default image for post
Starving the bad dog and feeding the good dog
September 22, 2010  |  radhanath-swami

Carrying the stick given by Rama Sevaka Swami, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) hitchhiked and reached the outskirts of Kathmandu. A pack of snarling dogs charged towards Richard growling ferociously. Richard remembered the walking stick and wildly began to swing it back and forth. The wild dogs could smell Richard’s flesh and blood and escalated their attacks. He dove inside a house and slammed the door shut behind him. The owner of the house was alarmed at the sight of an intruder, but seeing Richard’s supplication, softened and gave him shelter for the night. Richard spent the rest of the night as his guest listening to the pack of hungry dogs barking outside the door until dawn.

Radhanath Swami recollects an analogy from the American Indians. Within every heart dwell two dogs, a bad dog and a good dog, both at battle with one another. The bad dog represents our debased tendencies of envy, anger, lust, greed, arrogance, and illusion. The good dog, our divine nature, is represented by forgiveness, compassion, self-control, generosity, humility, and wisdom. Whichever dog we feed the most through the choices we make and the utilization of our time will empower that dog to bark the loudest and conquer the other. Virtue is to starve the bad dog and feed the good dog.  Richard (now Radhanath Swami) reflected on the pack of dogs that attacked him that night, foaming at the mouth with a lust to devour him. Radhanath Swami feels the incident was a graphic visualization of what he was up against in his internal journey.

Radhanath Swami explains that this internal struggle is an unavoidable reality in the life of a spiritual seeker. As we attempt to reconnect to God through spiritual practises, the mind throws up our past conditionings and sucks our enthusiasm through a barrage of negative thoughts. Therefore, Radhanath Swami says a seeker of God should learn to tap the power of the mind and not let it go astray.

While pondering over Radhanath Swami’s words of wisdom, I am reminded of a remark made by Willam Blake, “The mind is such a thing that it can make heaven out of hell and hell out of heaven.” Since we live with our minds lifelong, the state of our mind determines the state of our life.

To prevent feeding the bad dog within us, we need to use our intelligence. Radhanath Swami reveals in his talks that all sacred scriptures and cultures caution us to not succumb to the mind’s short-sighted urges for instant pleasure or relief. This demand for immediate pleasure is sought by giving in to negative forces within us, and is akin to feeding the bad dog. Quoting the Bhagavad Gita, the essence of Indian wisdom, Radhanath Swami explains that the best way to deal with the mind is to treat it as a person different from ourselves. We need to critically examine its ideas, which are often detrimental to our long-term self-interest, just as we would examine the ideas given by someone else. But the mind proposes its thoughts, desires and emotions so subtly and irresistibly that we un-thinkingly consider them to be our own and indiscriminately act on them. Therefore we have to constantly guard against feeding the bad dog- our lower natures.

I wonder how to feed the good dog within me always? And Radhanath Swami has the answer, “Selfishness is our enemy. Yet we are so inclined to fall into that state of mind. The cure for this is to serve.” By cultivating a service attitude, Radhanath Swami assures we will be feeding the good dog.

Related Posts:


141 Comments


  1. If we can just cultivate the service attitude, which Radhanath Swami keeps emphasizing, our lives will become divine and special. Otherwise it will remain mundane and ordinary.

    View Comment
  2. Whoof Whoof ! How well Radhanath Swami draws our attention to the realities we grapple with daily, somehow the other the Journey Home book unfolds so many realizations, for a drowning person it is like coming to the surface and breathing oxygen. Only problem is do we realize we are drowning?

    View Comment
  3. Thank you for instructions to feed the Good dog by selfless service

    View Comment
  4. One must be sincere,serious & without ulterior motives.Being sincere means to make the right decisions – that is to feed the good dog.

    View Comment
  5. Radhanath Swami get be so graphic is explaining amazing concepts that could otherwise neither be understood nor practised. Thank you.

    View Comment
  6. Thank you I learnt two things firstyl to feed the good dog we need to serve an din order to starve the bad dog we need to critically examine the ideas posed by the mind considering it as a person different from us. Thank you Radhanath Swami for seeing God’s grace in every situation and setting an example for us

    View Comment
  7. radhanath swami had to literally experience the tragedy and the problems in his path to be a true messenger of god and through these experiences he guides his followers towards the path of spiritual progress, and the best to imbibe is the example of feeding the bad and the good dog in everybody.

    View Comment
  8. Very powerful reminder from Maharajah
    “that this internal struggle is an unavoidable reality in the life of a spiritual seeker. As we attempt to reconnect to God through spiritual practises, the mind throws up our past conditionings and sucks our enthusiasm through a barrage of negative thoughts”. Please Maharajah bless me so i can remember this while my chanting and service.

