You humans are a funny bunch. So many of you seem far too intent on keeping busy. Whatever for? Opposite a place on the very edges of my territory there is a house in which one of your old couples lives. Farmers by the looks of them.
They must be at least in their seventies, the pair of them and yet every morning - every morning mind you - the old woman is out sweeping away at imaginary leaves or raking the gravel of their driveway - even the strip of land outside their property! This morning, a fine and glorious Winter Sunday, as bright as I can ever remember, I saw her up at eight putting out the rubbish.
Four. Vier; quatre; quatros; nal?; chaar. Four, four, four. What is so special about this number to your kind? In every one of your civilisations down through the ages you have placed tremendous significance in this particular number. Four.
Stretching back into the very mists of Humanity’s past your indigenous cultures from all around the world recognised the number in all their forms of worship: the four cardinal directions, the four seasons, four winds and four elements - Fire, Water, Air and Earth. The Native Americans often repeated their rituals and ceremonies in repetitive sets of four and in almost every branch of Humanity you have seen the four quarters, or faces, of the Moon.
Confucious says: “A belly full of biscuits leads always to contentment”
Confucious says: “A Mouse a day keeps starvation away - but only just!”
Confucious says: “Nothing needs to be done when the Sun is shining”
Greeting two-leggeds. I want to talk to you today about the Art of Living Consciously and I will begin by asking you about… creature comforts, or the items you fill your homes with. All those labour-saving devices which you endlessly gather around you in the same way a bird collects scraps to line her nest.
I wonder, by the way, if there are any of you out there who still know the joys of living in a truly organic, fully biological home. Last Summer’s hay all dried up and baled, stacked twelve rows high - that is my bedroom. It is also my lounge, my meditation room, dining room, study and my veranda. Ahh, the joys of breathing in the heady scents given off by a loose
Confucious says: “It is impossible to hide beneath a glass-topped coffee table.
Cats are often viewed as being vain, somewhat narcissistic creatures, to whom outward appearances are the be all and end all. Now, it is true that how we look is important to us, but this is not because of vanity - out there away from the safety of your cosy, brick homes with locked doors and windows, the world is a totally different place. Upon meeting a stranger, it is vital for a cat to weigh him or her up, and quickly - an eye can easily be lost if a mistake is made in these situations. Have you ever felt how sharp our teeth and claws are?
Confucious says: “An anal gland spray keeps unwanteds away”
Children - It’s a well-known fact that Cats don’t like small children. Especially babies. Now before all the young mothers and fathers out there start calling us a load of nasty, miserable little so and so’s, always aloof and thinking we’re so superior - wait! Stop!
There is something you don’t know.
Those amongst your kind who are a little more educated have formed the opinion that it is all down to the noise and the
Confucious says: “Frustrated writer always benefits from another cup of tea.”
Born in 1642 in a sleepy little village in the East of England, Sir Isaac Newton is considered to have possessed one of the greatest brains your species has ever produced. He excelled in the fields of physics, mathematics, astronomy, alchemy, natural philosophy and theology and many of your kind consider him to have been the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived. In his monograph Philosopiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, Newton described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, as well as many other things which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three hundred years.
Confucious says: “In French: ‘la nuit porte du conseil’. In English: ‘sleep on it’ - this is always a good idea.”
It may have come to your attention that I have been somewhat quiet of late. Don't be worried - I've not been turfed off my patch in the usual territorial disputes that arise with the coming of the Spring. Simply that I have been leading my devotees in a period of silent meditative practice; a common enough technique, it has been known by many names over the years: ‘Lhagthong’ is the Tibetan name, it is perhaps better known as ‘vipasyana’ in Sanskrit or ‘vipassana’ in Pali.
Here in the ashram we call it Vipussana.
Confucious says: “A lick in time saves grime.”
Ripples spreading out across a pond. Powerful imagery. A small pebble thrown into a still, mountain lake, setting off concentric rings which spread slowly outwards until they lap against the banks on all sides. It is a well-used metaphor - I usually hear it from the more excitable of my sannyasins after they’ve watched another of their kung-fu films late at night.
Ripples spreading out across a pond.
Confucious says: “At any time of doubting or confusion look only into your heart - there will you find your answer.”
Falling… falling… falling…
One of my sannyasins came to me the other day and, after scratching my belly distractedly for a few minutes, told me she had a problem. Having already felt the tension in her usually fluid stroking, I twisted myself to sit up in that way cats do, purred reassuringly and asked her to continue.
“I have been practicing detachment here for several years now and was perfectly content with my life. I felt I had reached a point of calm serenity, of peaceful balance. Everything was good.”
Confucious says: “It is unwise to rest your tail against an electric fence”
You humans tend to think of yourselves as being apart from it all. You feel yourselves somehow above the world, separate.
This view had become pretty cast iron, but in recent times is being challenged, mainly by eco-groups, environmentalists
and, well, hippies mostly - New Agers and the like. Unfortunately it’s going to take some shifting though, as here in the
West this has been the predominant mindset for about the last sixteen hundred years - ever since Constantine embraced
the highly dogmatic early version of Christianity which, in fighting for its very survival, became aggressively intolerant of
absolutely everything else.
