A Native American wisdom story tells of two dogs that live in every human heart: a bad dog and a good dog. The bad dog represents the lower tendencies of envy, anger, lust, greed, arrogance and illusion. The good dog represents the higher tendencies of compassion, integrity, generosity, humility and wisdom. These two dogs battle one another. Which dog will win? The one we chose to feed!
We “feed” the dogs through the choices we make. Using the intelligence for spiritual pursuits, to express compassion, and to love with integrity nourishes the good dog and keeps the bad dog at bay. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. For many of us, the bad dog has become so entrenched in us that it’s deafening howls drive our actions. Meanwhile, the good dog, weak and undernourished, is only a whimper in the corner of our conscience.
Practicing yoga strengthens the intelligence and empowers us to neglect our bad-dog qualities, however loudly they may howl. Then we’re free to feed the good dog, or our own divine nature. At each moment, life hands us the choice to be cruel or kind, duplicitous or honest, arrogant or humble, greedy or charitable, vengeful or forgiving. We can choose between selfish passion and selfless devotion. There are many things in the world that are beyond our control, but how we choose to act isn’t one of them. So we’re free to elevate our consciousness – feed the good dog – or degrade it. excerpt from Radhanath Swami’s The Journey Within