Compassion for the Humble

By Elizabeth Henzell
For The Bali Times

UBUD ~ Have you read the story about King Yudisthira? His story, part of the Mahabharata, is truly inspirational. It’s one of the 500 tales, poems and essays used to tell stories with a moral in William Bennet’s Book of Virtues, which I feature in this week’s column.

But let me first introduce you to another Bali dog.

Early one morning last week, I was walking home along Jl. Raya in Ubud. I was deep in thought when I noticed a little dog appeared to be walking with me. Not beside me, but just far enough in front that every so often I noticed it would turn around to check my whereabouts.

I love dogs but I don’t profess to be any sort of “dog whisperer.” However, I swear that little dog knew me. I kept casually walking along until I got to Casa Luna, where I wanted to have a look at the renovations underway. I became absorbed in trying to work out what the new Casa Luna would look like and had forgotten about my little four-legged tag-a-long.

Just then I felt a wet nose and looked down to see this little dog smiling up at me. Of course, I gave her some liver treats. My friend William suggested it was the smell those ever-present treats that encouraged her to join me in the first place. Maybe…

Whatever the reason, I don’t mind. She is well-fed and has the sweetest nature. Now we meet up on my morning walks and she is happy to accompany me for a way and then returns to her little spot on Jl. Raya. She is an owned Bali street dog, and she makes my early morning walks all the more enjoyable.

But she is at risk, like every Bali dog, of being poisoned by strychnine-laced meat. This from a government that holds the Mahabharata, a major text of Hinduism, as immense importance to their culture.

Herewith, then, the story of King Yudisthira as told in William Bennet’s Book of Virtures:

Good King Yudisthira had ruled over the Pandava people for many years and had led them in a successful, but very long war against giant forces of evil. At the end of his labors, Yudisthira felt that he had had enough years on earth and it was time to go on to the kingdom of the Immortals. When all his plans were made, he set out for the high Mount Meru to go from there to the Celestial City. His beautiful wife, Drapaudi, and his four brothers accompanied him. Very soon they were joined by a dog, which followed quietly behind him.

The journey to the mountain was a long and sorrowful one. Yudisthira’s four brothers died one by one along the way, and after that his wife also died. The King was all alone, except for the dog, which continued to follow him faithfully up and up the steep and long road to the Celestial City.

At last the two, weak and exhausted, stopped before the gates of Heaven. Yudisthira bowed humbly there as he asked to be admitted.

Sky and earth were filled with a loud noise as the God Indra, God of Thousand Eyes, arrived to meet and welcome the King to Paradise. But Yudisthira was not quite ready.

“Without my brothers and my beloved wife, my innocent Drapaudi, I do not wish to enter Heaven, O Lord of all the deities,” he said.

“Have no fear,” Indra answered. “You shall meet them all in Heaven. They came before you and are already there!”

But Yudisthira had yet another request to make.

“This dog has come all the way with me. He is devoted to me. Surely for his faithfulness I cannot leave him outside! And besides, my heart is full of love for him!”

Indra shook his great head and the earth quaked.

“You yourself may have immortality,” he said, “and riches and success and all the joys of Heaven. You have won these by making this hard journey. But you cannot bring a dog into Heaven. Cast off the dog, Yudisthira! It is no sin!”

“But where would he go?” demanded the king. “And who would go with him? He has given up all the pleasures of earth to be my companion. I cannot desert him now.”

The God was irritated at this.

“You must be pure to enter Paradise,” he said firmly. “Just to touch a dog will take away all the merits of prayer. Consider what you are doing, Yudisthira. Let the dog go!”

But Yudisthira insisted. “O God of a Thousand Eyes, it is difficult for a person who has always tried to be righteous to do something that he knows is unrighteous – even in order to get into Heaven. I do not wish immortality if it means casting off one that is devoted to me.”

Indra urged him once more.

“You left on the road behind you your brothers and your wife. Why can’t you also leave the dog?”

But Yudisthira said, “I abandoned them only because they had died already and I could no longer help them nor bring them back to life. As long as they lived I did not leave them.”

“You are willing to abandon Heaven now for the sake of this dog?” the God asked him.

“Great God of all Gods,” Yudisthira replied, “I have steadily kept this vow – that I will never desert one that is frightened and seeks my protection, one that is afflicted and destitute, or one that is too weak to protect himself and desires to live. Now I add a fourth: I have promised never to forsake one that is devoted to me. I will not abandon my friend.”

Yudisthira reached to touch the dog and was about to turn sadly away from Heaven when suddenly before his very eyes a wonder happened. The faithfully dog was changed into Dharma, the God of Righteousness and Justice.

Indra said, “You are a good man, King Yudisthira. You have shown faithfulness to the faithful and compassion to all creatures. You have done this by renouncing the very Gods themselves instead of renouncing this humble dog that was your companion. You shall be honored in Heaven, O King Yudisthira, for there is no act which is valued more highly and rewarded more richly than compassion for the humble.”

So Yudisthira entered the Celestial City with the God of Righteousness beside him. He was reunited there with his brothers and his beloved wife to enjoy eternal happiness.

Thanks to Alex D. Thrawn and his website: And please support the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) in their fight to give the dogs and cats of Bali a life free from pain, hunger and cruelty. Phone 0361 981490 or visit

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