Yesterday a few of us went over to the People for Animals shelter. I arranged for us to meet at the shala, so arrived there a little early to wait for the others. Two friends from Toronto arrived first. We got to chatting and for some reason I was telling them about how uncanny it is that when I arrived for my second visit, Sharath actually remembered where I was in my practice. Even as I was saying it, I was recognizing how ridiculous that sounded — surely it was a kind of coincidence, or an illusion? He couldn’t *really* remember such a thing… And I looked up and saw Sharath walking down the street toward us. I was sitting on the ground, and my friends had their backs to him, so didn’t spot him. Well, not until he said, “Why weren’t you in class yesterday?” They whirled around and quickly (& hilariously) started explaining that though they weren’t at led class, they’d practiced at home. Really!
“You pay a fine. Five hundred rupees,” he said, and laughed.
Seriously? He taught — one after the other — three led classes chock full of students, and he knows these two weren’t there?
I don’t even know how to think about that.
So yes, another trip to People for Animals. There were many more puppies than usual. Most were in good shape; a few were sketchy. The sad metric is that there is usually one dog dying per week, it seems. And then the few who have intractable, but not fatal skin conditions, and those who are sailing along relatively healthily and happily.
One of the workers had enough English to tell me that they adopt out maybe 2 puppies per week, and that there is enough food for the dogs. I need to learn enough Kannada to talk to the workers here. That is my project for next year. I don’t want conversational Kannada necessarily, but questions like “Why are some of the dogs in cages?” would be good to ask. I think that the answer to that was that they cage mother dogs and pups together if the mother is nervous, but I am not sure if I understood correctly.
While there we saw “Pili,” a little stray that Anu, who runs a cafe in town, found wandering in her neighborhood. I didn’t recognize her at first, when I saw her hiding by the fence near the puppies. She’s a sweet little street dog/Doberman mix. She seemed pretty traumatized and frightened, so we tried to console her. She’d been at PFA for less than 24 hours. It’s hard for me to imagine how she feels about transitioning from life in Gokulam (presumably with owners, as she doesn’t have the independent personality of a street dog) to life in the dusty confines of the shelter, with its motley, rough and tumble pack of not always friendly dogs.
One theme for this trip has definitely been: “Dogs.” Not just dogs, though — dogs and suffering and karma and how much action can actually be taken to ease suffering. Another mysterious thing that I do not have an answer for.
And then there is the suffering of Ashtangis, which — come on — pales by comparison. “I hurt my knee/hip/shoulder/whatever,” “Should I go to Mysore?” Etc., etc., etc.
In the last conference, Sharath said we practice in order to steady the body and the mind. Then we can use that steadiness out in the world. Simple. Whatever cultivates steadiness is useful; whatever destroys steadiness: not useful.
Everyone lucky enough to get a human incarnation gets to choose.