Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Tiger and The Goats

My former Asian Philosophies professor, John Koller, has written an excellent arrangement of an old Indian story that describes the bondage incurred when one confuses visible reality with ultimate reality:

The tiger's mother had died, and the poor little tiger was left all alone in the world. Fortunately, the goats were compassionate and adopted the little tiger, teaching him how to eat grass with his pointed teeth and how to bleat like they did. Time passed and the little tiger assumed that he was just a little goat.

But one day an old tiger came upon this little band of goats. They all fled in terror, except for the tiger-goat, now about half-grown, who for some unknown reason felt no fear. As the savage jungle beast approached, the cub began to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. To cover his self-consciousness, he began to bleat and nibble some grass. The old tiger roared at the little tiger in amazement and anger, asking him what he was doing eating grass and bleating like a goat. But the little tiger was too embarrassed by all this to answer and continued to nibble grass. Thoroughly outraged by this behavior, the jungle tiger grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and carried him to a nearby pond. Holding him over the water he told him to look at himself. 'Is that the pot face of a tiger or the long face of a goat?' he roared.

The cub was still too frightened to answer, so the old tiger carried him to his cave and thrust a huge chunk of juicy, red, raw meat between his jaws. As the juices trickled into his stomach the cub began to feel a new strength and a new power. No longer mistaking himself for a goat, the little tiger lashed his tail from side to side and roared like the tiger he was. Having achieved Tiger-realization, he no longer took himself to be a goat.

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