My weekly routine of feeding stray cats at Yannawa temple has become an essential part of my life. Sometimes I had to postpone my visit due to rain storm or technical difficulties, I would feel rather anxious about those cats waiting for my arrival quietly for hours. Usually I would tell them to look after themselves as I wouldn’t be back till after three days or seven days depending on my schedule. They seemed to acknowledge my words and went back to their usual spots without running after me to my car. They had accepted the fact that I couldn’t bring them home with me. Some cats were so daring and jumped inside my car wanting to accompany me home. I had two favourite cats that I would like to bring back to my farmhouse, but they wouldn’t be able make the journey.
My first spot in the temple was the car park by the river where there would be about four cats making their home around that area. There was a new addition of young black and white cat who found a hiding place up on the tree. She was almost one year’s old with previous sign of accident on her back. Either she was hit on her back or fallen off from some height while she was a kitten. I noticed that she walked in a weird way and she couldn’t sit down like other cats. There’s a big dent on her back too. I called her Spotty as she had a big black spot on her back.
I guessed someone just left her at the temple some months ago as she was by herself and refused to get on with other older cats. She was very aggressive and growling whenever other cats came near her. It was as if she had to protect herself from unexpected danger; she was probably a house cat and was badly treated and finally abandoned at the temple. People liked to leave boxes of kittens at temples in the night! And I thought they were Buddhists! Spotty turned out to be very gentle and loving cat, she’s also very smart and beautiful. She would run to greet me from fifty meters away and jumped on the table to ask for food.
The three older cats seemed to know each other and have become friends. So, sometimes they would eat from the same dish. These are also very friendly cats with more worldly experience. Sometimes an elderly Chinese lady came to feed these three cats in the evenings; but they still looked famished. These cats weren’t members of a group of cats being looked after by the skinny monk on the other side of the temple. So, they didn’t know that there’s cat food in a big bowl which they could eat twice a day. That’s why I stopped to feed these underprivileged cats as soon as I parked my car.
There’s another cat who preferred a solitary lifestyle. She used to be looked after by the skinny monk but as she grew older she wanted to be alone by herself. She’s a pacifist by nature and let other cats steal all her food so she’s very skinny and had not sufficient food. One day I found her hardly able to walk as she’s all skin and bones. Once she’s wounded and disappeared for almost two weeks. I had to fatten her up more often that week. I thought she had gotten some craps of food once or twice a week only. She’s just too slow and wouldn’t compete for food. I always gave her extra food to keep her going for a few more days. I hoped the old lady saw her and gave her some food too.
These cats gave me a headache too. Whenever they were missing for a week, I had to go around asking novices whether they saw some cats. All the monks and novices probably thought I was a nut case who kept on feeding stray cats and not feeding any monks! Most people would offered food to monks for building their good karma. I never offered any monks there any food as most of them were quite overweighted and suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure. I wished they would give the leftover food to these hungry cats from time to time. So, I was quite a rebel I’m not showing proper demeanor towards these high ranking monks.
I had a strong prejudice against monks with titles or status. They were supposed to let go of worldly power and gratifications. Fortunately there were some young novices and monks who quietly feed these stray cats. Most monks didn’t like stay cats as they made the place untidy and dirty. They shouldn’t have cut down most of the old big trees and put cement on the ground. That’s hardly any earthen yard where cats could be in touch with nature. The disease of materialistic progress meant that new buildings were built on natural surroundings; old trees had to make way for new buildings. Now all the temples had to deal with increasing electricity bills and rising energy prices while people became too poor to donate more money! Crazy world we live in nowadays.
The old vibes from hundreds of years of monks seriously practicing meditation and chanting could still be found from time to time, especially in old neglected hall. I liked to explore the old parts of the temple where they had not been replaced by new buildings. I wondered why most modern monks were not very psychic nor sensitive to invisible energies. The new paradigm of progress and success in the monks’ communities have drastically changed from the ancient ways of the past tradition.
This temple meant a lot to me as I happened to be struck by the unexpected knowledge of one of my past lives which had a close link to this temple over two hundred years ago. So, this place was connected to my soul in the past; I had to come back to look after some cats who used to know me in my past life. But I had to let go of all my knowledge so that I could be free from all attachment and live in the present.
Standing by the river watching the sunset in modern surrounding made me wonder at the big gap between the past reality and present day manifestation. I wondered why they had to let me see the past so clearly sometimes. My heart was burden by past actions and consequences which resulted in my present dimension of reality. There must have been a purpose to this, I just had to be patient and persevere while trying my best to survive among many predicaments. I would continue to pray and contemplate as often as I could on my path to total liberation.
Wishing you peace, good health and prosperity.
Stay strong and cheerful.