Confucious says: “Any decision you make today will be the right one.”
In Buddhism it is said there are eighty-four thousand doors to enter into the Dharma. The thing is - and this is so simple it’s ridiculous - none of them actually go anywhere! They are merely doors leading from one side of themselves to the other.
Imagine if you will a beautiful valley, a green and pleasant paradise with all those thousands of doors standing there, arranged in a great horseshoe shape. It doesn’t matter which direction you’re coming from, or which door you go through, you are still in the same valley!
A Change is as good as a rest. That’s something you humans used to say when you still paid attention to proverbs and
such things, as opposed to just numbing yourselves on the internet and telling everyone where you last had coffee on
your social media like you do today.
Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight, that was one, and too many cooks spoil the broth another. You may do well to dig
some of those old sayings out again - you’d be surprised to know that many of them hold more than a grain of truth. A
change is as good as a rest...
Ok, maybe she’s a Zen-Buddhist Nun and is performing a type of meditation, or it’s her Karma Yoga for the day, but I doubt it. More likely it is this Human Condition some of you have, where at a certain point in your lives you just have to keep yourselves occupied. There is a fervent desire - a need - to be busy busy busy!
Look, if you want to get up early and go and watch the Sunrise or listen to the dawn chorus, enjoy the quiet of a sleeping world that’s great! Do it! But all too often in my observations of your species I have noted it is instead down to some un-named mania. “Must…do…chores!” Whatever it takes to keep you from thinking; to keep you from allowing yourself just to live…
Maybe it’s because you haven’t got a tongue rough enough to clean your coat with; maybe it’s because you’ve lost your coat completely (except for hairy-backed blacksmiths) and this is your way of compensating - I don’t know, but I should point out that behind this woman came a cat - a grey one, with streaks of black; a youngster. As the woman set to with her work and toil the cat played - stalking a stray dead leaf for a while, pouncing at nothing and then rolling in the Sun - basically just enjoying Life.
You lot should try it more often.
These practices have not been confined to the so-called ‘primitive’ peoples of the past - Sumero-Semitic traditions also have four astral gods linked inextricably with the four cardinal points of the compass and in Christianity four is a highly symbolic number, used extensively in the Old Testament.
There are four rivers to Paradise, and the Garden of Eden was said to lie within these bodies of water. There are four arms to a cross, four Gospels and four cardinal virtues. In the Book of Revelation, four angels stand at the four corners of the Earth, holding back the four winds. And of course, there are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
In Buddhism, the Damba Tree has four limbs, from the roots of which flow four sacred streams, representing the four boundless wishes - compassion, affection, love and impartiality.
Ancient Hindu texts state that four is totality and perfection. Their temples are based on the four sides of the square, symbolizing order, and Brahma is often depicted in statue and painting alike as being four-faced.
In Islamic belief there are four angelic beings, four houses of death and four levels to the Bardo. The Kabbalah, of which there are four worlds, claims that four is the numerical representation of memory. It also represents the four levels of the hierarchical organisation of the Torah.
The rich tapestry of Chinese culture holds four as the number of the Earth, symbolized by the square. Again there are supposedly four streams of immortality. Taoist schools talk of Li, Ma, Cho and Wen, the four celestial guardians, with pagoda, sword, two swords and spiked club respectively.
In ancient Egypt four was the sacred number of Time. Four canopic jars were placed around the dead at the four corners of the tomb, guarded by the four sons of Horus. Four pillars supported the vault of heaven and similar to this, Mayan culture has four giants supporting the celestial roof.
In only a slight variation of this theme, in Teutonic mythology it is four dwarfs who support the world. Just to the North, the Scandinavian legends tell of four rivers of milk flowing through Asgard (a surprisingly enlightened race, the Norse).
The Greeks, borrowing heavily from the Egyptians, had four as the sacred number of Hermes and in the Hermetic traditions it was seen as the divine quaternity. Four represents God. Gnosticism also talks of the “…four-ness of god.”
For Pythagoras four was Perfection. It was the harmonious proportion. Strange for a man who is best remembered for all his work with triangles and circles, but it was four (and not three, or 3.142…) which was the number of the Pythagorean oath.
Modern thinking is not immune from putting four on a pedestal either. Mathematicians see four as the first solid number and it is widely accepted now in the various branches of physics that four, as the Egyptians previously held four thousand years ago, is actually the 4th dimension - time.
So you see, it can easily be noted that four has always had a certain significance throughout your species’ history, but what I want to know is this: why do you always - always, without exception - put only 4% meat in cat food? Four per cent!
Four per cent!
No matter what brand my disciples bring to me each day, and whether it comes in those tiny little, soft, metal trays, foil packets or nice, big tins (my favourite), the label always reads the same: “contains minimum four per cent meat.”
I should hope so too! What else do you put in there? I mean, you could fill our food with 100% meat, but you don’t. It is always “minimum 4%.”
Upon first noticing this, I thought I would have to definitively label you as a mean-spirited bunch of dog-lovers and skinflints, but having meditated on it for some time, having seen the importance you have attributed to this particular number over several millennia, I realise that in fact you may have chosen this number very deliberately - as a deeply respectful homage, a tribute to Cats and all that we have given to Mankind over the course of time.
