There are two bodhisattvas living next door. They each have four paws, wet noses and bark like dogs. They are dogs! At first, when I heard them barking late into a Saturday night I was outraged, then perplexed. Of course ones first response is to get rid of the noise. On further considered reflection it dawned on me that, since the owners were out, they didn’t know their dogs barked. Because they were not there to hear them! A few days after the incident an opportunity arose naturally to speak to their human companions over the back garden fence. “I want to let you know that your dogs were barking the other evening until late. They seemed upset”, “Oh, we’re really sorry, we will make sure that won’t happen again” they replied. And it hasn’t, no more barking into the night. We talked on in a neighbourly way and it emerged they had left the TV on and one of the dogs may have heard a banjo playing! “That sets him off”, I was told.
Now and then the dogs ‘sing’, as their devoted owners describe their howls, but it doesn’t last for long. Perhaps it’s sparked by a banjo playing or simply a signal that their owners have left the house, and they are sad. Looked at (or heard!) with the eye of training the howling dogs become bodhisattvas come to teach, and therefore to help. In this case teaching that sitting still and meditating is not dependent on external conditions. Regulars members are assured that they can meditate in their own homes no matter what is going on in the house. They prove that true while meditation here at the Priory!
Where ever one is there will be sounds, pleasant or unpleasant, with melody or a cacophony. Next time you feel driven to get rid of a noise, pause a moment to listen more carefully. It might be a bodhisattva calling to you. Here is another case of “when the student is ready the teacher will appear”. I’m using the term ‘bodhisattva’ in a broad sense, not as beings who consciously vow to help beings, more in the sense of; unwitting teachers, everyday-on-the-street and at work teachers. Find them; be one.
And sometimes one takes action. I made a complaint about loud music blasting across the houses while I lived at the Priory in Reading, England. For a number of reasons, some ‘good’ and some based on fear, it had taken me a long time to get around to doing that. Interestingly, before my complaint was ‘officially’ lodged the music stopped!