Among all the animals in the world, it is the faithful dog that evokes the most positive emotions in people. Being pack animals, dogs are known for their loyalty and allegiance to their masters. These animals can also prove to be faithful companions when times are tough. As such, there is a bond that grows between humans and dogs that expand into multitudes of cultures. This is what gives way to the symbolism of dogs in Tibetan Buddhism. In this mode of Buddhism, dogs rise far above being mere pets. Instead, they take on many components of religious symbolism. This is why the imagery of dogs in Tibetan Buddhism deserves a closer examination. Such an exploration will reveal much of the somewhat hidden symbolism these four legged creatures represent.
One of the common questions people will ponder is the notion of what does it mean to be a human being. The response commonly given in some circles of Tibetan Buddhism will be “What is the meaning of being a dog?” Such a riddle can definitely take people aback because it does raise a number of interesting philosophical and humanist points. In particular, it shows that the answer to what it is to be any type of living creature is not easy to arrive at. In an expansion of this symbolic koan, many Tibetan monks have taken to become breeders and caretakers of dogs. They will then integrate the care of the dogs into their daily spiritual practice. This allows them to look at the animals. From this, they can make comparisons between the animals and the humans who care for them. This opens the door to a deeper understanding of the human condition and human nature. Or at least that is the common plan….
However, to call the process in which monks will raise the dogs mere breeding would be to downplay the great effectiveness that they perform with their tasks. The process is more than just breeding the dogs and finding them a home. It is also about raising the dogs and being more in tune to the needs of the animals. Dogs, obviously, will communicate differently than humans will. As such, it becomes necessary for the Tibetan monks to pay close attention to the dog’s body language, behavior, and actions. This enhances the ability to effectively train the dog can prove possible. It also enhances the potential to understand human behavior during this process.
By having to pay close attention to the dog’s behavior and communications, the monks develop a sense of being in tune with the reactions of living beings. This makes them more aware of others and such skills can certainly enhance the potential to work, live, and co-exist with others. This can lead to a more harmonious life which can enhance the quality of human life to a great degree.
This is the end result of a lifetime of developing intuitive skills deriving from caring for their beloved dogs. Such skills are integrated into many other areas and aspects of life and this is certainly a good thing. So, you could consider the dog breeding of the Tibetan monks to be a gateway into their soul. In many ways, there is an integration of all living beings since they must be harmonious and co-exist. If not then it would be next to impossible for anyone to live a life that was worth living. Rather, they would be living in conflict with others which are certainly not a means that is helpful. The concept of breeding dogs in Tibetan monasteries plays a large role in this regard.