Some people know this about me, but a lot don’t. From the age of 20 to about 31 I was a pretty hard core Buddhist. I studied and practiced the Tibetan Mahayana style, and even lived in a buddhist community centre in the hills for about 2 years.
At our teaching sessions, our teacher Les would often tell us parables about Lamas and the things they could achieve when they became highly realised; flying through the air, being able to walk under the earth, survive for many years without food etc. These came from his own teacher, an old Tibetan monk who was very learned, special and realised himself.
Along with these, he would present examples from what I guess you would call the ‘real’ world, things that us sceptical westerners can accept as true more than the esoteric stories from the east. One of these came up on a night we were talking about selflessness, i.e. putting other sentient beings above yourself in all matters, and working for their happiness (a theme very strong in the Mahayana system of Bodhisattvas, delaying your own enlightenment until every other being has achieved theirs first).
This story concerned a monk who was walking along a path one day in India and came across a dog who had fallen (or been thrown) into an open sewerage pit and couldn’t get out. The monk, on seeing this immediately threw off his robes and jumped into this pit of stinking, festering shit, grabbed the dog and managed to get it to safety.
Is it a true story? Who knows. No real way to prove it. Could it have happened? Absolutely. It doesn’t really matter if it did or not, it’s an illustration of how we SHOULD act within the world and towards other beings.
It’s a story that has always stuck with me, and I often wonder if I would be that brave (selfless) to do the same thing in that situation or similar. I’d like to think so.