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)
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)
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.