The Mangy Dog Mindset: Are You Scratching Your Own Itch?

Apr 22, 2024

We’ve all been there – feeling superior to others, thinking we know better, and finding faults in everything around us.

It’s a toxic mindset that can ruin our relationships, stunt our growth, and leave us perpetually dissatisfied with life.

Today, I’m going to share a true story from Thailand that illustrates this point.

dog with  skin disease sitting in a thai temple

The Mangy Dog & The Abbot

The story begins with the son of a famous Thai businessman.

After graduating with an MBA from a prestigious UK university and speaking five languages fluently, he was expected to jump into the family business.

However, his mother had one request – to first ordain as a Buddhist monk, following the Thai cultural tradition.

Reluctantly, the accomplished young man became ordained at a large temple in Bangkok.

But his mother then took things a step further by arranging for him to live at a remote forest monastery in northeast Thailand.

And that’s where his troubles began.

two monks in the thai jungle

You see, this highly educated aristocrat from an affluent family had a very hard time adjusting to the simple monastic life.

On his first day, he looked down on the local monks for their lack of education.

The food offered during alms rounds? He found it poor, dirty, and disgusting compared to his refined tastes.

The kerosene lamps used instead of electricity? How outdated and foolish!

His arrogance eventually reached epic proportions. 

He criticized the evening prayer routines for being too long, dreaded basic chores like cleaning the bathroom, and constantly affirmed his superiority – be it his smoother skin, better aura, or loftier background compared to the other monastics.

The young man barely tried to conceal his contempt.

He would smile smugly to himself, mark off days on a calendar, and countdown the days until he could leave this miserable place behind.

After a while, the new monk noticed that the abbot of this forest temple rarely spoke.

He noticed that once in a while, he would come out and give a teaching speech but that was about it.

he didn’t appear to do doing anything all day, except sweep leaves, collect trash and do his own laundry (there were also young novices, so why didn’t he use them to do it?).

He hardly did any teaching or managing jobs; the administration of the temple was given to the deputy abbot to manage everything.

The new monk saw this and thought it was annoying, and felt he needed to give some advice, especially as he had an MBA degree from a top university and specialized in how to manage organizations.

He’d teach these country bumpkins how an organization should be run properly.

So, that morning he set to work writing a professional report along with some key recommendations.

Among many other inadequacies, the report stated that the temple was extremely outdated and had many weak areas that should be improved, such as using electricity instead of lanterns.

It also advised that the abbot should teach and interact with the monks more, and that executive-level monks should not be washing their own robes, sweeping, or cleaning, etc.

He presented the lengthy report to the abbot after lunch.

An old thai monk reading a document and smiling

In the evening, after finishing the prayer routine, the abbot decided to read the report to the assembled young monks and novices, but he did not say which monk wrote it.

After reading, the abbot smiled and pointed to a rather sad-looking that was dog lying under a marble chair nearby an ashoka tree, occasionally scratching itself.

He explained that the poor creature was constantly restless – running here and there, unable to get comfortable no matter where it laid down.

The explained that the dog assumed the problem was external – that each new spot was dirty or unsuitable.

But in reality, the cause of its discomfort came from within – it suffered from mange, a miserable skin condition.

Drawing a parallel between the dog and the young monk who wrote the report, the abbot explained that all he was doing was continually scratching the itch of HIS own condition.

His feelings of dissatisfaction with the monastery stemmed not from any failings of the place itself, but from the “mange” of arrogance, toxic attachments, and poisonous preconceptions within his own mind.

As these words sank in, the pompous aristocratic monk realized he was no different from that miserable, mangy dog!

No matter how educated, wealthy or privileged he was, true fulfilment would elude him until he treated the “mange” within.

Wealthy thai old lady standing by an expensive car with a thai temple in the background

From that day forward, a profound shift occurred.

The once-arrogant aristocrat became quiet and humble.

He stopped finding fault in everything and turned his focus inward, recognizing that the only place he could find contentment and true freedom was in his own mind.

When his temporary ordination ended, his mother asked him to leave the monastery life behind and return to the family business.

But in a shocking twist, he refused, saying he wished to remain and continue “treating his mange” under the guidance of the wise teachers there.

His baffled mother could only wish him well, wondering why on earth her son high-born son was referring to himself as “a mangy dog” . . .

The Wrap Up

This tale serves as a powerful reminder that no amount of wealth, education or status can bring true contentment.

Until we address the restlessness in our own minds, we’ll remain as restless and dissatisfied as that poor dog. We’ll keep scratching the itch without ever realizing the real cause.

Only by reflecting on own thoughts and letting go of our attachments, can we cultivate inner peace and find the type of contentment that evades so many in this world.


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