Rescuing Mila (Repa) - The generosity of protecting life
Where do I start to tell the story about friendship, karmic bonds and the generosity of protecting life?
I am in this small, ugly village called Bodhgaya, famous for being the place of Siddharta Gautama’s enlightenment, making him the Buddha of our time. Until today I used to spent almost the whole day in the beautiful Mahabodhi Temple Complex, which is like an oasis, a small jewel inside this chaotic, dusty (and with the rain muddy), loud and dirty place.
My days where for almost a week marked by the following rhythm: 4 am standing up, one hour later going to the temple to make prostrations and recitation of mantras guided by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Around 11 am I went for an early lunch, sometimes a coffee or to check my mails and all this cyber world. At 2 pm I used to go back for an afternoon session of prostrations and more prayers.
So two days ago it happened that I was kicked out of my until then favourite restaurant and I had to chose another one further away. And this I consider part of the chain of events who leads one to be in the right moment, at the right place to meet the exact person you need to meet for an undefined reason.
I was on my way back to the temple for my afternoon session and in front of the Kalachakra ground (where HH the Dalai Lama uses to give the Kalachakra empowerment) was a guy walking in front of me. I had seen him before with his red bag giving a coin to a beggar. He saw me when I turned into the street and since I was wearing the unique blue volunteer t-shirt of the Kalachakra event last year in Washington DC he immediately asked if I volunteered there. Since that moment there was not one single instance in which we didn’t talked. He is US American with Bolivian parents, living in Washington DC and he also volunteered at the Kalachakra event last year. From the beginning there was a common ground for eternal talks about how we got to Buddhism, the teachings, our practice, similar experiences regarding the Tibetan cause and activism, the Tibetan culture, friends, respect for life, our viewpoint of karma, interdependence, the process of dying and death and who knows what more. For me it seems that there is not enough time in a day to talk about everything and only my motivation of getting up early the next day leads me to go back to my room at my basic but friendly home stay.
Then yesterday when walking through the main street, we saw a few meters ahead a brown, small something looking like a puppy trying to cross this terrible street with all the busses, bike rikshas, motorbikes and tempos (three wheel motor taxis). If for us human beings it’s a hell crossing it and bearing the noise of the horns, we instantly were shocked how a puppy was managing to cross it. We ran over to the other side to help this little dog who almost got ran over by a motorbike and he seemed so cute and helpless. But as soon as we got to him our “oh how cute!” sensation turned into sheer horror when we saw a huge open wound terribly infected at his back. Both of us needed a few minutes to recover from this shock and to decide to take him to a veterinarian. The shock wasn’t only about how it was possible that a small puppy, not more than 3 to 4 weeks old, was able to get such a profound wound, looking like if another animal just ripped out his flesh, but above all: how all the people just could see him and decide to ignore this helpless being (who as soon as it reached the street’s side decided to lay down as if convinced to wait for death to come there in the middle of the mud, the crowd and the noise). I couldn’t hardly bear to see the people laughing at us because we wanted to help him and screaming “take him, come on take him with you!” making a deprecative gesture with the hand. In a plastic bag we took him to the direction of the Mahabodhi Temple and decided to find something like a pet hospital. A Tibetan lama looked at us, stopped and I asked him for help. He accompanied us for the next hour or so, along with two Indian boys who showed us the place of the veterinarian. This place was a small and dirty, unprofessional something but a hospital. But at least the guy gave him injections and cleaned the wound where worms started to come out.
We bought a small blanket, a bowl and milk powder for Mila and left him with an old man for the night. I think it was more my doing to call him Mila because of Mila Repa, the great yogi and poet of Tibetan Buddhism who in a lifetime became from being a murderer to an enlightened being. It was him who made the promise that all sentient beings who hear his name should never be reborn in a lower realm (e.g. as an animal). Since I’ve heard this I use to call all the animals Milarepa in order that they might be reborn in a precious human life. And from Milarepa we just left the name Mila.
Alex and I weren’t really sure if Mila would make it but we prayed for him at the temple in the hopes that the next day he would be alive. Today in the morning we came back to the old man’s place which had no real floor (just the blank hard mud) or walls, sharing it in the night with two cows heating it up with a bonfire made out of paper and garbage.
Mila was in good mood as we opened the box and we wanted to believe that the huge wound looked even better but still he looked miserable and more since he had dried milkpowder all over his head and the box dirty of urine and spitted milk. Originally we wanted to look at him, go for breakfast and then come back for him to find a place where he could stay. But after the vet gave him the injections, cleaning as unprofessional as used to be the wound, we decided to take Mila immediately with us. In consequence a stressful journey started leading us through parts of Bodhgaya which are even more miserable than the actual village around the nice temple of Buddha’s enlightenment.
