Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lessons From A Dead Cat

Everyday in the afternoon, a number of students comes to our Buddhist Association to make use of our Community Library facilities or to follow our Guidance Classes for selected PMR, SPM and STPM subjects.
There was an occasion sometime in August 1999 when many students complained about a horrible stench in the vicinity of our Association. ( It was a pity that none investigated to find the cause and solve the problem .) I looked around the Association premises to try to locate any dead body of an animal – the stench was definitely due to a rotting carcass. I could not find any dead body. The stench went on for a couple of days.
One morning, one of our adult members on duty phoned me to say that she had located the carcass of a dead cat trapped in a narrow corridor behind a row of 5 toilets. The corridor was filled with a lot of things – containers, wooden chairs, boards and some other things. She asked me to enlist the help of some students to clear the mess in the afternoon.
At the end of my SPM English class that afternoon, I made an announcement ( an indirect way to ask for some volunteer helpers. ) :
“Are there any students who would like to gain some insight experience into the recent Earthquake disaster in Turkey ? There is some DANA work from which you can gain some wisdom .”
The students were curious as to what I was driving at. 3 boys and 3 girls volunteered for this ‘unknown Dana work’. They followed me to the place where the carcass of the dead cat was trapped in. On reaching the place and on realizing the Dana work expected, most of them became afraid, shocked and filled with aversion. ( and regret ?) The sight and smell of the rotting carcass was bad enough. Ha ! To remove the carcass and clear the mess was even worse ! Maggots were attacking the parts of the carcass and parts of the dead body were strewn or stuck against some furniture items. It was perhaps a gruesome sight for the students. I suppose some of them must have regretted their curiosity as they volunteered for this ‘mysterious Dana work’ ! One of them, I noticed, had turned pale in his face. Anyway, to get things going, I gave them some Dhamma points for reflection :
“What you have here is nothing compared to the recent Earthquake tragedy that struck Turkey. Imagine being buried under tons of rubble – without water and food for hours or days, not knowing whether you will be rescued. As the hours pass, dead human bodies around you begin to decay and the stench gets worse and worse. Did you read about the case of the boy trapped under the rubble with some of his family members ? One by one, they perished and the bodies rotted. It must have been a real ordeal and trauma for this poor boy who was later rescued.
Have you reflected on how lucky we all are, leading so comfortable lives ? Have we learnt how to count our blessings ? This little Dana work that we are going to do is a positive action – many are going to benefit from it .. and our Association will be a cleaner place !”
I suppose the students must have been inspired by this little ‘Dhamma Talk’. We got cracking at things – all in all, it took us about an hour to clear the mess and put back things in order. We took the carcass of the cat to a distant place for disposal.
13/1You know, from this little incident, we can reflect on a lot of good Dhamma.

* In Dhammapada, the Buddha said :
“Behold this body – a painted image, a mass of heaped up sores, infirm, full of hankering – of which nothing is lasting or stable.”
“Fully worn out is this body, a nest of disease, and fragile. This foul mass breaks up, for death is the end of life.”
Such contemplation would not make us morbid, pessimistic or depressed. On the contrary, it can ‘enlighten’ us a bit – we will cling less, appreciate more of what we have, help us cut so many of our defilements : greed, attachment, anger, jealousy, ego, conceit and delusion.

* We are all subjected to decay, old age, disease and death. It is strange that despite this fact of life, so many live a life as if life is permanent. We spend so much time chasing after wealth, power and sensual pleasures not realizing that the ‘Prince of Darkness’ can, at any time, ‘tap us on the shoulder’ and say, “It’s time to go.” And there is no bargaining ! Reflecting on this, shouldn’t we feel an urgency to lead a life with Dhamma as the Guide and Light – a life of kindness, compassion, Dana and striving to develop our mind ?

* Our ignorance and conditioned mind make fools of us and we suffer. Not understanding and realizing the Eight Worldly Conditions we
- expect always to gain ; we cannot accept or bear with any loss.
- react adversely or in agony to “ugly sights”, “foul smells” , “lousy tastes” ,
“horrible sounds”, “uncomfortable feelings” , “bad mood” and “angry thoughts”.
- yearn for praise and cannot take any blame.
- pursue feverishly honor and fame with no realization that this is fleeting.
When will we learn or practise patience ? When can we take things as they inevitably are or as they inevitably come along ? When will our minds develop the Brahma Vihara Qualities of Metta ( Loving-Kindness ), Karuna ( Compassion ), Mudita ( Altruistic Joy ) and Upekkha ( Equanimity ) ?

Let us reflect on the Buddha’s Last Words :
“ Be diligent, mindful and extremely virtuous.
With thoughts collected, guard your mind.
In this Doctrine and Discipline, by living strenuously, you will escape the
Cycle of Rebirth and put an end to suffering.
Think not that you have no Teacher after my death. Regard the Dhamma
and Vinaya I have taught you as your Teacher.
He who practises My Teaching best serves Me most.
He who sees the Dhamma sees Me.
Transient are all component things. Strive on with diligence. ”
With Metta,
Bro. Oh Teik Bin


k0k s3n w4i said...

“Are there any students who would like to gain some insight experience into the recent Earthquake disaster in Turkey ? There is some DANA work from which you can gain some wisdom .”

You are officially my hero.

Incidentally, there's a really wise elder from my community with the surname Oh as well - Bro. Oh Kim Leng.

weishen said...

This is a good way to share the Dhamma Bro Oh. I would love to read your stories and advices directly from your experiences. It has been nine months since I heard your advices.

PS I think I heard of Bro Oh Kim Leng before. I think Bro Oh Teik Bin knows him too.