John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors

zen story about a cat

Ritual Cat


When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice.

Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

People's reactions to this story:

"It's amazing how people don't question authority."

"People don't think about what they're doing. They just do it because it's always been done that way, or because everyone else is doing it. Kind of scary!"

"This reminds me of the game kids play when they whisper something into someone's ear, and then the message is passed along from one kid to the next. By the time it gets to the last kid, the message isn't anything like the way it was when it started."

"This must be similar to how superstitions develop. There once may have been a logical reason for them, but eventually people just do it because they believe they should."

"It's like people being afraid to walk under a ladder, or to have a black cat walk in front of them. It makes no sense. It's an irrational fear of some taboo that they don't fully understand."

"Why tie up the cat? Why didn't they just let it out?"

"I wonder how many religious ceremonies and rituals originally started out as simply a PRACTICAL solution to some simple problem."

"Seems like someone (or something) always suffers from unnecessary, superstitious behavior."

"This makes me think of family traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next.... and they're not always a great thing to pass down!

"Family recipes are like this. Everyone keeps passing them down, even when they taste terrible."

"Scholars can make even stupidity sound intelligent."

"I feel sorry for those cats!"

"I think a lot of us live our whole lives like this. We do this and that, over and over again, without really thinking about the significance or meaning of it."

"Maybe tying up the cat symbolizes tying up our animal needs and desires during meditation in order to achieve higher levels of consciousness."

"This story is more about the failings of one man than rituals, cats or scholars."

|| Sounds of Silence || Successor || Nature's Beauty ||

~ Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors ~