A couple of days ago I mentioned something about a cat shown in a painting of the Buddha’s Parinirvana. Thankfully I have a monastic colleague who is well read and sent references.
This is probably not a cat. It was found in the corner of a painting sent along with the information below and thought it worth an airing anyway.
Here are a couple of references to the cat in the depictions of the Buddha’s Parinirvana. See the book “Zen & Japanese Culture” by D.T. Suzuki for a story about a monk called Cho Densu (1352-1431) who was commissioned to paint the Buddha’s PariNirvana for the Tofukuji Zen monastery at Kyoto (39 by 26 feet). The story goes that a cat would watch him paint the picture. Any way the artist wanted ultramarine in mineral form to paint with. The cat disappeared then returned to show him where he could get it from, so the cat was included in the picture!
I think traditionally only the animals of the Chinese zodiac, rat, ox, dog, monkey…. etc. were included because it was thought that they came to pay their last respects to the dying Buddha, but the cat being proud and self-satisfied didn’t come (see the book “The Cat Who Went to Heaven” by Elizabeth Coatsworth)!
I know this will not change lives however if you want to read alternate reasons why the cat is not one of the zodiac animals go here and scroll down to ‘Origin Stories’.
Hell will no doubt rain down upon me for mentioning that cats might possibly exhibit pride etc. Sometimes we get so close to our animal friends we believe they are us; that’s human. One summer, when a novice, I took care of a dog; I held her tight through thunder storms, shampooed and cream rinsed her, combed her pantaloons to perfection, cooked special food for her and her cat companion. Then one day she bent her beautiful head and gulped down some poop! We were, at once, ‘one’ and very very different.
Pushka and Max, my late shadows and dear friends.