Dharma-Inspired Move Review : Quill ~ The Buddha-Nature of a Dog
Another "Enlightenment through Entertainment" Dharma-Inspired Movie Review:Does a Dog Have Buddha-Nature? : Quill
Web: www.quill.jp (Japanese) | www.quill.atnext.com (Chinese)
Tagline: Sometimes a puppy is more than just a pet.
(Grossed over US$20 million in Japan | No. 1 in Hong Kong)
The classic Zen mondo in my mind before the beginning of the show - "Does a dog have Buddha-nature?" And of course, the answer yelling back with crystal clarity was a resounding "Yes!" There is overwhelming "evidence" from this film (based on a true story) of the potential for our animal friends to cultivate perfect compassion and wisdom just like we can.
We see Quill, a Labrador Retriever born as a special puppy, not for any glaring outstanding characteristics - just that he does not seem to follow the "crowd" (his other puppy siblings). Not because he is slow or indifferent, but he has faithful patience instead of typical doggy-waggy eagerness. That made him selected as a potential guide dog for the blind, a job shortlisted only for the calm obedient few. Without any Lassie-style heroics, this is the story of the life of "man's best friend", telling the ups and downs of a dog's "Bodhisattva path" in training and practice. It might be a dog's life literally, but one from which we have much to learn...
Quill mindfully accepts the inevitable departures of life as he grows up, contrasting with his attached caretakers' teary farewells. Assigned to an impatient blind man, we see the contrast of (im)patience. Quill is mostly silent (in fact, he never barked throughout the film), while the latter laments out loud at his new personal Bodhisattva. Through his quiet unassuming ways, Quill eventually touches him with genuine friendship, "perfecting" his own patience while teaching his master trust and equanimity.
Quill isn't all blind compassion and no wisdom - he is trained to disregard human instructions whenever they endanger humans themselves. Being the one with able eyes, he sees with his mind too. At a busy traffic junction, he refuses to budge, as his master rudely nudges him on the leash, only to be surprised that he was saving him from oncoming trucks.
Quill was brought up by volunteer caretakers, in ways not unlike parenting an only child. Theirs was a simple yet beautiful relationship of unconditional love to each other, reminiscent of the oft-quoted but lesser practised verse in the Metta Sutta (The Buddha's Discourse on Loving-Kindness) - "As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings."
Quill is not a typical animal-human bonding movie - because it does not focus on the cutsey "stunts" pets pull unwittingly. It shows without excess sentimentality, the naturalness of how we can be family with fellow sentient beings. Quill is simply part of the family, if not the reluctant star of it. He fits in wherever he goes, while doing his "job" ungrudgingly. Readily accepted by all because of his accepting nature, he makes us wonder why we cannot befriend other beings too, to truly live the Metta Sutta. Maybe no particular animal is man's best friend. Maybe other animals can be our best friends too - as demonstrated in countless animal-human movies. In fact, we let our harmless animal brothers and sisters down in so many more ways than they can ever let us down - through downright cruelty to plain lack of compassion.
Quill passed away at the age of 12. A short life? Not in dog years. And what matters more is that it was a full life well led, one of sincere service to mankind. In fact, probably a life of more service than many fellow humans. By his merits accumulated, may the Quill in real life have a better rebirth. May he attain Enlightenment soon! -shian