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This is the last night I am allowed to cry over Pita before he begins his bardo. To honor my friend, I will tell the story I told him as he passed.
The Cat Who Went to Heaven
Once upon a time there was a poor painter. He had not worked in a long time an had little foo, yet he had a housekeeper. One day he sent her out with his last pennies to buy food. However, instead of food, the housekeeper returned with a calico cat, the eldest of her litter of the fisherman’s cat. The painter was furious that his money was spent on the cat, but allowed the kitty to stay since she had scuh good manners.
The next day, a monk came by and commissioned the painter to create painting of the Buddha on the day of his ascension to heaven with all the animals present to see him off. The monk paid the painter an advance so he can eat and buy art supplies. The painter was so overjoyed that he and his housekeeper danced. They assumed that their fortune had changed for the better because the well mannered cat came into their lives and therefore named her Good Fortune.
As the paining neared completion, Good Fortune noticed that a cat was not present among the procession of animals. The painter then it was recounted that the cat is excluded from painting for of all the animals of the world the cat was to proud to see Buddha off with well wishes in his afterlife. Since then all cats of the world were associate with demons and bad luck. How awful that all cats have to suffer because of the arrogance of one bad cat.
This upset Good Fortune terribly, and eventually the painter realized the error in this fable, for Good Fortune was a wonderful cat. So, knowing that he will lose the commission for including a cat in the procession, he painted one anyway; a calico just like his Good Fortune. Upon seeing a cat in the painting, Good Fortune was so moved, so she died of happiness on the spot.
When the monk returned to the painter to collect his painting, he was angry about the presence of the cat and reused payment–but took the painting anyway. The next day, when the painting was shown to the public a miracle was witnessed: overnight, the image of Buddha in the painting had changed itself lowering a hand of redemption to the cat. So from then on, all cats go to Heaven.
Pita’s body went limp toward the end of this tale. I think his spirit left him just before I reached the part where Good Fortune died. I didn’t quite realize it at the time. I knew the body relaxes when life leaves it, but I felt that the slight extra weight was too on cue to be believable. I think it was though.
Oh, Pita, you are meeting the first gods of your bardo by this time if the time bardo begins at the moment of death, which for Pita was just before 7pm Wednesday evening. If Pita meets the first gods tomorrow instead, then I hope he is present in spirit in my room somewhere, drinking from the new water dish, exploring under the bed, sitting next to me as I type and when I drew earlier, just as he’s always done.
Thank you for being my friend dear kitty. If I could find a husband like you in human form, I would be most grateful, but I love you for being my hubby of the furry companion kind. Farewell but not good bye Pita. I will honor but not hinder you with tears during your bardo. May you return as another beautiful kitty what ever you wish to be at rebirth in 49 days.
Nam Myho Renge Kyo