Thursday, March 26, 2015


Humour Wit Wisdom


Do you believe in rituals? Or follow customs and traditions? 

Are you superstitious? 

Then – you must read this witty story titled  THE MYSTICAL CAT – from my Teaching Stories Archives.

Ancient Wisdom Teaching Story
Narrated By

The military is steeped in tradition.

There are many customs, traditions and rituals.

I remember  there was a custom in the Army  in the Artillery  where you do not light more than two cigarettes with a single matchstick.

There was a logical reason for this practice during World War I  when – in the darkness of the night – an enemy sniper or gun observation post – first saw – then took aim – and fired on the third light.

But today  this tradition seems archaic and meaningless.

In the Navy  we do not clink glasses while drinking or making a toast.

This is plain pure superstition.

In the Navy, if we asked the reason for a certain custom which we found meaningless  our seniors would admonish us: This is the Naval Tradition”  

Even in our day to day life  in the name of tradition  we unquestioningly follow customs, traditions and ceremonies and perform all types of religious, social and superstitious rituals without understanding the spirit behind the ritual.
A 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 begin – and continue unquestioningly till eternity.

The story also tells you how due to repeated repetition over the years these customs and rituals are gradually established and become a part of culture. 

And then, once established, customs, traditions and rituals are blindly followed for years and years, despite the fact that, in most cases, these customs and traditions have lost their significance and the rituals have outlived their utility and meaning.
THE MYSTICAL CAT – an apocryphal wisdom story retold by Vikram Karve

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.

Then they would tie up the cat – and place the tied up cat on the lap of the Spiritual Guru. 

The Guru would then start caressing the cat  and begin the discourse and meditation session. 

After the meditation session was over  the cat would be untied and set free.

This was the established daily ritual.

The Guru would start the meditation session only after the tied up cat was placed on his lap.

The Spiritual Teacher was extremely particular about this.

Once when the cat could not be found  the Guru refused to start the meditation session and demanded that the cat be placed on his lap.

So the meditation session was delayed  and all the seekers launched a desperate hunt for the cat.

The searched for hours till they found the cat.

The cat 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. 

He could not understand the significance of this ritual.

In fact he was quite puzzled at how this ritual of a tied up cat on the Guru’s lap was connected to meditation. 

The seeker wondered: What is the significance of the tied up cat placed on the Gurus lap and what is its correlation with meditation?” 

He asked around the monastery – 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 – one morning  our curious seeker trudged up the hills to meet the wise old man  and – when he met the wise old man’ – the seeker asked 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 practice. 

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 after the Spiritual Teacher died  the next Guru continued this tradition – and the cat was tied up every evening 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 died too  they brought another cat to be tied up during meditation practice  and then as cats kept dying  they kept replacing the dead cats with new cats  and the practice of tying up a cat during meditation continued.

With the passage of time this became an established ritual.

Once precedence has been established  no one can dare to question it. 

So  it has become a custom, tradition and established ritual to tie up a cat during the meditation session.” 

Satisfied by this story – the seeker came down to the monastery – and from then onwards – the seeker actively participated in the daily evening pre-meditation ‘tying up the cat ritual.

Many years passed  but the ritual of tying up the cat during the meditation session continued and continued  – till it became an eternal established ritual.

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.


I wonder why we accept customs and traditions without understanding their significance?

Just like a blind man lead by others who are blind 
 why do we blindly follow rituals without examining the meaning, logic and significance of that ritual using our own intelligence and judgement?

Why do we follow customs, traditions and rituals that are obsolete  – and which have lost their significance and outlived their utility?

If you see any ritual, custom or tradition being blindly followed by people  and for which there seems to be no rational or logical explanation  remember this story of ‘The Mystical Cat.

Ask questions  and find out the logical basis for the ritual, custom or tradition. 

Is there some rationale for the belief  or is it just superstition?

And if you are not convinced  it is better to stop blindly following superstition which has become meaningless in the modern world of today.

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All Stories in this Blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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