Well, it’s possible I suppose, but I’m not convinced…
strand of meadow fescue as you wipe your cheeks clean after a nice, fresh mouse…
But back to these collectables. You all have them: vacuum cleaners so you don’t have to sweep and brush; washing machines so you can avoid
scrubbing your clothes yourself. You have microwave ovens and ready-meals, dish-washers to save yourselves from the tedium of wiping your
And garbage disposal units? What on earth… Can’t you even deal with your own rubbish any more? Can you imagine cats expending hours,
years, of their time and energy inventing a device to cover up their leavings, when all it takes is two minutes to do it themselves?
You gather all these things around you in order to give yourselves more time to do… what exactly? More vacuuming? Or more time to sit around
and watch the TV - watching other people doing something you could be doing yourself.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with sitting round and relaxing, but are you? While all your machines are doing your chores, are you really
giving yourselves that quality time you deserve? In my experience the answer is no - and remember I’m a cat, so when it comes to lying around
relaxing I’m something of an authority.
I mean come on - what on earth can it be that makes you unable even to take the time to brush your own teeth?!? I’ve heard that many of your
kind now use an electrical machine to do it for you! And cotton buds with big, fat ends so you can clean your ears out without really thinking
about it - no danger of losing those babies down your lug-hole!
You build cars to zoom about everywhere and drive ever faster-faster-faster, cursing and getting exasperated beyond all reasonable belief when
you are delayed by just two seconds at the lights! The car in front doesn’t pull out immediately? Honk! Honk! Honnnnnk! You must get there
Most of these cars come with power steering and improved braking systems - again more gadgets to ensure that you do not have to pay attention
to what you are doing. Sat-nav and GPS, so you don’t even have to look where you’re going!
Just as well you invented airbags as well!
But why is it exactly, that you do not want to do what you are actually doing?
Why do you not wish to be in the place that you are?
Really, there can’t ever have been a species so unbelievably unaware of everything going on around them - if there ever was my kind would have
eaten them up in their thousands!
Your culture has become one of living unconsciously. You talk of multi-tasking, but what you are actually doing is living life as a blur instead of
seeing it in full colour, in all its sharpness! You have changed Living into simply existing…
Relax a while. However busy you think you are, you should always give yourself at least a few short moments each day to fully enjoy; to enjoy
the very fact that you are alive! Personally I choose to wash my paws reverently while sitting on a particular bale of hay, positioned to take in the
morning Sun as it climbs over the hedges and burns the frost from the fields. Whatever else I have to do that day, I make sure I give myself those
precious few moments.
I am going to give you an activity, an exercise that absolutely anybody can do. It is only a small thing, a simple thing, but it will help you
exponentially to improve your lives. You don’t need to be a monk or a nun to do this - there is no training necessary, so no excuses.
You only need discipline and while that may sound strange, needing discipline to be relaxed, it is sometimes necessary in order to trick the brain
- otherwise it will quickly find all sorts of reasons why you cannot do something, especially when you have fallen into an unhealthy and limiting
This can be done at any time, but early morning is usually best; on first waking anyway. It goes like this:
Before you do anything else, take a look at your surroundings and find something you can easily see is Beautiful. This can be anything - the warm
Sun rising on another glorious day; the colour of the Sky, painting your window in its glorious depths of blue. It could be the fat Moon still visible in
the Western heavens or the hair of your lover, cast like a fisherman’s net across the morning pillow as she still slumbers on.
It is important to note that it can be anything - a painting, a favourite photograph or the smell of fresh bread baking. Whatever it is must be
heartfelt and sincere, looked at with total recognition and awareness - it must not be done by rote. You must not allow it to become routine. It
should be kept alive, fresh, renewed each day.
Once you have felt the peace of that certain, Beautiful something seep into your soul you can say a few words of gratitude if you feel you want to -
a living mantra if you like: “Thank you Blackbird, for your Beautiful song; thank you Blackbird, for your Beautiful song; thank you Blackbird, for your
Beautiful song…” Something like that.
Then get up and feed your Cat.
You will find that just by doing this, this very miniscule, effortless thing, your mood will be lifted and your day will at least start in a bounteous,
harmonious way. Try to be conscious of the things you are doing, as you do them - whether it’s cleaning your teeth or your ears, talking to the
man in the bus queue or forwarding humorous emails to your colleagues when you should be working.
If you actually focus on your Life, shake yourselves from this unconsciousness and actually concentrate on the vacuuming and the cooking, even
these tasks will begin to fill you with joy, with satisfaction and with the feeling of bliss
And that is something everybody should feel.
Now really, go and feed your Cat.
Anyway, we make this assessment by noticing the scars this newcomer carries, and also the manner in which he bears them. In particular we look at how ragged the ears are - they are usually an obvious giveaway as to the temperament and steadfastness of the one you are suddenly facing. The curve of the tail, the twitching of the whiskers, the shine of your coat and the meat on your bones - all of these things are of enormous importance to cats which is the reason we take so much time over our appearances. There is a deadly serious purpose to all that licking!