We saw the “common” poor beggars, thin as a human might be without disappearing from the earth’s surface, kids full of lice, people of all ages walking barefoot in the dirt and muddy streets, which sometimes aren’t real streets and living in poor, trashy huts. We also saw all the garbage - and Mila was an eye opener- all the dogs in poor health conditions, with skin diseases, full of bugs and infectious wounds, all with the deeply sad look in their eyes, reflecting their physical pain as much as the profound suffering in their mind or soul due to starvation, mistreatment by humans and the fight for surviving between themselves. No wonder at all that people with that life condition just don’t have any interest left for animals, especially dogs who apparently don’t offer anything in reward (as do cows, goats and chicken). If there is no loyalty and human behaviour among their own kind, how would they know that a dog might be a better friend and companion than possibly any other person around them? If there is no food, medicine and education for themselves, why share a meal with a dog, why spending money for vexation and how to educate such a useless being as a dog if they can’t even educate their own children?
It was an exhausting trip twice there and back in the outside area of Bodhgaya in search for a dog shelter. Going in a tempo having Mila in a paper box, crying in pain and disturbed emotionally, already traumatised enough by the previous injury. But at the end we could manage it to leave him at this amazing great centre called “Maitri” run under Buddhist precepts and ethics of preserving life, helping the most needed, offering shelter to animals and treatment even to the most hopeless cases. But also a huge humanitarian aid for leprosy affected people, for women and their starved children, medical aid in the remote villages of the Gaya-Region, and even offering education not only for children in a school but also giving courses and training for adults regarding first aid, AIDS prevention, hygienic conditions at home, etc.
Even if the place is such a beautiful option for a dog, because all the hundred dogs there are running around free, not in cage, and the personnel is really caring about the sentient beings, I cried when saying goodbye to Mila, because this little buddy is still in danger and we don’t know if he will survive, though I firmly believe that he is strong and willing to live. I cried in silence on our way back to Bodhgaya; cried because due to him I had a few of the most intense days since I arrived to this part of the world. Mila taught us what no teacher, no university is able to teach: the lesson about unbearable suffering of humans and animals, about loyalty and friendship, about inspiring each other to hold on and move along on our path, about the responsibility of taking care of life in general, about death and impermanence, but above all he taught us the perfections of our human behaviour: compassion, empathy, tolerance and generosity.
The whole situation made us reflect on the karmic law of cause and effect and the fact of purifying negative karma in the same dimension of accumulating merit through being altruistic. Alex wondered about the negative karma being purified by Mila the same way I said that he must also have done something extremely good so that we all were at the same time at the correct place to run into each other and being able to help him. But not only that: the two days in this whole “Mila-mission” we also encountered difficulties and obstacles. We gave our time, we put our own interests back (like not going to the temple, not being able to eat for hours), we spent a lot of money, I was almost taken out by the horns of a buffalo (out of nothing he kicked me with his horns in my back), Alex stepped outside the veterinarian’s place in a huge cow pat, we drove around in a stressful search for a good place for Mila, I got concussion due to smashing my head against an iron gate and so on. My point is, that we also must have done something in order to find ourselves in exact this situation. We were purifying also a lot of negative actions in the same amount that we were creating the cause for a good karma in the future. At the end, it was also a lesson about the interdependence of all - everything is connected in one or the other way and it is always on us how we react to it and interact with what we encounter.
In the law of cause and effect there is no space for coincidences, therefore you can interpret this story like meant to be, all the events were part of the same chain leading tho the whole situation, beginning with a coffee in a new place, a blue volunteer t-shirt and all the rest of it.
Alex is leaving tonight and it seems that it is a goodbye from a friend I know from beginning less time and again there is something I am suddenly aware of: that there is never enough time to spend with a good friend and how valuable each moment is.
I share this story with you not only because it deeply touched and left a heavy impact on me, it also became a priceless lesson of life, but also because Alex and I understood the moment we left Mila at the shelter, that we have taken on us the responsibility of his well being and recovering. Just with leaving him at the shelter is not enough. We were explained that in order to maintain a dog, meaning tho pay for his treatment, to pay the vet, the stuff to clean each day his box, to feed him etc. it costs around 2000 Rupies, which is around 38 USD or 30 EURO per month. Even if this amount might be a lot of money for India, and a lot for a dog, but we promised that we would find a way to get the funds for Mila’s stay and treatment. And it might be that part of the money is also to fund all the other aid projects they have at the Maitri Centre, but this is more than understandable and at the end we want to contribute to this wonderful place. Therefore I would like to appeal on your generosity. Maybe you have a small amount left over from your salary or you didn’t went out for a party and saved a few bills anyway. It doesn’t matter which amount you are willing to give, the open and compassionate heart and motivation is what counts. And even if you decide that you aren’t able to donate, just the fact that you read this ‘til the end was already generous because you gave us your precious time.
Generosity has many forms and each action lead by it, is always unmeasurable, therefore you have all my gratitude!
If you are interested more about Maitri please visit their homepage onwww.maitri-bodhgaya.org And if you would like to donate you can do it by donating directly to their account.
Bodhgaya, India on the 5th of November of 2012