THE GURU’S CAT

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshippers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died, the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat expired, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later, learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.

Source: Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird ,
(Image; Reprint edition, 1984) page 63.

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Another rendition by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Indians around here tell a cautionary fable about a great saint who was always surrounded in his Ashram by loyal devotees. For hours a day, the saint and his followers would meditate on God. The only problem was that the saint had a young cat, an annoying creature, who used to walk through the temple meowing and purring and bothering everyone during meditation. So the saint, in all his practical wisdom, commanded that the cat be tied to a pole outside for a few hours a day, only during meditation, so as to not disturb anyone. This became a habit – tying the cat to the pole and then meditating on God – but as years passed, the habit hardened into religious ritual. Nobody could meditate unless the cat was tied to the pole first. Then one day the cat died. The saint’s followers were panic-stricken. It was a major religious crisis – how could they meditate now, without a cat to tie to a pole? How would they reach God? In their minds, the cat had become the means.

Source: Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
(Riverhead Books, 2007) page 227

CONSIDER THIS

Be careful not to get too obsessed with the repetition of religious ritual just for its own sake.  It can happen that we get so caught up on the externals that we lose sight of the essentials. Religion and tradition can give us false security and complacency. It may be useful to remember that it is not the tying of the cat to the pole that has ever brought anyone to transcendence, but only the constant desire of an individual seeker to experience the eternal compassion of the divine.  Flexibility is just as essential for divinity as is discipline.

The story of the guru’s cat is an encouragement and an invitation to review what we do habitually and to ask: Why do we do what we do? Why do we say what we say? Why do we use what we use? Is what we’re doing still appropriate and beneficial today? Is what we’re doing on a daily basis still achieving what it was originally intended to do? Or is it perhaps becoming a distraction, clutter, confusion … another guru’s cat?

 

STOP CHASING YOUR TAIL

A big cat saw a little cat chasing its tail and asked, “Why are you chasing your tail so?”

Said the kitten, “I have learned that the best thing for a cat is happiness, and that happiness is in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it: and when I catch it, I shall have happiness.”

Said the old cat, “My son, I, too, have paid attention to the problems of the universe. I too, have judged that happiness is in my tail But, I have noticed that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, and when I go about my business, it just seems to come after me wherever I go.”

Source | From C.L. James, “On Happiness,”
in Caesar Johnson, To See a World in a Grain of Sand
(Norwalk, Conn.: The C.B. Gibson Co., 1972)

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Here’s a slightly different version as told my Wayne Dyer

There was an old wise cat and a small kitten in an alleyway. The old cat saw the kitten chasing its tail and asked, “Why are you chasing your tail?”

To it the kitten replied, “I’ve been attending cat philosophy school and I have learned that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and that happiness is located in my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it: and when I catch it, I shall have happiness forever.”

Laughing, the wise old cat replied, “My son, I wasn’t lucky enough to go to cat philosophy school, but as I’ve gone through life, I too have realized that the most important thing for a cat is happiness, and indeed that it is located in my tail.  The difference I’ve found though is that whenever I chase after it, it keeps running away from me, but when I go about my business and live my life, it just seems to follow after me wherever I go.” 

Source | Wayne DyerYour Erroneous Zones
(William Morrow Paperbacks; 1st HarperPerennial ed edition, 2001) page 68.

 CONSIDER THIS

Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. | Anonymous although often wrongly attributed to both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.

THE HERMIT AND THE MOUSE

Long ago, in a hermitage, there lived a great sage. One day, as he sat down to have his lunch, a mouse fell from the beak of a crow, on the ground near him. He picked the mouse up, took him inside the ashram and fed him some rice.

One day, the sage saw a cat chasing the mouse around the ashram. He was afraid that his pet mouse would be killed by the cat. By the power of his penance, he turned the mouse into a cat so that it could defend itself against other cats.

Soon a dog appeared on the scene and started barking at and chasing the cat. When the sage saw this, he changed the cat into a dog.

One day his dog was frightened by a tiger. The sage immediately changed his dog into a tiger, again by the power of his penance.

However, the sage always treated the tiger as if it was still his little mouse. Whenever the villagers who passed by the sage’s ashram saw the tiger, they would say, “Ha! That’s not a tiger! It’s just a mouse that the sage changed into a tiger. He won’t eat us or even scare us.”

When the tiger heard this, he was furious. “As long as the sage is alive,” he thought, “the truth about my real nature will never die. I must get rid of him for good.” The tiger decided to kill the sage.

But as soon as the sage saw him coming towards him, he knew what was going on in the tiger’s mind. He shouted, “Get back into your form of a mouse.” No sooner had he uttered these words than the tiger shrank and became a little mouse once again. The sage looked at him with pity and said, “Whatever one is, large or small, it’s good to be humble.”

Source | G.L. Chandiramani, The Hitopadesha: An Ancient Fabled Classic, page 230
See also: Marica Brown, Once a Mouse

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Whatever one is, large or small, big or little, a celebrity or not, it’s always goo to stay real, get off any sticky pedestal behaviour and be humble.