FIRE ON CAT WALK
Four friends in India decided to go into business together. After many discussions, they finally struck upon the idea of importing bales of cotton. Putting their modest savings together, they rented a big warehouse and began importing bales of cotton for resale to local retailers.
Business was good, and they had never enjoyed each other's company so much. But one day they discovered that many bales of cotton had been ruined by mice.
"Something has to be done!"
"Let's get a cat."
"Yes, good idea! Let us invest in the greatest mouse-hunter."
They bought a cat and let him loose in the warehouse. Within weeks the problem was resolved and the cotton was saved. They were so grateful to the cat that they started to lavish upon him extraordinary care and honor. There was just one small problem: a cat has only so many needs or surface areas to lavish gifts on.
"I have already put a collar on him. He doesn't need another one."
"You call that a collar? That cheap domestic stuff—it'll break in no time. Now look at this fine Persian embroidered…"
"That's it! I've had enough of these silly fights between you about who loves kitty the most. A cat has four legs, and there are four of us. We'll take one each."
The new arrangement worked out beautifully. Each owner would lavish extra care on that particular leg. They would massage it, comb it, de-flea it, buy it a pretty little booty… The cat did not seem to mind receiving so much attention.
One fateful day, the cat fell from a tree and hurt one of its legs. As it limped pitifully back into the warehouse, the four friends rushed to its side.
"That's my leg", shouted the owner of that limb, "Let me bandage it."
"Is it going to be OK?" asked the anxious friends.
"Don't worry. Of course my leg will be alright." He tenderly bandaged the sore limb. "There, as good as new. He will resume his duties in no time."
Soon the cat started hunting again. Over time, the end of the bandage came loose and one night, as the cat was sleeping by the fireplace, a spark jumped out and lit the loose bandage. Terrified, the cat ran helter-skelter through the warehouse, setting all the bales of cotton on fire. The friends had lost everything.
"It's your fault! It's your leg that burned the entire stock!" the three friends furiously shouted at the hapless owner. "You must compensate us for our loss!"
"Are you out of your minds?" the man replied. "I lost everything too, you know…"
Their argument turned to blows, and they were all arrested and brought before the king.
"If I understand correctly," the king wearily addressed the three plaintiffs, "your partner's share of the cat caused the whole warehouse to burn down, and therefore he should reimburse you."
"Yes, yes great king, exactly. We are so glad to see that your majesty agrees with us."
"Actually… without the three healthy legs, the cat could never have run into the warehouse and set fire to the stock. It is your three legs that are guilty. I therefore order you three to reimburse him!"
The unfolding of karma is mysterious, but the ego loses no time in jumping to the rescue and offering the most comforting explanation, i.e. that it is someone else's fault. The ego relentlessly demands to blame, shame and seek revenge, thereby robbing us of a precious opportunity to gain insight into our responsibility as a spiritual being, and correcting our faults. If God is indeed a God of love and justice, as all religions agree, why not learn to see the divine blessings in our misfortunes?
"From evil cometh good," declared the prophets. This was not a call to retaliate, but an indication that forbearance and forgiveness will purify us and restore the perpetrator of evil to goodness. This will only happen if we start owning all of the legs of our spiritual cat. If not, as Mahatma Gandhi commented,
"An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind."