Prayer Dog Legend


“Wiivi” Ziestan Laqueta (C. Sundqvist)

Once upon a time, a small golden dog stood atop the monastery walls. He gazed out across the Land of Bod, a land where the great mountain Chomolungma watches over valleys and plains that are higher than the mountains of all other lands, a land that is the mother of all the great rivers flowing to the oceans.

The Land of Bod is cold and the air is thin.  So Lord Chenrezi, the Buddha of Compassion, gave the golden dog many gifts to help him:  two coats for warmth, strong lungs for endurance, long toes for running and climbing, and sharp eyes and ears for watching over the Land.  All this and snowshoes too did Lord Chenrezi give the little dog.

Each morning, the golden dog climbed to the top of the walls.  He did not fear the great height for Lord Chenrezi had also given him the courage of a Lion and called his name Senge.  There, on high, Senge kept faithful watch. Whenever he saw a caravan approaching, he barked a warning to the giant guardian below. And the great black Do-Khyi, with his fearsome red yak collar, would hear and rise up to defend the monastery.

Now, in this monastery, as in all the thousands of others in the Land of Bod, there were many prayer wheels. Some were small to fit in the hand, but others were large, as tall as a man, mounted in a row. Senge knew that, when the wheels spun, the mantra written on the paper coiled around the spindle inside, rose to Lord Chenrezi in the sky. All the monks and the faithful pilgrims who came to the monastery spun the wheels to pray Om Mani Padme Haum.


Prayer wheels

Senge loved only one thing better than sitting atop the walls; he loved to play. One day, he climbed down in search someone to play with, but he could find no one.  A terrible sickness had come over the Land of Bod, and all the people were in their beds. He climbed into the beds of his sick friends and offered his body to warm theirs for Lord Chenrezi had also given his little Lion a heart of love and a soul of compassion. In this way, Senge gave his friends great comfort.

Despite his efforts, the people did not get better, and Senge despaired. He wandered among the chapels lit with flickering yak butter lamps. He sat before the altars, gazing upon dazzling statues and brilliant thangkas. He tried to meditate as he had seen the lamas do. He made many circumambulations around the great golden chorten in the monastery courtyard. Many times, as he passed the great prayer wheels, he thought, ‘If only I had hands, I could spin the wheels and Lord Chenrezi would hear my prayer.’ But Senge had no hands—only paws—and he walked on. His friends still suffered.

One day, when he came to the row of great prayer wheels, still and silent, he stopped and sat upright upon his haunches before the first one. He pressed together his paws in the way he had seen the lamas pray, and he cried out, “Lord Chenrezi, I have no fingers, but I have long toes!” With that, Senge the Lion stretched his toes as much as he could and he began to circle his paws.  Faster and faster he circled them until, reaching out, he pushed the wheel. It moved. Faster and faster Senge circled and pushed, and the wheel began to spin. Then he moved to the next wheel and set it spinning in the same way. And then he spun the next, the next and next after that, until he had spun all the wheels.  Senge was sure that Lord Chenrezi  had heard his prayer.

And his friends rose from their beds, well again.  Forever thereafter, the little golden dog and all his kind through the ages have been called the Prayer Dog.

“Kim-Joy” Dedicated To Instantly Impressive (S. & M. Ottens)

The Prayer Dog Legend finds expression in Tibbie World today.  We say that we are “spinning the prayer wheels” to give encouragement, comfort or sympathy in difficult times.  Learn More…

What is the Land of Bod?

Tibetan name for Tibet

What is Chomolungma?

Tibetan for Mount Everest

Who is Chenrezi?

Tibetan name (or Chenrezig) for Buddha of compassion and love, the Dalai Lama is a living Chenrezi , known as Avalokiteśvara, Kuanyin and Kannon in other countries

What is a Do-Khyi?

Tibetan name for a Tibetan Mastiff, breed of guard dog

What is a mantra?


What is Om Mani Padme Haum?

Mantra (prayer) written on scrolls inside prayer wheels

What is a thangka?

Buddhist painting on fabric

What is circumambulation?

Buddhist devotional practice of walking around a sacred structure such as a chorten

What is a chorten?

Tibetan word for stupa, a Buddhist symbolic structure used as a focus for meditation or devotion