If you are after a genuinely vain species on the other hand, you need look no further than yourselves. Humans, with your piercings, your perfumes and your bewildering changes of clothing, different every time you step outside…
Are these also attempts at displaying your attributes? The clothes you wear and change so frequently, the perfumes you bathe yourselves in - they are hardly subtle. My question is not so much what you are doing with all these superficial changes, but what are you doing it for?
I mean, is there any danger of a howling-mad, physical fight each time you face off with another of your kind? Apart from late of the evening clock on a Friday night, the answer to this is usually ‘no.’
So why do it? You are using these things as props, as crutches - markers and waving banners to declare to one and all who it is you actually are. Again with the exception of late on a Friday night, you tend not to scent mark your territories, so this has come about as a kind of compensation.
But again: why? Why do you need anything extra than who you are?
What would you be like, who would you be, if you wore no clothes, bore no adornments, and stopped smothering yourself in artificial smells?
Who are you when you are naked and alone?
Ask yourself - is that such a bad person to be?
‘crazy,’ uncontrolled energy your young give off - and this is true in part, but there is more to it than that. Actually it mainly comes down to pheromones.
Human noses are obviously far, far inferior to those of my kind and believe me, to our highly attuned scent organs the pheromones given off by your tiny offspring are something akin to an explosion in a fireworks factory. Like a fire in a hay barn.
You just don’t want to be near them, as a cat. There are the odd ones who will tolerate them, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule, as your philosopher-statesman Cicero so famously said.
You are probably unaware of it, but even with your own feeble noses some of your kind do still pick up the vaguest traces of these pheromonic signals and react to them, albeit unconsciously. You can see this whenever there is a nappy, or diaper to be changed. You see, a huge cloud of pheromones erupts from the anal gland of human babies when they defecate. Wait a moment, I hear you asking. The anal gland?
Come on, you know - those paired sacs found on either side of… you know where. Located between the external and internal sphincter muscles, most civilised animals have a pair of these sebaceous glands to mark their territory and identify themselves to others. Ahh, what secrets and messages are contained within that smell? It’s like digesting an entire newspaper with just one sniff!
Probably as surprising to you as it is to me though, there are still those among your kind who do not know the joys of being smeared with the delectable smells of a feline anal gland. Astonishing.
The anal glands in humans have gone the same way as your appendix, ear muscles and coccyx. They are already very much atrophied at birth and disappear without a trace by the time the child is but twelve months of age.
Now you humans will react to the ‘changing’ of a baby in one of two ways - you will either smile with love and unbridled joy and rush in to clean up whichever of your litter is dirty or you will gag violently and head for the hills as fast as your two legs will carry you. It is quite unconscious as I said, the response being determined purely upon the gender of the individual. It’s all in the genes you see.
The females of your species have two X-chromosomes where the males have one X and one Y. On one of the lower sections of the second X-chromosome is a particular gene-sequence which triggers what you have come to know as ‘Maternal Instinct.’ It is situated right next to another that causes a scent inhibitor to be produced in order to prevent the person in question from smelling the noxious odours given off by the offspring’s waste.
The two gene combinations responsible for these traits lie on the portion of chromosome which is lost in the male of the species, so to him a baby’s poo is so nauseatingly vile that he cannot stand to be anywhere near the stench.
And remember, what he smells is just a hint of what us cats smell whenever a baby happens to be in the vicinity. So now, adding that to the noise, uncoordinated wobbling and sticky fingers, you tell me - is it any wonder we hide?
However, his very greatest achievement is considerably less well known, even though it eclipses everything else he ever did by a thousand times or more.
It was the invention of the cat flap.
Aaaah… the cat flap - a door within a door. Such a simple thing, but utterly brilliant and my, have they taken off. In the land of Newton’s birth for example, something like 90% of all cat ‘owners’ have cat flaps installed in their homes.
Now while this is of course totally commendable, it is not for entirely philanthropic reasons. You may claim that these cat flaps are there to give your feline friends freedom to come and go as we please, but in reality you are motivated only by your own laziness. You just don’t want to keep getting up every time we want to go out of the house or come in again.
And then out again.
And in again, and out again two minutes later.
Then back in once more.
Hey, we’re wild animals. We need to keep going in and out like that in the same way that we need to make you shift position on the sofa to make room for us and then ask you to move right back again because we actually want to sit where you were offering to begin with. We see things you don’t see; feel things you cannot feel. Perhaps there is the very faintest of draughts coming from one side of you, or it is warmer on our bellies here rather than there.
We need to weigh up every option meticulously, though you may not understand what it is we are doing. This is simply what comes with the privilege of having a cat in your house.
And anyway, there is such a thing as Karma Yoga you know; selfless service.
Back to Newton though - rather foolishly he is said to have made two holes in his kitchen door: one large enough for the mother cat to fit through and another smaller one for the kittens. It apparently never occurred to him that the kittens would always follow their mother which just goes to show that even an undisputed genius can be an idiot at times…
It is popular today amongst New Agers, ‘seekers’ and the like, but there is some confusion as to exactly what it is you are trying to achieve with it. Often labelled as meditative reflection through silence, that is not entirely the whole story and of course there is more to it than simply not talking. Before I embark upon any courses with my sannyasins I make sure they understand the origins of the technique and are aware of the variations in terminology that have come about with translating the concept through several different tongues.
