The Life of a Dog: Dragging a Stick Horizontally Through a Vertical World

This morning I came across pictures of Bodhi trying to thread a stick horizontally through a world of vertical obstacles.

Sound familiar?

I remember taking the pictures about a month ago. The determined Bodhi struggled through about fifty yards of undergrowth in this manner.

At first I laughed at him … and then encouraged him to drop the stick – but he was steadfast. After “Drop!” didn’t save him, I related with his predicament and just stayed with him.

He finally dropped the stick when he was ready, swirled around, and bounded freely through the woods, as if he was getting the last laugh after having played the fool.

The following koan from Record of Transmitting the Light comes to mind:

Ejo came to Dogen. One day, in the course of seeking guidance, he heard the koan, “A single hair penetrates many holes.”

Hearing this, at once he attained to realization. That evening, he went to the teacher’s room, made his bows, and said, “I do not ask about the single hair. What are many holes?”

Dogen smiled and said, “You penetrated it.” Ejo made bows.

Of course, the whole works is just holes and hairs … well, that seems a little weird but stay in the context, stay in the context!

Like I was saying, the whole works is holes and hairs. Every which way, penetrating and being penetrated so much so that it all collapses.

So Ejo asked Dogen not for a presentation of the hair but of the holes.

Dogen smiled and we are invited into this smile as well, joining Dogen, Ejo, and Bodhi in tender compassion for the whole works – hairs and holes, horizontal and vertical, form and emptiness.

Keizan’s verse (Cleary translation):

Space has never admitted even a needle;
In the vastness there is nothing to rely on,
So who is there to discuss it?
Do not say one hair goes through myriad holes–
The bare, clean ground hasn’t a trace.

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  • David Clark

    Dear Bodhi is not alone in carrying the vertical through the horizontal. Phew! Such hard work! Fortunately, dogs often seem to have the ability to grasp hold tightly and then to let go lightly. We sentient beings who walk around on two legs could do well to emulate our four-legged friends in this way.

  • Jeanne Desy

    I love the metaphors. Dogs and cats work with single concentration on the task they’ve given themselves – my cat, Tashi, completely watches that squirrel outside the kitchen window. Then, okay, he’s gone: is that the butter dish on the table?
    And what a hold those holes have on me, considering.