My friend named him Milo after the chocolately drink. The temple took him in, and the devotees washed him, fed him, played with him, and gave him a home.
Then one morning they found him – lifeless, with blood strewn about. Some guessed a coyote had come down from the hills during the night but, regardless, after one week at the temple his life was over.
It is possible to reflect on the joy he must have had during the week, or upon the lesson of immediacy and impermanence his short time with us had to offer. Hopefully the blessings that lead him to the temple can carry him to other great things.
I can’t help but feel that temple animals are something special. I don’t wish to be seen as romanticizing their lot – life as a animal is surely brutal, senseless, and short. That being said, every encounter I have had with a temple animal has left me with plenty to think about.
My first time staying at a monastery had me dreadfully nervous – at the evening service we would all be meditating for hours, and at that time I could scarcely sit for more than ten minutes. I resolved to practice in the guest room and, while sitting with my eyes clenched (the extra wrinkles in my eyelids showing I was extra serious), something furry curled into my lap.
While a more experience meditator might not have been perturbed, I declared my meditation over, and began rubbing the cat. Just as I started to care less about the coming night, the cat decided it was done with my petting and sauntered off. A quick check of the time showed I had engaged in single-minded petting for about half an hour and I had barely noticed. The evening service already seemed much less intimidating.
That story aside, temple animals might not be special at all. Perhaps it is the environment that allows us to fill them with the very virtues and attainments we are seeking. But, even if that is the case, it cannot decrease my gratitude towards these animals for being present, for allowing us to make them into so many things.
Thank you, Milo.