'SAROS!' By Harry Patel

Chapter 5: Harry Patel's Dog

Extract from an unpublished manuscript called 'SAROS!' By Harry Patel, carried in the Saros Autumn 1996 Newsletter

My name for six months was Harry Patel's Dog and I am a big black handsome mongrel, but I am not vain. I am no pampered pooch that eats gourmet dog food, no inbred shampooed pedigree with nothing between its ears. I am a free spirit and I take life as it comes. I bear no grudges despite the many indignities a dog has to put up with. I am also fully self-conscious which is unusual in a dog and this peculiar state of being manifested itself due to a series of events which took place at the Saros centre in Buxton.

I am also the reincarnation of the secret teacher of Socrates, the antique philosopher. Now completely unknown, he was the last and greatest of the lyric- philosophers of the ancient world and his name was Pongo.

That man Plato chose to ignore the very existence of Pongo in his writings. This was because once, when Plato was being particularly insufferable, Pongo bit him on the bum. It was, of course, part of Pongo's subtle teaching methods, but Plato took it personally.

Socrates couldn't write poetry for cat food, but in my next life I intend to reveal to the world the great legacy of Pongo. Let me give you a taste of his profound philosophy. These verses are from a philosophical tract called Bury The Bone.

When the fickle finger of fate points at someone,
When the fickle finger of fate points at you,
Then it's time to recall where you came from,
And it's time to renew what is true.

When the worries and the fears leave you helpless,
When your body is gripped with pain,
Then it's time to recall where you came from,
And it's time to renew it again.

If all that you know turns to ashes,
And if all you hold dear turns to dust,
Then it's time to recall where you came from,
And its time to renew what you must.

So I follow the creed of Pongo. I am a free spirit and I take life as it comes.

I was born in Manchester and like most modern dogs share the Karma of being taken away from my beloved mother, put into a wicker basket and driven to a new home. My owner was a man called Gerald who was a Buddhist and it was from him that I acquired a taste for the spiritual life. I spent many hours apparently asleep in his little shrine room, but in retrospect I feel that I must have been in deep and profound meditation.

I put up with the incense and chanting, but when Gerald decided we were to become strict vegetarians I packed up my paws and left. I was a free spirit and no lap-dog (and definitely not a rabbit). From now on I was going to live how a dog ought to live, in the wild places and under the stars.

I headed south and after many fur-raising adventures along the motorway, found myself in the bleak and wild Peak District of Derbyshire. I hunted squirrels, rabbits and earthworms. I became a lean, mean shadowy beast, feared and respected. Then one day a farmer took a pot-shot at me and I decided it was time to return to civilisation and safer, more intellectual pursuits. I took the High Road to the nearest big town called Buxton.

At the outskirts of town, down a side street stood an old school-house. I stood in front of its wrought-iron gate and looked into the playground and garden. A small brass plaque read SAROS - Foundation for the Perpetuation of Knowledge. I smelled food and considered my options.

Interjection by Harry Patel:

This seems rather a good time to consider an important aspect of Saros Philosophy called the Gate or alternatively the number 2. A gate divides one area from another and, at the greatest most cosmic level, the Gate denotes the separation between pre- existence and existence. On one side of the Gate is nothing or no-thing; that is, no time, no space, no division, no separation, no consciousness, no knowledge. It is the primordial soup behind the primordial soup. But it not an empty void, for it is potentiality itself. It contains all unimaginable possibilities as well as those for the universe we know. It is sometimes called the realms of negative existence. We are not talking about events that took place long ago, like the Big Bang, because a realm without time is never within time.

On the other side of the Gate, time, space, difference, consciousness and mind come into being as the elements of our universe unfold and take shape. The Gate is sometimes called the Gate of the Conditioned.

In human beings there is a reflection of this great Gate at the boundary of our normal conscious experience. Our normal conscious experience is bounded by our sense of self, or 'I'. Beyond 'I' is the unconscious, or supra-conscious - that is, areas and motivations within us we may suspect exist but of which we seem to have no direct knowledge. Saros mythology postulates a figure, or mechanism, called the Sentinel which guards the supra-conscious from the intrusion of 'I'. However, experience has shown that it is possible, intentionally or by accident, to sneak past the Sentinel. The implication, I think, is that if one can put aside the domination of 'I', then extraordinary things become possible.

One could say that every moment of real conscious choice is a moment when you are standing at a gate, the Gate of Choosing.

