Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Vegetarian Cat

2 days ago there was a report on Dante, which is UK's and perhaps the world's only vegetarian cat. Apparently, Dante ate only vegetables and fruits, refusing to eat traditional cat food like meat, fish and everything else cats usually like. It had been that way since its owner Becky found it as an abandoned kitten. And the miraculous thing was Dante is perfectly healthy living on a vegetarian diet, which is almost impossible for ordinary cats to survive on. This is indeed a case baffling for vets and animal researchers.

Now, what could be the cause of Dante's behaviour? According to Buddhism, there's 2 possible explanations. Dante was probably a Dharma practitioner in its past life who kept the precepts and refrained from eating meat on a life-long basis. However, he or she did not practice meditation and did not have any insight into the true nature of all things. He or she could not separate Rupa (Form) and Nama (Mind), and when the person passed away, his or her mind was still clouded by Moha (ignorance). Moha conditions rebirth into the animal realm, and the next thing we know, his or her consciousness ended up in a mother cat's womb. However, due to its moral behavior in its previous life, it did not forget its dietary habit as a human and was also able to find a good owner. So even as an animal, past merit ensures that it did not have to suffer starvation, heat, cold or being devoured by other animals. Merit is the basis of happiness for all sentient beings as they wander endlessly through the wheel of samsara. Yet merit without wisdom and insight is ultimately Dukkha (unsatisfactory), for no matter how great it is, it will still be exhausted one day. That is why Master Yongjia said in his Song of Enlightenment:

"To dwell on form when giving & being rewarded with a heavenly rebirth, is like looking up and shooting an arrow towards the sky;

When its force it exhausted the arrow falls back onto the earth,
which is to say future lives will not be in accordance to one's wishes

How then can it be compared to the gate of the unconditioned,
with a single leap one enters straight into the ground of the Tathagatas

The other possible explanation is that this cat is a Bodhisattva who purposely took birth into the animal realm to teach us the Dharma. Even though Dante is a cat and cannot speak, yet it is using its body to tell us that even as a common animal, it is possible to live life without harming other animals. So how much more so for humans, who can speak and have the intelligence to differentiate right and wrong? If Dante is really a Bodhisattva cat, then we must clasp our palms and show reverence to it, sadhu.


fred said...

The thought that a Boddhisatva purposely takes rebirth in a certain form is more of a Mahayana idea. Theravada buddhism sees the Boddhisatva as a Buddha in training, practicing the ten perfections, but still stuck in Samsara and subject to rebirth according to their karma...

Wayne said...

True that's the main difference btw the concept of Bodhisattva in Mahayana and Theravada doctrines. The Mahayana Bodhisattva is enlightened to various degrees, able to control his or her own birth and death; whereas the Theravada Bodhisattva is still unenlightened, struggling to fulfill the paramis in the sea of samsara.

hoangkybactien said...

A toad sat on the bottom of a well and looked up: Well, the sky is nothing but a small bright disk!

Upon hearing this acclaim, another toad walking by on the ground looked down the well and said:

-Brother, have you ever been up here?


-Then try to come up here and look at it (the sky) for yourself. That would be better, instead of sitting down there and speculating about it!


There is no such thing as "a buddha in training".

But there is, indeed, a delusion of it.

leslie said...

It should be Bodhisattva in Training / Paramitha in Pali text