I want to leave a quick message about some of my animal neighbors. Since I’ve pitched a tent in the backyard, I have been spending a lot of time in the morning and afternoon outside, and have noticed many animals have been visiting me.
There is a grey cat with white paws who comes everyday. She’s a very sweet and beautiful cat. She has a big belly, although I’m not sure why; I suspect that she may be pregnant or a bit old. She comes at the same time at exactly 10 o’clock every morning. She is always on time, which makes me think that she may be an American cat. When Tibetan people say that they will arrive at 9AM, they might show up around 10AM, so I don’t think that she is a Tibetan cat 😆😆😆.
When she arrives, she will stare at me and I look back at her. Then I know that she’s ready to eat, so I give her some cat food and a dish of water. After she eats and drinks, she stays in the backyard and will sit in the sun or under the bench for about an hour. She sometimes rests and also stalks and plays with small bugs, but does not harm them; she acts out of curiosity. Once, two crows began to pick at and eat her leftover cat food; she just calmly observed the crows and stayed with them. She is very good natured. It was so beautiful to see the animals share with each other. I think that she knows that I am meditating inside the tent. Sometimes she will talk to me and make sounds like meow meow. I don’t understand what she’s saying but I wish that I did.
As the cat became more comfortable with me, she came right up to the tent, brushing up against the door while purring. I thought she was hungry, so I went inside the Dharma Centre through the back door to grab her more food. She then followed me and began to walk throughout the entire Dharma Center, examining each room. It was really like a tour; I told her, “This is my altar, this is my kitchen, etc.” and she responded meow meow. She would very carefully and slowly examine everything, and saw the altar and looked at the Buddha statue. I believe that she can feel the positive energy. I also followed closely behind her to make sure that she didn’t go to the bathroom inside. Actually, I don’t know precisely where she comes from, but a neighbor told me that she thinks the cat belongs to someone in the neighborhood. Now, she regularly comes into the Dharma Centre and it is difficult to convince her to leave. I think that she wants to stay, but I can’t keep her because I think she has an owner.
Another one of my neighbors is a gopher. One day, as I was sitting inside the tent, I noticed something moving underneath the ground in front of the entrance. There were mounds of dirt and I knew something must be underground. Lo and behold, a gopher emerged out of the earth! I sat and watched him as he would push dirt out of his tunnel and pop his head out of his hole. He was working very diligently and quickly. At that moment, as I witnessed this scene, I thought to myself, “I wish my students would work as hard as he does when practicing Dharma!” As he was burrowing his tunnel, he made a large mound of dirt next to his hole which seemed to be like a mountain for him. Later, during the midday when it became too warm, I didn’t see him anymore and he disappeared underground.
The next morning, as I walked towards the tent, I found that he had dug another hole right in front of the tent door. Next to the entrance was another big heap of dirt. When I take my shoes off to enter the tent, I would have to step over the mound of dirt. This made it difficult to get inside. I didn’t want it very close to my feet because otherwise, if I accidentally bumped into the mound, it could cave in and close his hole that he worked so hard to dig.
I then jokingly teased him saying, “My friend, are you jealous of me, or do you love me? You moved right in front of my tent. Now, I am going to move; if you’re jealous, you can follow me. If you love me, stay there. I will move first.” Maybe if someone walked by, they might think that I was speaking to a friend, but no one was there. I knew that he didn’t understand what I said and I was really saying something funny to myself. I figured that it would be better if I moved the tent farther away, so I took my cushions, books, and other things out of the tent and moved everything a few feet away, and set up again. The following day, I found that he hadn’t moved. I thought to myself, this means that the gopher loves me and is not jealous.
A few days later, however, I was sitting in my tent and felt a patch of raised earth on the floor. I wasn’t sure where it had come from, so I exited the tent to investigate and found that the gopher had dug two giant holes surrounded by very large piles of dirt. One of these holes was directly underneath where I was sitting! Thereupon I chose to move everything a second time away from his home.
Animals may think, this land is mine and does not belong to human beings. I was here before you came. We may also think, this is my property and my house because I rightfully purchased it. We don’t know or understand these things because we don’t see them, but nagas, local deities, and spirits have been living here far before the arrival of humans, and they view the land as their home, and that is why I spoke to the gopher.
I also have neighbors who are squirrels. The squirrels who live in downtown Pacific Grove, particularly the ground squirrels at Lovers Point beach, are accustomed and somewhat close to humans because people will feed them things like peanuts. Tree squirrels, however, are still afraid of people. A tree squirrel came to my front door after I had meditated and made breakfast. He was handsome and seemed young. He would run to and fro, and sometimes glance over at me. I thought that he might be hungry and maybe just wanted to have a look at me. I didn’t want to give him my food because I don’t think that it would be suitable for his diet.
There was also a family of deer, a mother and her baby fawns, who came into the backyard one day. They were looking at me through the tent while I was meditating. They stayed for a little while and didn’t run away. So many other little creatures, such as birds and bugs, are around. I heard that animals know and can feel spirituality better than human beings. This is not because of me; I believe that this comes from the Manjushri Dharma Center. There are so many blessings here: Lamas have visited, there is a beautiful altar with statues and portraits of Gurus, thangkas of deities, prayer flags, and so many precious and sacred objects. I think they can sense this and I hope that they continue to come.
Written by Khenpo Karten Rinpoche, posted to his Blogspot on Thursday, May 14, 2020.