I decided to follow my nose into the dining-room where about twenty people were sitting around a big table. One man (Harry Patel) was obviously a soft touch, so I did the old one-paw-on-his-lap-pathetic-whine-routine. It worked, of course, and after many endearing and cute tricks I finished the plates of everybody there. Then I ambled off to the meditation room and curled up in a corner.

I decided to stick around and be their guard dog. They allowed me freedom to roam inside and out with the exception of one room which was always kept closed and was called the Work Room. Pinned to its door was a list of the peculiar Saros Rules of Discipline (fortunately there was also a copy translated into ancient Greek).

  1. Do not criticise - even oneself.
  2. Neither accept nor reject.
  3. Active Investigation.
  4. No unnecessary speech or action.
  5. Negative emotions are never necessary.
  6. External Considering.

I spent long hours contemplating these so-called rules, and have come to the conclusion that they are correct, if boringly prosaic. Pongo, of course, said the same things much better thousands of years ago. He said:

  1. I can find some good meat in the rottenest of bones.
  2. Just because he's the leader of the pack doesn't mean he's always right or even a cat can sometimes say something useful.
  3. When you enter a room always sniff out every corner; you never know what you might find.
  4. A good bark is better than chasing your tail.
  5. A mangy dog once tried to steal my food; I jumped on his back and bit off an ear, but I didn't take it personally. After all, he was hungry.
  6. Even the fleas on your back have a point of view.

Talking of fleas, when I became fully aware, a powerful aura of consciousness enveloped me. It also had the side-effect of raising the consciousness of two fleas who had taken up residence in my fur. Now, I am not against a flea or two - live and let live, I say - but these two made my life a misery. They would keep me up half the night with their bickering and complaints. Along with awareness came pretentiousness which in my opinion is unseemly behaviour in fleas.

Anyway, these fleas were called Wilhemina and George, and they claimed to descend from a long line of aristocratic blood-suckers. Worse was to come: they intended to begin an intensive breeding programme so that they could fill their land (i.e. me) with sycophantic courtiers. They would then be King and Queen.

Things were looking bad, so I formed a plan. 'Look here,' I said. 'Now that you are self-aware and of a royal line and definitely no ordinary fleas, you deserve better than a mangy old mongrel. Surely it's time to grace a higher form of life with your magisterial presence.' Well, they didn't take much convincing, so I continued, 'I happen to know many human beings of the superior kind and will introduce you to one.'

Soon afterwards I was walking in a park when I brushed past an elegant-looking lady. 'Your royal highnesses,' I whispered, 'now is the hour of your destiny - jump!' Wilhemina and George disappeared into an expensive cashmere jumper and that was the last I saw of them. I am sure you can find many morals to this story.

I will now relate the events that led up to my acquiring full self-consciousness. I was padding about the centre, investigating this and that, making sure that everything was as it should be. There was a short intensive course going on, and everybody was in the main meeting-room. The subject of the course, as it happens, was the Gate. From the hall, the door to the meeting-room was wide open and for a few minutes I watched them talking.

I turned round and wandered off again. The only sound was some young children playing games in the playground. Walking past the Work Room I noticed that the door had inadvertently been left ajar. Of course, I went in and looked around. It was empty except for a gauze-like curtain about three-quarters of the way down the room. I slipped through the curtain and saw a table with a delicious-looking apple on it. Behind the apple was a bowl of water. There was only one thing to do in such circumstances: eat the apple and have a good drink.

I wandered back to the meeting-room and remained standing in the doorway for some time. The man who was taking the course was talking.

'... just as an exercise I want you to use your imagination - that is, your image- making faculty. Pretend that this room is all that exists and that beyond the door is the great void ...'

Of course, nobody noticed me at all. But outside I heard the children playing. It was one of those repetitive chanting games, the sound of which became a high-pitched, cat-like wail:

What's the time Mr. Wolf what's the time what's the time,
What's the time Mr. Wolf what's the time what's the time,

What a time Mr. Wolf what a time what a time,
What a time Mr. Wolf what a time what a time,

Extra time Mr. Wolf extra time extra time,
Extra time Mr. Wolf extra time extra time,

Summer time Mr. Wolf,
No more time Mr. Wolf,
End of time Mr. Wolf, end of time end of time, Mr. Wolf Mr. Wolf out of time
Mr. Wolf out of time out of time Mr. Wolf Mr. Wolf out of time ... out of time ...

Silently I entered the meeting-room and walked through into the garden. From there I left the Saros centre, never to return. I am going back to the High Peaks and I'll take my chances with the farmer's gun. Anyway I rather miss the taste of a nice juicy earthworm.

Copyright 1996 Harry Patel