Vipussana is one of the world's most ancient techniques of meditation, said to have been introduced by Gautama Buddha some two and a half thousand years ago, although I should point out that he figured it out by watching his cats.
The Pali word ‘Vipassana’ comes directly from the Sanskrit and is often translated as ‘insight’, although the ‘vi’ prefix may be misleading. It has been assumed that Pali was the language the Buddha conversed in and is best known as the language of many of the earliest extant Buddhist scriptures, collected together in the 'Pali Canon' or the Tripitaka. The origins of this ancient language have been obscured by time, but it is generally accepted as having been the lingua franca of all the peoples of North India who used a number of differing dialects at the time of the Buddha.
And when translating it that initial ‘vi’ could equally mean: to discern or, just as easily: seeing deeply.
If we look at the Tibetan ‘Lhagthong’, lhag means ‘higher’ or ‘superior’ and thong translates as ‘to see’ or ‘view’. Lhagthong can thus be rendered into English as ‘superior seeing’ or more precisely ‘supreme wisdom’. Even more literally it can be understood as ‘seeing that which is the essential nature’.
These differences are only subtle distinctions, but they are important.
Another alternative term for vipassana is the Pali word paccakkha (from the Sanskrit pratyak?a), meaning ‘before the eyes’. The type of seeing intended by vipassana, therefore, is one of direct perception, as opposed to knowledge derived from reasoning or argument, which otherwise forms such a large portion of Buddhist learning.
The human followers of Gautama have muddied the simplistic waters of Buddhism quite considerably over two and half millennia. That’s what you humans love to do - complicate things. You can’t just let something be.
Here was a man sitting under a tree surrounded by cats (a fact consistently overlooked in the Tripitaka), who chose to follow their example by simply being. In doing this he achieved Enlightenment and in the supreme spirit of compassion and good will, he attempted to teach what he had learned to those around him - and just look what it has become!
It is now possible to enter into endless discussions comparing the Theravadin school (revolving around the Three Marks of Existence) with the Mahayana approach, which concentrates instead on sunyata, dharmata and the inseparability of appearance and emptiness, clarity and emptiness, or bliss and emptiness.
Depending on the lineage of your teacher, it is possible for your vipussana to include any meditation technique that cultivates insight (or ‘supreme wisdom’), including: contemplation, introspection, observation of bodily sensations, analytic meditation or observations about lived experience. Through all sorts of complicated techniques the vipussana practitioner eventually reaches the step where their ‘vedana’ or gross bodily sensations, dissolve and a more subtle flow inundates the body - a process which in Sanskrit is called bha?ganupasyanajñana. The knowledge of dissolution.
This is an ongoing, evolutionary process, which continues to reveal layer upon layer of mental purification. The practitioner experiences an increasing cessation of cravings and fears and will intime reach the step of sa?skaropek?ajñana: clumsily translated as ‘strongly founded knowledge of equanimity of all formations’.
Now for mine, all this seems a little too complicated already, without even beginning to talk about the Two Poles of Buddhist meditation, the Four Noble Truths, the various Abhidhamma methods (one of which alone can contain forty topics!), the Two Truths Doctrine, deep body awareness, prajna, jnana, sila, anitya, duhkha, roga or any other number of concepts or terms!
The truth is there are many, many methods of stopping the chatter of the mind and achieving the state of no-mind, a pre-requisite for reaching the state of samadhi, and contemporary Buddhism embraces them all - visualisation, pacification of the mind, yoga, mindful contemplation and the dropping of desires - the list goes on. But can I tell you a secret?
There is a shortcut.
Forget all that convoluted nonsense - it’s all very interesting, of course, and unquestionably a remarkable achievement of the mind over centuries of diagnostic focus and examination, but do you know what you could just do?
Get yourself a cat, find yourself a nice, quiet spot and sit with her a while.
Such is a person’s influence on the world around them. Personally I prefer to talk about the ripples spreading out across a saucer of milk, but
that’s just me. The point is that each of us affects our immediate surroundings in the same way that pebble affects the waters of the lake. There
are many ways to get the point across and whichever you prefer is just as valid. You could as easily talk about the effect of a smile as you enter
I would like you to think about this as I recall something that happened here just last week. In one of the cottages here at my ashram, three of
my devotees shared a particular meal on a particular day; a vegetarian lasagne I believe it was. They all ate heartily, but there was still a small
half of the lasagne in the pan after they had finished so the leftovers were put in the fridge.
A few days passed as normal and then one of them - I won’t mention her name, but she was having some personal issues that day - marched into
the cottage full of hustle and bustle and snapped at the other two: “We’ve got to eat those leftovers because there’s so much stuff in the fridge and
it will all go off!”
She stomped around all evening, missed her meditations and apparently turned the normal tranquillity of the cottage into something quite
unpleasant for the rest of the night and all the following day.
Stress stress stress.
The sannyasins tried discussing it in one of their Problems Aired, Problems Shared sessions, but could not come to any agreement and
eventually they came to me for advice.
