A great mystic was dying. He called his disciple, the chief disciple. The disciple rejoiced very much that the master was calling him. There was a great crowd and the mystic is calling only him; he must be giving some secret key that he has not given to anybody up to now. “This is the way he is choosing me as his successor!” He came close to the master.
The master said, “I have only one thing to tell you. I didn’t listen to my master—he had also told me when he was dying, but I was just a fool and I didn’t listen, and I didn’t even understand what he meant. But I am telling you from my own experience he is right, although it had looked very absurd when he said it to me.’
The disciple asked, “What is it? Please tell me. I will try to follow it word by word.”
The master said, “It is a very simple thing: Never, never in your life keep a cat in your house!” And before the disciple could have asked why, the master died!
Now he was at a loss—what a stupid kind of thing! Now whom to ask? He inquired of some old people in the village, “Is there any clue to this message? There must be something mysterious in this!”
One old man said, “Yes, I know, because his master—your master’s master—had also told him, ‘Never, never keep a cat in your house!’ but he didn’t listen. I know the whole story.”
The disciple said, “Please tell me so I can understand. What is the secret hidden behind it? I want it to be decoded for me so I can follow it.’
The old man laughed. He said, “It is a simple thing, it is not absurd. Your master’s master had given him a great message, but he never inquired, ‘What is the meaning of it?’ You are at least intelligent enough to inquire about it. He simply forgot about it.
Your master was young when the message was given; he used to live in the forest. He had only just two clothes with him; that was all he possessed. But there were big rats in the house and they would destroy his clothes, and again and again he would have to ask the villagers for new clothes.
“The villagers said, ‘Why don’t you keep a cat? You just keep a cat and the cat will eat the rats and there will be no problem. Otherwise—we are poor people—how can we go on supplying you with new clothes every month?’
“It was so logical that he asked somebody for a cat. He got a cat, but then the problems started. The cat certainly saved his clothes, but the cat needed milk because once the rats were finished the cat was starving. The poor man could not meditate because the cat was always there, crying, weeping, going round and round and round him.
“He went to the villagers and they said, ‘This is a difficult thing—now we will have to supply milk for you. We can give you a cow. You be finished, you keep the cow. You can drink, and your cat can also survive. That way you need not come every day for your food either.’ “The idea was perfectly right. He took the cow now the world started.
That’s how the world starts. The cow needed grass, and the people said, ‘We will come in the coming holidays and we will clear the forest, prepare the ground. You start growing a little wheat, other things, and leave a part for the grass.’ “And the villagers came according to their promise. They cleared the forest, they cleaned the soil, they planted wheat. But now it was such a problem: You have to water.. And the whole day the poor man was engaged in looking after the field. No time to meditate, no time to read the scriptures! “He again went to the villagers. He said, ‘I am getting deeper and deeper into difficulties. Now the question is, when to meditate—no time is left.’
They said, ‘You wait. One woman has just become a widow, and she is young and we are afraid that she will tempt the young people in the town. You please take her with you.. And she is healthy enough—she will take care of your field, the cow, the cat, and she will prepare food for you, and she is very religious, too. So don’t be worried, she will not disturb you.’
“That’s how things move to their logical conclusion. Now from the cat, how far the man had moved! “And the woman came and she started looking after him, and he was very happy for a few days. And she would massage his feet
and slowly, slowly, what was going to happen happened: They got married. And when you get married in India, at least
one dozen children—one dozen is the minimum! So all meditation, all sannyas, disappeared.
“He remembered only when he was dying. He remembered again that when HIS master was dying he had told him, ‘Beware of the cats.’ That’s why he has told you. Now you be aware of the cats! Just one step in the wrong direction and you have to go the wrong way; and your mind is with you wherever you go.”