When I go on my early morning walks, along beautiful Lake Illawarra, I often see “Old Artie”. He walks at a slow pace, stops and waits for his black poodle Atman. His white hair acts like a beacon and every one knows Artie and his dog. They have been doing those walks for as long as any one can remember. Everyone’s dog got old and died; apparently not Artie’s poodle. Atman seems to have eternal life. No one ever asked him how old his poodle really was. Until a woman, who only recently had joined our unofficial walkers club, asked Artie,
“How old is Oldman?”
“Atman,” Artie corrected her, annoyed by the nosey woman.
“ ‘Atman’ is not my name. My friends call me Artie,“ he said in a brash voice, annoyed that the woman interrupted his meditations. “ ‘Atman’ is the poodle’s name. It stands for the eternal soul of all living beings.” The woman wondered whether Artie would have any friends.
“So your dog lives for ever?” the woman asked mystified.
“Not this dog, no. What you see here is only a phenomena and when that particular one changes back into what it was before, I get another poodle, similar to it.”
“That sounds all very philosophical,” the woman said wondering what the dog could have been before.
“Is this why you have difficulties understanding the concept of Atman?”
Now it was the woman who was annoyed and she asked, “Do I understand right, your dog is just a concept to you?”
“It is! Like you and me and all the other people, we are the present state of the ‘Will’. Atman is what we call a dog, it is loyal and happy and is always able to accept life as it is; as all dogs do. We delight in our pets because of the naivety of all their actions. They are not as complex as we are. What I like most, it has never asked me silly questions. It doesn’t need to. It is happy with life as it presents itself.” He turned around, walked away and left the woman standing. The dog who has just gone into the bushes to follow nature’s call ran up to him and waged its tail. When we came up to her she said,
“What a rude old man. He should not be allowed to own a dog.” She then told us the whole conversation she had with him. I had to smile as we all had similar encounters with Artie and knew that he could not stand people, because he thought we all think too much without really knowing anything.