Having listened to the tale from all parties, I immediately asked the troubled devotee to always be mindful of what she was putting out into the
world. True enough, she wanted all the scrap-ends and bits in the fridge to be cleared away, but she had allowed this issue to become blown out
of all proportion.
I asked her to consider what would have happened with only a slightly different approach: if she had just popped her head around the door and
said “Oh, should we have that lasagne for dinner tonight? It’s got to be used up soon anyway...”
Think about it - same question, same response, but a much better feeling all round.
The ripples you put into the pond…
And I told the other two not to cook so much food next time.
And this was true. She was normally a wonderfully unruffled person, confident and comfortable in herself. So with a twitch of my whiskers I asked her what was going on?
“The problem is that very recently I have… met someone. And ever since then I’ve found that my sense of balance has totally gone. It’s only been just over a week ago, yet all my meditations are swamped with pictures of him, images of him… In my daily activities I can’t stop thinking about him. I think… I think I’ve fallen in love.
“It’s come as such a shock, so out of the blue! In my state of detachment I was so at ease with the World, so… Now though - now I just… I don’t know anything any more! What should I do?”
“Ah-haaaaa, good!” I told her, licking my paw and using it to wipe away a strand of cobweb still clinging to my ear from where I’d been under the haystack earlier in the day. “You’re moving again.” She didn’t understand, so I continued. It’s really not that complicated, although most of you humans do seem to get tangled up with it from time to time.
“Let me ask you - what do you think the Buddha felt, sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree, when he finally realised his Enlightenment?”
She thought for a moment before answering, trying to figure out where the question might be leading - she was used to my ways. “Peace?” she finally guessed.
“Bliss,” she offered next, after another minute’s reflection.
“Deeper,” I insisted.
“A sense of wholeness,” she tried, “of being one with the World?”
“With the Universe,” I took her further. “With existence itself.”
“Yes! Yes, that’s what I meant!”
I smiled. “Deeper.”
She thought and thought and thought as I continued to wash myself and I could see the answer right there dancing on her lips, pirouetting across her tongue and teeth, but there were too many other thoughts pushing it out of the way, so in the end I told her.
“Love.” She gasped and I knew she wanted to burst out: ‘I was going to say that!’ “But you didn’t,” I teased before she had chance to speak.
‘Falling in love’ is such a misleading term and yet at the same time it isn’t. The phrase suggests a kind of hopeless tumbling into something - and this is how it can feel, it’s true. The way most of your kind respond to the experience has led to the word falling being used and accepted almost exclusively. However, it is wrong.
We should stride into Love; dance into Love; embrace Love wholeheartedly, because Love is the ultimate state of being. It is more than the cement that holds the universe together, it is the universe. It is everything.
When Gautama Buddha sat that fateful day beneath his tree in Uruvela (or Bodh Gaya as it is now known), at that precise moment when his Enlightenment came it was then that his soul, his heart, his core - his entire being - finally opened up to total Love.
In that instant he felt the all-consuming ecstasy of pure Love and with it came a connectedness - not a detachment you’ll note; a connectedness - with every single thing that was, everything that had ever been before and everything still to come. Eve-ry-thing.
He felt it all and much more than that - he felt at one with it all.
He realised in that precise moment that every single thing that existed was as much a part of him as his arms and legs, his lungs, his eyes. The root of the neighbouring tree snaking out across the soil, the clouds drifting lazily across the Sun high above him, the river he could hear in the distance and the rocks it ran over - he felt it all for the very first time as a part of himself.
That heavenly singing, that golden-white light, that feeling of completeness - all of that is Love and when you feel that for a particular person, when you fall in love, you are actually receiving your first tiny glimpse of what that’s like. Your first taste, the first scent, the first brush against your whiskers…
“Don’t worry,” I reassured her, “but do not ‘fall’ - charge into it! Immerse yourself totally. Let yourself be washed by the Oceans of emotions and go where they take you. Just remember that you cannot contain all the Ocean in just one bottle - don’t try to force it all into one receptacle - you will fail and you will be miserable with it.
“Rather, enjoy it and don’t ever attempt to stopper it! Allow that Love to spill, to spread, to gush out and lap at the feet of everyone around you, to feed the roots of the bushes and the trees where you walk. Let it carry you on and on and on - and over to the food stores, to open up a tin of something fishy and then bring it back over here to me…”
She went away with the sweetest of smiles on her lips and a spring in her step - or was it a devilish swagger?
Whatever, the fish tasted good…
However, even the West is moving on from this (finally), and there is enough out there to remind you now that you are indeed only a portion of the
whole - “One strand of the web...” as Chief Seattle so famously said.
You also love to give things labels, to group them all together in convenient bundles, and yet there are one or two fairly obvious links shared by
many species which seem to have passed even the brainiest of your scientists by.
Early in the sixteenth century Copernicus showed Mankind its place in the galaxy with his Commentariolus (and later, the move comprehensive De
Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium), with its workable model for a heliocentric solar system. Of course many Eastern scholars, such as Nasir al-
Din al-Tusi and Aryabharta, and even a couple of Greeks, had already come up with the same theory centuries before, but Copernicus was the man
who can be credited with beginning the West’s slow and laborious journey out of that egomaniacal darkness.
