eyes. O thou that art of righteous behaviour, it is exceedingly difficult for one that is of righteous behaviour to perpetrate an act that is unrighteous. I do not desire that union with prosperity for which I shall have to cast off one that is devoted to me.’
"Indra said, ‘There is no place in Heaven for persons with dogs. Besides, the (deities called) Krodhavasas take away all the merits of such persons. Reflecting on this, act, O king Yudhishthira the just. Do thou abandon this dog. There is no cruelty in this.’
"Yudhishthira said, ‘It has been said that the abandonment of one that is devoted is infinitely sinful. It is equal to the sin that one incurs by slaying a Brahmana. Hence, O great Indra, I shall not abandon this dog today from desire of my happiness. Even this is my vow steadily pursued, that I never give up a person that is terrified, nor one that is devoted to me, nor one that seeks my protection, saying that he is destitute, nor one that is afflicted, nor one that has come to me, nor one that is weak in protecting oneself, nor one that is solicitous of life. I shall never give up such a one till my own life is at an end.’
"Indra said, ‘Whatever gifts, or sacrifices spread out, or libations poured on the sacred fire, are seen by a dog, are taken away by the Krodhavasas. Do thou, therefore, abandon this dog. By abandoning this dog thou wilt attain to the region of the deities. Having abandoned thy brothers and
Vaishampayana continued: "Hearing these words of king Yudhishthira the just, (the dog became transformed into) the deity of Righteousness, who, well pleased, said these words unto him in a sweet voice fraught with praise.
"Dharma said: ‘Thou art well born, O king of kings, and possessed of the intelligence and the good conduct of Pandu. Thou hast compassion for all creatures, O Bharata, of which this is a bright example. Formerly, O son, thou wert once examined by me in the woods of Dwaita, where thy brothers of great prowess met with (an appearance of) death. Disregarding both thy brothers Bhima and Arjuna, thou didst wish for the revival of Nakula from thy desire of doing good to thy (step-) mother. On the present occasion, thinking the dog to be devoted to thee, thou hast renounced the very car of the celestials instead of renouncing him. Hence. O king, there is no one in Heaven that is equal to thee. Hence, O Bharata, regions of inexhaustible felicity are thine. Thou hast won them, O chief of the Bharatas, and thine is a celestial and high goal.’"
Vaishampayana continued: "Then Dharma, and Shakra, and the Maruts, and the Ashvinis, and other deities, and the celestial Rishis, causing Yudhishthira to ascend on a car, proceeded to Heaven. Those beings crowned with success and capable of going everywhere at will, rode their respective cars. King Yudhishthira, that perpetuator of Kuru’s race, riding on that car, ascended quickly, causing the entire welkin to blaze with his effulgence. Then Narada, that foremost of all speakers, endued with penances, and conversant with all the worlds, from amidst that concourse of deities, said these words: ‘All those royal sages that are here have their achievements transcended by those of Yudhishthira. Covering all the worlds by his fame and splendour and by his wealth of conduct, he has attained to Heaven in his own (human) body. None else than the son of Pandu has been heard to achieve this.’
For today, let’s continue focusing on dogs.
I really don’t understand what might account for the miserable state of dogs in “Islamic” societies. I have tried searching the Koran on a number of occasions and there are no more than 6 or 7 references I have accounted for to dog, and none too terribly negative.
I am sure the Iranian dogs in particular, are plenty peeved with their lowly status given the exalted position of their ancestors in Pre-Islamic times. The formula “men and dogs” is a constant in some of the older texts.
I invite the more curious among you to read Faragard 13 The Dogs in this Ancient Book of Vandidad. Note as well the interplay of dogs and Druj Nasu in the sections regarding Purity Laws.