2018, according to Chinese astrology, is the year of the “inu” or dog. When I was very young, our
family took in a little puppy. She was what we who grew up in Hawaii called a “poi dog”, which simply
means that she was of a mixed breed. She definitely had some terrier in her as she adored the water. I
still remember the first time that I took her to play in the Nuuanu Stream which ran through the temple
property where I grew up. She leaped into the water without hesitation. The property has diminished in
size but it was large enough then that she did not need to be leashed all the time. She was not a very big
dog but she was a great runner and outran bigger dogs that wandered into our yard. She may have been
a bit gruff and a tomboy if I could personify her. In all this, the one characteristic that I remember fondly
about her was that she was always honest. Whenever she thought that she had done something wrong,
or had committed something that she knew we did not approve, she would cower, and be very
apologetic. I do not think that she was in fear. I was convinced that this was not Pavlovian. We
disciplined her when she was a very small pup, but she would display these behaviors even as she got
older, long after we had stopped scolding her. It was as though she knew for herself, what was right and
wrong.
  “Man’s best friend,” is how we characterize dogs. But, this may be a bit presumptive on our part in
assuming that dogs have no volition of their own. Dogs are extremely honest and sincere in their actions
and emotions. When dogs suspect something is wrong, they will bark and try to protect their territory
and their master. By the same token, they will welcome all whom they know, warmly, whether they are
human or not. I do not see this as dogs catering to their masters in an obsequious, sycophantic, servile
way. Rather, dogs have nothing to hide, and pour out their emotions exactly as they feel. By contrast, we
humans are not so comfortable with ourselves, or so we become as we get older.
  During a dinner meeting between two leaders, one man once entreated to the other, “I need loyalty.”
And, the other man took exception and demurred by saying, “You will always get honesty from me.” The
subtle exchange, to me, makes a very important distinction. The first man seeks obeisance, and expresses
this under a layer of hidden coercion. To this, the other responds that he is motivated by transparency,
and not loyalty, regardless of whether he is under duress. In our interactions as adults, we tend to
encounter this sort of scenario often. We complicate our communication needlessly with hidden
innuendos. More than often, those in power will assert their dominance, while those in a subordinate
position will succumb to overt power. This manner of interaction is unfortunate as it breeds mistrust,
thereby creating an atmosphere of misunderstanding, animosity, and later, contention. There is a
difference in being loyal and being truthful.
  I am optimistic that this year is the year of the dog. We have something to learn from them. Their
straightforward attitude represents an alternative to how we as humans have communicated to each
other. An earnest attempt to be as honest as possible with whomever we meet may reclaim a more
simple and good life. The Buddha, for example, is not interested in one’s loyalty. Rather, truth is what he
seeks. Loyalty is something that is begotten from respect. Respect can only be gotten from truth. Loyalty
cannot arrive before truth.
  People have misconstrued dogs as being loyal. Rather, I feel that dogs are consistently open and
truthful. As such, they gain their master’s respect. Loyalty naturally grows out from this. Just as dogs
express themselves in sincerity, I hope that we can all live without hidden agendas to find a way to be
honest with each other. Honesty in each and every one of us is the cornerstone of building a responsible
and resilient community. This I hope for 2018.
(Eisei Ikenaga)