Linnaeus then put you further in your place with his biological classification system. In order to catalogue all the animals and plants into some sort
of systemic order, he came up with all those groups and subgroups to help place everything - including yourselves - exactly where it belongs. So
you now have your Kingdoms, Phyla, Classes, Orders, Families, Genera, Species, Sub-species and so on.
Let me share with you then another connection, quite a big one, which you missed. Although not necessarily very scientific, it is nevertheless
important: there are many, many hundreds of different beings all connected by one common factor - mother’s milk.
Humans drink it, cats drink it, dogs, hyenas, cows, kangaroos, antelope, bears, seals - the list is varied, but it shows a common thread running
through us all. There are also links between the ready-made, live-births like some snakes and sharks, and also between the egg dwellers: turtles,
chickens, fish, frogs, other snakes, crocodiles, eagles, swallows, geckos - all very different in many ways, and yet all are members of the same
exclusive club, breaking their way into the world through the thin, but vital walls of a shell.
You may have noticed that in all my examples there I have passed over a certain group of creatures entirely - the insects. This was quite deliberate.
Born of egg or otherwise, insects are as alien to you and I, and most other species on this planet, as are the many species of extra-terrestrial life
forms inhabiting other planes of reality or other life-sustaining planets in our own particular dimension (something which, by the way, I happen to
know many of you still have trouble accepting, even though there are countless billion solar system out there. Like the people of pre-Copernican
times, do people really still think this is the only planet which enjoys the conditions necessary for life? Come on, not even a dog is that stupid!)
But you don’t believe me? You don’t think insects are alien? Have you ever looked at them through one of your microscopes? Weird! And their
social structure, where they have one at all, is something which is simply impossible to emulate - and many have tried, particularly in the twentieth
And perhaps this is where you have gone wrong in terms of where you stand in relation to everything else. Many of your political ideologies are
flawed, that’s easy to see, but perhaps not for any reason you might suspect. Socialism, for example, is a much diluted version of an ant or bee
colony, with communism being something closer to the mark - but still inherently flawed. Similarly, there are many ashrams and communes which
try to live up to this ideal of a selfless society, but unfortunately most of them are destined to fail because they are attempting to impose - however
well-intended - an alien will upon the minds and lives of the followers.
Men - and by that I mean Homo sapiens sapiens, not just the male of your species - are not equal. Cats are not equal, dogs are not equal, and
neither are squirrels, roses, orang-utans or yaks. Yes, of course we are all the same on a transcendental level - we are all merely raindrops falling
into the oceans of existence - but in this physical dimension governed by the laws of space and time, there are simply those who are more capable
Some will inevitably rise to the top and of those that do, some will lead benevolently and wisely, while others will become cruel and tyrannical.
There are also others who will be always content simply to follow. There will always be leaders and there will always be followers, and so a
commune or ashram in which everybody must be considered equal will usually end in dissatisfaction. Even though the place and everybody in it
sets off with a set of perfect ideals, it is simply not in your nature as human beings to live in this sort of individual-less society. There will always be
the inevitable clashes of personality, petty enmities, absolute hatreds, likes, loves and envies etc.
This is easy to remember when you bear in mind that you all began by suckling on your mother’s teat.
Ok, it is a slightly more difficult concept for you humans to realise because you have the disadvantage of not being born in a large litter. The lesson
presents itself as much more obvious for those of us who are. When you are born as just one among many you must scramble and push for your
sustenance. Some get more, some get less - it’s simple. There will never ever ever ever ever ever ever be a case in which every child receives the
exact same amount. It just cannot happen, because we are all born as individuals, from the very start.
Let those words sink in here. Let the idea settle in your mind.
We are all born as individuals. All of us, and that is what you should be concentrating on. You are not the same as the next person. You come from
a completely different set of circumstances. Different backgrounds, different lifestyles, different periods in history, social status, wealth, capabilities
- the list goes on.
You are totally unique, and the only purpose in your Life is to be you.
Enlightenment is not difficult to achieve. Not at all. You simply have to be.
By that I am saying you have to be you, yourself; your own true nature. Not what you think you are, not what others think you are, and not what you
think you should be.
Who are You?
The you beneath all that garbage and posturing and indoctrination, prejudice and opinion. That is who you really are; that is who we all are. Once
you have accepted that - and only then - can you really fully realise that we are all one after all! We are equal, indivisible, the same being, same
supreme consciousness - but we can only consciously return there by realising our individuality.
That is the basis for all Life on this earth, be it plants, milk drinkers, those born of egg, or otherwise.
Not insects though. God only knows what they’re up to.
The Dharma is already there - you are standing in it right now, or sitting if you’ve any sense!
You don’t need to go anywhere.
You are already here.
You just keep on forgetting.
Change. What is that? What does it mean to you?
Change is movement; it is growth; expansion; development; evolution. It is shifting yourself out of a state of complacency.
Essentially you are a bunch of nest-builders, you humans - did you realise that? You are all looking to find your place in the world, somewhere
safe, somewhere solid, somewhere comfortable. And then keeping it, holding on to it for all you’re worth.
While the water-flowing-into-a-pond analogy still rings as true as it ever did, it has unfortunately been done to death by now, so I will use a different
A cat’s basket is a wonderful place.