    View Comment
  9. wonderful,thank you

    View Comment
  10. Thank you Radhanath Swami for showing us the right path.

    View Comment
  11. Nice analogy to explain, how to control mind and importance od developing service attitude

    View Comment
  12. rasamrita devi dasi

    Thank u maharaj to tell us to feed the good dog instead of the bad one.

    View Comment
  13. Every aspiring spiritualist has to undergo this stage, where there is a struggle, applying the art of starving the bad dog and feed the good dog…however one is able to do it in much easier way by taking guidance from a saint like Radhanath Swami…

    View Comment
  14. Thank you for sharing this article of Radhanath Swami.

    View Comment
  15. Radhanath Swami explains that the best way to deal with the mind is to treat it as a person different from ourselves-an amazing revelation! I never knew this technique to deal with the mind.Thank you for this revelation Radhanath Swami.

    View Comment
  16. treating the ideas of mind as different than ours is really a revealing concept.Thank you so much Radhanath Swami

    View Comment
  17. the example of the good do and the bad dog is very appropriate

    View Comment
  18. Radhanath Swami imagery in explaining the bad and god qualities in one’s mind is wonderful!

    View Comment
  19. Radhanath Swami has taught this complicated subject in such lucid and simple terms using an excellent analogy.

    View Comment
  20. Thank you swamiji.

    View Comment
  21. This is Amazing !

    View Comment
  22. These are really wonderful, thought provoking and helpful meditations on various chapters of Radhanath Swami’s autobiography.

    View Comment
  23. It is so important to control our mind and follow the instructions of good dog as Radhanath Swami explains..

    View Comment
  24. Thank You Radhanath Swami. These are 2 very useful instructions for us to follow. starving the Bad dig: “to not succumb to the mind’s short-sighted urges for instant pleasure or relief”.Feed the good Dog by “cultivating a service attitude”

    View Comment
  25. Thank you Radhnath Swami for this instruction so as to take care of the negative aspect and fan the positive aspect

    View Comment
  26. Very graphic example of dogs……thanks for sharing your realisations,………

    View Comment
  27. “The mind is such a thing that it can make heaven out of hell and hell out of heaven.”

    This is an excellent statement Maharaj.

    View Comment
  28. Thanks for sharing.

    View Comment
  29. Very nice example of dogs. Thanks for sharing.

    View Comment
  30. Nice analogy

    View Comment
  31. very instructive story. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    View Comment
  32. Manish Raikundalia

    Nice and simple way to feed the good dog – cultivating service attitude. Thank you Maharaj.

    View Comment
  33. Thank you Radhanath Swami for brilliant analogy

    View Comment
  34. Great analogy – thank you

    View Comment
  35. thank you for sharing this.

    View Comment
  36. hrishikesh mafatlal

    The wisdom of treating the mind as another person outside of ourselves is an extraordinary advice.

    View Comment
  37. Great analogy of good dog versus bad dog…We are truly what we think!

    View Comment
  38. Service to Vaishnavas,Guru Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada and Radha and Krishna is feeding the good dog…this is so wonderful and gives us a chance to destroy the bad dog within us. Thank you Maharaj.

    View Comment
  39. we should listen to our wellwisher i.e the good dog

    View Comment
  40. Nice article by Radhanath Swami to explain that we all have both good desires & bad. Only if are in the regular association of God’s devotees can we overcome our baser desires & thoughts.

    View Comment
  41. Profound thoughts. we must analyse all the thoughts and ideas proposed to us by our mind and not whimsically act on them. That is so right.

    And very true that it is so subtle the way mind acts and that it becomes difficult to check the mind.

    Ultimately Maharaj sums up very well. Saying that the selfless service attitude will help us deal with our mind.

    Thank you very much Swamiji.

    View Comment
  42. Nice analogy of the good dog and bad dog. We’re up against the bad dog barking within us all the time, and often we succumb. The solution is mentioned too – give up selfishness and develop service attitude. Thank you for all this.

    View Comment
  43. The struggle between good dog and bad dog is a reality. Radhanath Swami is so wonderfully explaining how to make the good dog a winner.

    View Comment
  44. We need to awaken the good dog within us. He has gone off to sleep without even putting up a fight. Atleast we should start fighting the bad dog within us.

    View Comment
  45. Serving others, especially the devotees of the Lord, is so purifying that our heart becomes more and more inclined to feed and listen to the good dog. Radhanath Swami’s instructions here address a deep problem which exists within all of us.

    View Comment
  46. sangharatna bhamare

    really wonderful. thank you maharaj.

    View Comment
  47. sangharatna bhamare

    what an analogy. good & bad dog. Thank you maharaj.

    View Comment

Leave a Reply