A Dog Called Hippopotamus

Saturday September 17, 2005

A curious news story has come to my attention concerning a Buddhist dog. The story was reported by Reuters [Sadly the link to this article, which was posted in 2005, is no longer live, so you’ll have to take my word for it…].

Apparently, on Buljang island, a stray dog turned up at a monastery and started to join the monks in meditation and Buddhist ritual ceremonies. The dog – “Hama” by name in Korean (which means “Hippopotamus”) – has caused a national sensation, and is attracting both sightseers and speculation as to whether it was a Buddhist monk in a previous life.

Reborn monk or not, this isn’t the first case of supposed animal meditation. Primatologist Barbara Smuts has written about baboons apparently ‘meditating’ – or doing something seemingly similar (see her article ‘Encounters with Animal Minds’ in the impressively named Between Ourselves: Second-Person Issues in the Study of Consciousness, from Imprint academic, 2001, p. 300-301).

But there could be more prosaic explanations. The poor dog may merely be suffering from a crisis of idenity having been referred to constantly as a hippopotamus, and may therefore be sunk in a state of confusion. From the outside deep meditation and deep confusion may at times look deceptively similar…

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