The nicer ones are still made of wicker or of some other woven, natural material, but plastic ones are also adequate; however cheap and tacky they
are, they are still good enough, and as long as you can live with yourself knowing you are providing sub-standard accomodation for your feline
companion, that’s fine.
Anyway with all the cushions, blankets and other soft and fluffy things you put in there it hardly matters at all.
However, lovely as this basket unquestionably is, this sanctuary, this haven, this place to retreat to where you can curl up undisturbed and pull
yourself into all those advanced yogic postures that you humans seem to think look so funny - how would it be if the cat never left the basket, for
any reason, ever.
No chance to walk, no chance to play, to explore, pounce, leap, climb, scratch her nails, hunt or come and stop you in whatever it is you are doing
by lying in the middle of it all and purring with abandon.
For a cat never to experience these things, you will agree, would be unthinkable, and yet that is exactly what you are trying to do, be it consciously
or unconsciously, by building up your cosy little worlds around you.
Cats are predators, hunters, and do you know how we are able to catch our prey?
Prey animals follow the same routines, repeat the same patterns at the same times, day after day after day, and thus all a patient hunter has to do
is watch, wait and... snap! Very nice, very tasty, yum yum.
Break your routines! Routines can be helpful at a certain point in your personal development, but they quickly become ruts, which you usually fall
into without you ever knowing.
Do not be afraid of change; embrace it.
Your very own Epictetus said: where things are not dependent on choice, be courageous; where they are, be cautious, and I can only assume he
learned it from a cat because it could be closer to the truth.
Get out of the basket.
Sure, it’s not as cosy and comfy out there, but if you don’t you’ll never get to play with that new toy lying just around the corner out of sight. The
basket will still be there, you can always come back to it, but get up and walk around a bit, explore.
Everything in life changes; nothing is permanent as the Buddhists so rightly point out. Everything in life changes, so if you want to experience life,
you must experience change.
Live your life.
Go and do something different, see how you feel.
You love to make your life complicated don’t you?
Humans. You take some understanding.
First you learned speech, then you developed writing - so many different languages, so many different characters.
Fine. All well and good if it helps push your consciousness along, and it did for a time, but you have stumbled a
time or two along the way, as is only to be expected. You don’t seem to be learning from your mistakes though.
Firstly (and I blame the Greeks for this, who are an otherwise fine and upstanding cat-loving people) you became bogged down in the intricacies
of language itself; with the semantics. For all those philosophers and the Roman statesmen that followed, it became more important how to
frame your argument than the argument itself. Or in many cases, whether the subject was even worth all the trouble of arguing about in the first
place when instead you could just find yourself a nice bush of catnip and fritter the hotter hours of the day away at your leisure.
The results would as often as not be the same.
‘If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?’ What a ridiculous question!
‘How old is God?’
‘Do good and evil really exist?’
What foolishness is all this? (The answers, incidentally, are: yes, ageless, and yes of course.)
You became trapped in intellectuality. You stopped doing things and started focussing only on thinking about them.
That’s an error the Greeks gave the Romans, the Romans gave the modern Europeans and the Europeans have been inflicting on the rest of the
world these last 500 years or so. But I want to skip over that, because your second error is of today, and therefore infinitely more pertinent.
You moved along in a written-word, scientific culture and developed the telephone and typewriter very soon after one another. Next came the
computer, but with every additional technological advancement you exposed the same old psychological problem that has dogged your race ever
since your closed your ears to open your mouths.
The answering machine: ‘Did you not get my message?’ Insecurity.
The mobile phone: ‘Mustn’t forget my phone, what if somebody rings?’ Insecurity.
SMS or Text messages: These opened up a whole Pandora’s Box of ambiguity which poured petrol on the fires of your emotional fragility. In-sec-
Emails were a little better as this was a reversion to the older hand-written letter in which you gave yourselves ample time and space to express
yourselves, but then... oooh, then - doom.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, What’s App, Pinterest, Reddit, Tumblr, Google+, Flickr, Vine, Ask.fm, YouTube, Androids, Tablets, Smart
Phones, iPhones, Broadband, Wi-fi, Likes, Friends.
Everybody seems intent today to be permanently in contact with everybody else, all the time (mistake number three stemming from, yep, you
guessed it - insecurity). You have so many different gadgets and gew-gaws to play with now that nobody can keep track of whatever medium
anybody else is using!
Half the people are blathering away on one platform and getting upset when they don’t hear immediately back, while the other half are asking
why they haven’t heard on another platform and are also getting upset when they don’t hear back!
You have people Whats-Apping here and Tweeting there, messaging on Facebook and sometimes even still phoning, but half the time you’re
missing each other because you’re all buzzing about frenetically at random like bees without a Queen.
You humans are so insecure, so scared of not being constantly in touch; of going by unnoticed; of the very world in which you live but are never
Turn off all your electronic devices and just sit and immerse yourself in the world around you.
Forget where you’re not, and just enjoy being where you are.
Forget what anybody else is doing, and be content in what you are doing.
Be content in yourself.
Be content in you.
Then you will lose all your fears and insecurities and who knows, you might just learn what it feels like to purr...