It’s a question that comes up a lot in my line of work: do dogs have dharma, aka a destiny? The answer is a resounding YES. Dogs have dharma that is directly tied to us, the humans in their lives. In fact, it’s likely the quest to live their destiny that brought us together.
For all beings to fulfill their purpose, there are certain opportunities and lessons that each of us (pups included) are meant to experience in this lifetime. In the spiritual traditions it’s said that before taking physical form, we specifically choose individual people to share our lives and help create these experiences. Why would this be any different for dogs, who are also incarnating into a body? And while each dog learns valuable lessons within their lifetime, their existence also provides remarkable learning opportunities for us humans too.
A large part of a dog’s dharma is to live in service. They accomplish this by being themselves and showing us how to love unconditionally. Seems simple enough, but as humans on our own journeys, we often struggle to express pure love. People, on average, have more blockages and layers of disconnect than our canine companions simply because of the “ego” aspect of our being – the part of a body/mind that dogs don’t have much of. Humans can get trapped in our heads and caught up in our ego’s desires, and it takes a lot to see through to the truth of the matter.
Our four-legged friends instinctively know how to be loving and show us by example – love is their natural way of being. Even abused animals are quick to forgive and with time, can come back to their original state of unconditional love. Having a dog in our lives is a constant reminder of what love looks like: simple, easy and present.
Sometimes, part of a dog’s dharma is to help us learn through more difficult experiences. Lessons come in many forms and some are incredibly painful to us and our pups. And yet, dogs selflessly accept their roles and any accompanying pain without complaint. Their sacrifices are often what encourage us to grow.
An example of this is how we learn lessons of compassion from the canines in our lives. Regret is common for people who, possibly due to societal norms or their particular situation in life, have shown a lack of kindness towards animals in their past. However, regret is a telltale sign of growth, and while these are hurtful experiences for everyone involved, they are often pivotal moments in the human’s life. Feeling regret when recalling a memory of this kind can result in becoming a more evolved and compassionate being.
Another deep, meaningful and lasting gift every dog parent receives is a consistent education in selflessness. Accepting 100% responsibility for another being’s existence and happiness is how many of us are taught to put another’s needs before our own. For example, when our beloved pets get ill, we are given the opportunity to practice the gifts of presence and gratitude while caring for them.
It may sound (or even feel) like dogs are the ones doing all the giving, but there is plenty we can do to reciprocate. Everything we do, good and bad, extends to our pups. So, the healthier, happier and more conscious we become, the more they benefit alongside us. If the quality of our physical health and inner dialogue is suffering, we will see it manifest in our fur family, too. They mirror us, in the same way our own state of balance and spiritual growth is reflected in our human relationships. One indication of our own level of awakening is the state of being of our dogs and our personal bond with them.
It’s unfortunate that the life spans of these selfless beings are so short, but they are filled with beautiful gifts. Each incarnation provides multiple opportunities for us and our dogs to live out our dharmas. Even after our furry teachers leave their bodies, the lessons remain. The world is better because of them: we are all a little more kind, loving, patient and accepting just for knowing a dog. And we pay it forward each day by being better versions of ourselves and spreading their messages through to others.
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Photo Credit :: Jeff Nissen