The Dog on the Terrace


It was almost midday. The sky was clear. The timorous rays of the sun unable to give desired warmth flooded over the landscape. However, the sun was gradually showing its signs. The winter wind was getting warmer. The inhabitants of the houses—particularly the older ones—were gradually appearing on the roofs to bask in the sun and pass their winter afternoons.
Among the people appearing on the roofs was a sadhu -- a holy man. He was living in a house built on a mound bordering the noisy town. The sadhu quietly came out of his room with a peaceful mind and bright face.
A sadhu living in a house on the outskirt of a town!
The neighbors of the locality whispered with amazement: “What the hell is the sadhu doing in a modern bungalow? What has happened to his Ashram?”
But again they nodded with some realization. The neighbors knew that only guns could claim places and property. Armless ones were helpless and their cherished spaces were in the hands of the levelers who had cropped up in a large number and were out claiming to bridge the disparity. But everyone knew that no one else was so much in tune with disparities and gulfs than the levelers. Nobody ventured to utter anything against them due to the fear of getting literally skinned down or deprived of the ability of even producing an utterance. Deep in heart everyone could feel what he or she aimed at.
The sadhu too knew all this and, therefore, he had chosen the modern bungalow to live in seclusion and its roof to bask in the winter sun. It used to be so warm and soothing in Tribeni where his Ashram was. He would be sitting in the sun and teaching his disciples the meaning of being ethical and gyani, a man having the knowledge of the world. He would also be teaching adwaita darshan—the non-dual philosophy-- to his disciples. He would be talking about jibatma—the life forms-- and paramatma—the divine soul -- and telling them how jibatma could be one with paramatma. But the levelers found a gulf between jibatma and paramatma. They found a gulf between jogis—the ascetic-- and bhogis—the worldly men-- and felt that jogis were free from worries.
The levelers said, “In our leveling philosophy there cannot be some people living in comfort being free from worries where others are suffering from the mundane anxieties of day to day living.”
The yearning to know the meaning of life was considered detrimental to their leveling philosophy. They thought that either all or none should understand the meaning of life. They found the language the sadhu spoke—the ancestral language—to be the language of the elites and aristocrats. They even reviled the sadhu’s saffron attire and the dhwani of the chanting of the mantras in the yagnya -- the ritual fire-- as it was different from the dhwani of their guns. They loved only the red colour and the piercing sound of the guns compounded by the cry of women, children and disabled. As their taste appeared amazing to the sadhu, he took shelter in the town. The roof of a modern house was now his basking field. The Ashram was no more. The disciples, who would have learnt a few things more about the meaning of life, were devoid of the sadhu’s insightful association. No more Ashrams, no more disciples and no more learned associations.
In the modern bungalow, the sadhu sat on the terrace cross-legged. It was his routine at the day time. His eyes moved around. He looked to the north. The Himalayas could be seen crystal clear. The whiteness of the snow-clad Himals transitorily took away all his inner grudge and blemishes. The Himals, which were not yet ruffled, blemished, smeared and devastated, were visible at least. The serenity of the Himals gave temporal peace to his mind. He surveyed the snow-clad range with increasing mental peace.
All of a sudden, a black stray dog came to the main gate of the house he was living in. It started barking. The pet dog of the house too appeared. The black stray dog, envious of the luxury of the pet dog, started barking at the pet dog so angrily that the whole locality was disturbed. It had seen food being served to the pet dog. It so querulously attacked the pet dog that the inmates had to chase him away.
After the dog ran away from there, the locality was once more serene and the sadhu again started looking around. But his attention was again punctuated by the same black dog enviously barking at every door it passed by. The sadhu was now compelled to think over the destiny of this dog. He thought about the dog’s life and its envious nature. “The dog’s envy,” he thought, “will be the cause of its suffering and its destiny, which will impel it to follow the cycle of life and death over and over again.”
A moment’s silence took the sadhu’s sight around and he happened to look at the bizarre opening of the town. He didn’t really know what made him think of those houses and their making. He was finding some parallel between the beauty of these houses and the beauty of the flesh. He was inwardly thinking of these houses, the luxuries amassed within their walls, and of whatsoever was happening to the entire humanity around the world. He thought how peace has ceased to be, how violence has taken its place, how love has extinguished and how hate has gradually been revealing its distorted appearance. Seeing the world with all its distortions was too difficult for the sadhu. He closed his eyes and chanted Om in order to pacify his disturbed mind. Only in Om – the memory of the eternal God--could he find the unfound peace.
It was half an hour later that the disturbed thoughts of his mind gave way and he opened his eyes again. His eyes now fell upon the terrace of the next-door neighbor. The sight again occupied the sadhu. There was a dog on the terrace—a black dog on the terrace again. The sadhu knew this dog. The only owner of the house called it Angule. Angule was a big, black dog. It loved its owner. The only time the sadhu had noticed Angule making noise was when the owner, tired of the day’s work and sunk in the car’s seat, arrived home. It jumped all over her, licked her, ran around her and flattered her. She too was flattered by Angule’s enticing flattery. The greatest prize it got for this flattery was a buffalo bone.
The sadhu’s sight fell on the dog. It was chewing the bone of the buffalo left for it on the roof. The sadhu knew that the bone had been there for more than a week. The engagement with the bone kept Angule from moving out and attacking passersby. Angule did not ever bother to question whether it was a prize or a punishment.
When the sadhu saw Angule, it was vigorously trying to chew this bone with its sharp canine holding it with its hefty forelegs. The bone was dry. The marrow had gone. There was no flesh around. The bone possessed nothing but a rotten smell. But its impact on Angule was tempting. It was not ready to leave the bone. The sadhu saw Angule cling on to it hard.
The sadhu could not resist contemplating over this. He closed his eyes. But his thoughts took him away. He pondered over the world and its mendacity, its temporality, its tribulation, and its temptations. He thought of the jibatma.
“Is the world not like a bone to the dog?” he thought.
Man bears and nurtures first. Then he snatches, tears, levels, and captures. He thinks of getting luxuries, comforts, and enjoyment. A dry bone to a dog!
All of a sudden, the sadhu thought what would happen if another dog entered the terrace and demanded the bone from Angule. Would Angule give the bone knowing that it was bare and dry or would it fight for it?
The very thought shook the sadhu. Being a bit disturbed, he opened his eyes. He shook himself a bit. He looked at the sky and found the sun inclining to the west. The wind was blowing softly and the jibatma within him was now pining for the comfort, which the sadhu knew, was a mere dream.

December 20, 2003
Dhapasi, Kathmandu