Sunday, November 20, 2011


In the name of tradition, we unquestioningly perform so many customs and rituals without understanding the spirit behind the ritual.
ritual is an action performed purely for symbolic value.
In many cases there is no logic or rational explanation for the ritual. 
This apocryphal story from ancient wisdom “ The Mystical Cat  illustrates how customs, traditions and rituals start. The story also tells you how by repetition these rituals are gradually established. And then, once established how customs, traditions and rituals are blindly followed for years and years though, in most cases, these rituals have outlived their utility and meaning.
An Ancient Wisdom Story

A seeker joined a monastery to learn meditation and the art of living. 

Every evening all students and disciples assembled in the large meditation hall for a discourse by the Spiritual Guru followed by group meditation.

Just before the meditation session commenced the disciples would catch a cat, tie it up and place it on the lap of the Spiritual Guru, who would then start caressing the cat and begin the discourse and meditation session. After the event was over, the cat would be untied and set free.

This was the established daily ritual and the Guru would start the meditation session only after the tied up cat was placed on his lap, so much so that once when the cat could not be found, the meditation session was delayed and all the seekers launched a desperate hunt till they found the cat which was duly tied up and placed on the Guru’s lap and only then did he start his discourse-cum-meditation session.

The seeker was quite perplexed at the mystery of the tied up cat and the significance of this ritual. He wondered: What is the significance of the tied up cat placed on the Guru's lap and what is its correlation with meditation? 

He asked around but no one knew the answer till someone told him to ask a wise old man who lived in a cave up the hills, so our curious seeker trudged up the hills to meet the wise old man and ask him the significance of this time-honoured ritual.

“It is like this,” the wise old man said, “one evening, many years ago, when the then Spiritual Guru and his disciples began their evening meditation, a cat that lived in the monastery made so much noise that it distracted them and disturbed their meditation pratice. So the Guru ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening discourse-cum-meditation practice. This practice of tying up the cat before meditation practice continued, so much so that even when the teacher died, the next Guru continued this tradition and a cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session.

When the cat died, another cat was brought to the monastery to be tied up during the evening meditation session, and when that cat too died they brought another cat to be tied up during meditation practice, and with the passage of time this has become such an established ritual that now no one can dare to start the meditation session without the tied up cat. 

Years later, the ritual of tying up the cat during the meditation session continued and continued, and our seeker, who by then had become the Spiritual Guru, wrote a scholarly treatise about the significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

So, Dear Reader, if you see any ritual, custom or tradition being blindly followed and for which there seems to be no rational or logical explanation, remember this story of the Mystical Cat... 

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2011
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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Dhananjaya said...

That is a real good one. Although there could be many more like this being blindly followed, i feel some of them may have some relevance with respect to the time when it came into being. Also some may be true even today

Spiritual blogs India said...

Very Nice post, I liked it. I will defiantly share it with my friends on Facebook. thanks again.

Priya Ravishwaran said...

This is a lovely blog.I was writing a blog on a different topic though, with regards to customs,traditions in India ,especially hovering over the women folks and I would love to include the link so that all are able to come out of such wrong and stupid beliefs which are doing no good other than bringing sorrow and indifferences.

Vikram Waman Karve said...

Hi Priya,
I am glad you liked this story. Please do include the link of this post in your blog (I would love to read your blog too).
Happy Blogging

Priya Ravishwaran said...

I have included the link in my blog

Inclusion of your blog's link in mine has brought even more clarity to my thought process and I am sure all reading my blog(along with yours) would be able to comprehend it better.

Please do read it and I would really love to receive a feedback from you ...