A great Zen master, in charge of the monastery of Mayu Kagi, owned a cat, which was the real love of his life. During meditation classes, he always kept the cat by his side, in order to enjoy its company as much as possible.One morning, the master, who was very old, was found dead, the oldest disciple took his place. In homage to the memory of former teacher, the new master decided to allow the cat to continue attending the classes on Zen Buddhism.
Some disciples from neighborhood monasteries, who traveled widely in the region, discovered that, in one of the temples, a cat took part in the meditations. The story began to spread. Many years passed. The cat died, but the students at the monastery were so used to its presence that they acquired another cat. Meanwhile, the other temples began introducing cats into their meditation classes. They believed that the cat was the one actually responsible for Mayu Kagi’s fame and for the quality of his teaching, forgetting what an excellent teacher the former master had been.A generation passed, and technical treatises on the importance of cat in meditation began to be published. A university professor developed a thesis, accepted by the academic community, that the cat had the ability to increase human concentration and to eliminate negative energy. And thus, for a century, the cat was considered to be an essential part of the study of Zen meditation in the region.
Then a master arrived who was allergic to cat hair, and he decided to remove the cat from his daily practices with the students.
Gradually, monasteries, always in search of new ideas and weary of having to feed so many cats – began to remove cats from the classroom. Over the next twenty years, revolutionary new theses were written, bearing titles like “the importance of meditation without a cat” or “balancing mediation by power of one’s mind alone and without the aid of animals.”
Another century passed, and the cat vanished completely from meditation ritual in that region. But it took two hundred years for everything to return to normal, and all because, during that time, no one thought to ask why the cat was there.
“How many of us, in our own lives, ever dare to ask: why do I behave in such and such a way? In what we do, how far are we too using futile cats that we do not have the courage to get rid of because we were told that the cats were important in keeping everything running smoothly?”
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2. How the path was made
One day, a calf needed to cross an area of forest in order to return to its field. Being an irrational animal, it forged a tortuous, curving path, going up hill and down dale.
The following day, a dog passed that way and used the same path to cross the forest. Then it was the turn of a sheep, the leader of a flock, who , seeing the path already opened, led his companions along it.
Later men began to use the path too, they came and went , turning to right and left, having to crouch down and to avoid obstacles, all the while complaining and cursing and quite rightly too. But they did nothing about creating an alternative.
After all this intensive use, the path became a small road along which labored poor, heavily laden animals, obliged to spend three hours which, had they not followed the path forged by the calf, could easily have been covered in thirty minutes.
Many years passed, and the little road became the main street of a town and later the principal avenue of a city. Everyone complained about the traffic, because the road followed the worst possible route.
Throughout all this, the wise old forest laughed to see how blindly men follow the path already made, never asking them if that is indeed the best choice.
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3. the law and the fruit
Fruit was very scarce in the desert. God summoned one of his prophets and said:
”Each person should be allowed to eat only one piece of fruit a day.”
The custom was obeyed for generations, and the ecology of the area was preserved. Since the uneaten fruit bore seeds, other trees grew up. Soon that whole region became very fertile the envy of the cities.
However, faithful to the order an ancient prophet had passed on to their ancestors, the people continued to eat only one piece of fruit a day. Moreover, they would not allow the inhabitants of other towns to enjoy each year’s abundant crop of fruit. The result: the fruit rotted on the ground.
God summoned a new prophet and said: let them eat as much fruit as they like, and ask them to share out the surplus with their neighbors.
The prophet arrived in the city with this new message, but so deeply rooted was the custom in their hearts and minds that the city’s inhibits stoned him.
As time passed, the young people began t o question this barbarous custom, but since the tradition of the elders were untouchable, they decided instead to abandon their religion. That way they could eat as much fruit as they liked and give the rest to those who needed it.
The only people who still believe in old custom believed themselves to be most holy. In fact they were merely incapable of seeing that the world changes and that we must change with it.~ ~ ~