Dog's Tooth

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Reflections in a Dog's Tooth

Serious bathroom emergency but I must have a book. With scissored legs and bowels clenched, I grab whatever comes to hand. Lawrence Durrell’s first novel The Black Book fairly glares its preface at me just at the moment of relief:  There is a humorous harmony in the explosive phonemes of the Tibetan proverb Mos gus yod na Khyl so od tung meaning, "Where there is veneration, even a dog’s tooth shines." (D. 5) 

One of the symptoms of paranoia is the occurence of idées de référence. That is the notion that events in the world are geared to conveying messages to and about oneself. This is a common enough human experience, but it is also an often over-used literary device. 

Known as the pathetic fallacy, it is best exemplified by Shakespeare’s description of nature after the Macbeths have left Duncan in his bloody bed.  Says Lennox, “The night has been unruly.  Where we lay our chimneys were blown down and ... the obscure bird clamoured the live-long night.  Some say the earth was feverous and did shake.” Macbeth: “ 'Twas a rough night.” (S.  929) 

Looking for this passage, I first stumbled on Macbeth’s remark after the hired Murderers identify themselves using the word 'men'.  The Thane of Cawdor responds that any such word may be used to include a whole variety of types, “As hounds, and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, and curs, Shoughs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves are clept  All by the name of dogs ... . (S.932) 

What you have to understand is that every day for some months now I have been reading Tibetan Buddhist art and literature. What were the chances that out of the case containing contemporary literature, mostly crime and science fiction novels, I would pick this drab, I almost said dog-eared, paperback? 

The proverb comes from the tale of the pilgrim who had promised his mother a relic from the great temple.  Just as he was nearing his own encampment, he remembered.  He had not given a thought to the promise.  There, lying in the road was the rotted carcass of a dog.  With no other unusual object to hand, he wiped it off, and put it in the pouch if his chuba

He did not look her full in the face when he presented her with his gift, but she was so overjoyed with the 'relic' that she did not notice.  She placed it high on her shrine and prayed before it, inspired with a devotion she had never had before.  When at an advanced age this simple woman died, it is said that she attained the rainbow body as indicative of her great realization.


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