Monday, October 1, 2007

Cats and Buddhist Beliefs

Are your secretly held beliefs about your kitties similar to Buddhist beliefs about cats?

Cats have a special affinity for Buddhism. For that matter, they have a special affinity for all religions because they consider themselves sacred.

Mind you, that’s from the cat’s point of view. Humans have not always taken such a sanguine view of cats. During the Middle Ages in Europe, cats were associated with the devil, evil, and witchcraft, and were killed en masse. Some scholars believe that the near decimation of the cat population contributed in part to the Bubonic plague.

Cats weren’t particularly well regarded by Buddhists, either: they came up with a story that cats were banned from heaven for rebelling against Buddha. (The most likely cause for the uprising is that Buddha failed to produce the right kibbles for the kitties, or refused to offer up his lap while meditating.)

Legend notwithstanding, Buddhism honors the cat – as well as all other animals – as sentient beings capable of suffering and joy, living creatures that seek life and happiness. From this perspective then, all creatures—and not just Americans—have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

The Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation makes it hard for humans to lord it over animals (though they still manage to). After all, a person can be reborn as an animal, and an animal can be reborn as a person.

Being born a human is considered a great gift because it gives you a better chance to attain enlightenment and redemption, not to mention the ability to pay taxes.

So, love your cats. Treat them well. Who knows, in your next incarnation, they might turn out to be your boss at work – or maybe even your dear old mom.


John said...

I think cats feel a deep-seated sense of entitlement to worship. Not sure they go so far as to take it for granted, but still...

Tanya said...

I was wondering what your reference for the buddha/cat story is? I read a kid's book, "The Cat Who Went to Heaven," from 1930 which told the same story. However, I can't find any other references (on the internet) to the Buddha and cats. I practice Buddhism and LOVE my cats, so of course I don't want to think that they rebelled against the Buddha...

Thanks - Tanya

Cheryl Chow said...

Hi Tanya,

I don't have a reference per se. It's just a story I remember from somewhere. But I don't think that they actually rebelled against the Buddha. Matter of fact, it's believed that the soul of a very spiritual person may temporarily reside in the body of a cat.


craig kelly said...

Ms Chow,

A cat behavior expert allowed, 'they are
the master of the moment'. Accepted.

And do not Buddhist desire a, 'living in
the moment'?

You and cats are role model to each other!!



Anonymous said...

Buddha asked all the animals to appear to him: only the ones that appeared made the Chinese Zodiac: there is a year of the cat.
Islam is espescially keen on cats, the prophet Mohammed being a cat lover

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Karl Myers Blogathon said...

I hit the key word "Cat" and "Buddha" after reading an interesting short story book titled "The Cat Who Went to Heaven." It was very moving. I wondered if there was any basis for the book's theme that cats were not blessed by Buddha. In this book, a poor starving artist (whose lone cat keeps him company) is commissioned to paint for the local temple a picture of the dying Buddha, with all the animals who came to bless Buddha...absent the cat. The story ensues from there...

Karl Myers Blogathon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sobershadow said...

My husband and i are deep practitioners of the vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. We own a very lovely cat, whom "chose " us at our local sangha . He is now almost 2 years old and he is quite a practitoner. More so better than most i know of our own ilk. I had noticed during our interaction with him , that he is intently, watching our every move. Especially , when it comes to every human task that we do. To date, he has attempted to drink tea from a mug, in which he had taken his paw and inserted it in to the slot, then tried to lift it. He is constantly trying to emulate us, in his consciousness. He is watching !! he is watching, so that he will have some attraction to this human realm we live. i just know he was attracted to us to learn the human realm of existence and to transcend it. Our cat likes the sutras and meditation. He is really not much for missing a practice.

Cheryl Chow said...

Your cat sounds very fascinating! What does he do during the sutras and meditation? Do you think maybe he's going to reincarnate as a human being? Or, as you suggest, to go beyond the human realm? If you care to write back, would love to know more about your cat!

Thanks for sharing.