There is a beautiful story about a dog in Mahabharata, the epic that includes the Bhagavad Gita. When the battle is over, the five Pandava brothers—who did not choose this war, but were obliged to fight to defend their people and uphold their dharma—set off, walking north to the Himalayas, led by Yudishthira, the eldest brother. A dog joins them and refuses to leave. One by one, Yudishthira's companions fall along the way until he and the dog are the only ones to reach Heaven's gate. There they are greeted by Lord Indra, the ruler of Heaven. Indra tells them that the dog cannot enter. Yudishthira argues, “This dog is devoted to me. He had many opportunities to leave, and he did not. It is a sin against dharma—right conduct—to abandon one who is devoted to you, one who is terrified, or one who needs your protection. We have comforted each other on this terrible journey, and as he has been loyal to me, I will not abandon him now.”
With that, it is revealed that the dog is an incarnation of Dharma itself (because Dharma is not just an abstract principle, but a model for embodied action). By protecting the dog, Yudhisthira has fulfilled his destiny as a man and as a ruler. This was just a test, and all the denizens of Heaven rejoice as they enter together.
Like loyal dogs, we return to our practice day after day, again and again. Dogs love routine, making them excellent role models for us. Something in us is drawn to love and follow our inner teacher, as the unknown dog followed Yudishthira. We can bring those qualities of loyalty, love, and persistence to our practice of upward facing dog.
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