Never Allow A Cat In The House

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May 10, 2006
I am reminded of a story. A great Master was dying.

He called his chief disciple to his side and whispered in his ear, "Remember one thing, never, never allow a cat in the house" -- and he died.

"What kind of message...? And for this you called me: 'Never allow a cat in the house'?" The chief disciple enquired from a few old, elderly people, because perhaps there was some meaning in it. "Perhaps it is a code word, otherwise why should he say that? And he died without giving any explanation. I was just going to ask, 'Why are you against cats? Your whole life... and this is the ultimate conclusion of all your discipline, practices, scriptures, scholarship: don't allow a cat in the house'".

One old man said, "I know what the matter is. This is the message given to him by his master too, because his master got into trouble because of a cat." The old master had lived outside the village. He had only two... in English it is difficult to translate because nothing like that exists. As underwear, in India they have langots -- they are just strips of cloth. It needs a little practice to put on. It is just a long strip of cloth which you simply wind around yourself and that functions as underwear, or the onlywear. For a monk that is the onlywear.

He had two onlywears -- that is my translation for langots -- but the trouble was there were a few rats, and they used to destroy his onlywear. He asked somebody from the village, "What to do with these rats? They are very cunning."

The man said, "It is very simple. What we do in the village is just keep a cat. You keep a cat I will bring you a cat. She will finish off those rats and your onlywear will be saved."

The old master said, "This is a simple solution." The cat was brought. She really did her job, she finished off the rats, but the problem was the cat was hungry and she needed milk. She was always sitting in front of the monk, hungry. Cats, when they are hungry, look really poor. She had done her job, and without saying it she was saying, "I have done all your business, all the rats are finished, but I am hungry now."

So the old master asked again, "Now what to do? The cat sits in front of me, looking hungrily at me: 'Provide food, otherwise I am going and then rats will come back.' She does not say all that but I can see in her eyes that she is threatening me, challenging me. I need some milk."

The man said, "Every day you will have to come for the milk, so I will give you my cow. I have many cows, you can take one."

He took the cow but his problems went on increasing: now the cow needed grass. He again went to the town, and the townspeople said, "You are a strange fellow -- problem after problem, problem after problem. Why don't you start growing something around your hut? -- there is so much land lying fallow. We will give you seeds; take the seeds and start growing something. It will help you also; you can eat some of it and the cow can eat some."

So he, poor man, started sowing some seeds.

But this was great trouble: now the crops had to be cut. And he was a monk; he was not supposed to do all these things. But now one thing was leading to another. He went to the village and he said, "This is difficult. Now those crops have to be cut; I don't have any instruments, and I will need helpers."

The people said, "Listen, we are tired of you. You are worthless; you can't find any solution for anything. Do we have to solve everything? It is simple: One woman has become a widow and she is perfectly capable of taking care of you, your cow, your crops, your kitchen, everything -- cat, rats.... She is a perfectly experienced woman."

"But," he said, "I am a monk."

They said, "Forget all about that monkhood. What kind of monk are you! You have a cat, you have a cow, you have a field, a crop -- and you think you are a monk! Forget about it. And anyway this marriage is just a bogus marriage; you need not have any kind of relationship with the woman. She is poor and in difficulty, you are in difficulty; both of you together will be good."

The man said, "That's right. If it is just a legal thing, there's no harm, because my master never said anything against that. He said, 'Don't get married but I am not getting married; it is just for show, for the village, so nobody raises any objection that I am living with a woman. I can say that she is my wife, but I don't have to be her husband really, nor does she have to be my wife really."

He talked to the woman. The woman said, "I am not interested in a husband -- one was enough -- but I am in trouble, you are in trouble; and this is good, we can help each other."

So they got married. Now things went on growing.... Sometimes he was sick and the woman would massage his feet. Slowly, slowly, he started liking the woman. A man is, after all, a man; a woman is, after all, a woman. The woman started liking the man. They were both feeling lonely. In the cold winter nights they were both waiting for somebody to say, "It is too cold -- why can't we get close?"

Finally the woman said, "It is too cold here."

The monk said, "It is cold here too."

The woman said, "It seems you don't have any guts."

He said, "That's right. You come here -- I don't have any guts. I am a poor monk, and you are an experienced woman: you come here. Together it will be warmer."

Of course it was warmer! That's where his whole monkhood went down the drain. And when he was dying he told to his disciples, "Don't let any cat stay with you."

And the old man told the chief disciple, "Since then, it is traditional on your path that each master says to the disciple, 'Beware of the cat.' It is very difficult to be aware of the cat -- the cat comes in somehow or other. Life is so strange.


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