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Monday, June 23, 2008


I like cats, I like Tibetans, and I like stumbling across curiosities to blog about. And of course, Victorian English is also not something off my 'likes' list. This little piece had them all.

The Indian Antiquary
ed. Richard Carnac Temple
Vol. XXI. – 1892, p. 376.

Tibetan Folklore.
1. – Cats.

The Cat is treated by Tibetans with the most marked attention and forbearance. Even when it spills milk, breaks or destroys any valuable object or kills some pet bird, it is never whipped or beaten in any way; but merely chid, and gently driven away by the voice: – while were a dog or child to commit these offences they would be soundly thrashed.

Such very mild and considerate treatment might lead one to suppose that the cat is esteemed holy. But such is not the case. It is indeed regarded as a useful animal to the extent that it contributes to the preservation of sacred pictures, robes, books, and sacrificial food and the like, by killing rats and mice which consume and destroy these. But otherwise the cat is considered to be the most sinful being on earth, on account of its constant desire for taking life, even when gorged with food, and its torture of its victims. Its mild treatment is due to the belief that whoever causes the death of a cat, whether accidentally or otherwise, will have the sins of the cat transferred to his shoulders. And so great is the burden of its sins that even were one sîr (2lbs.) of butter for each hair on the cat's body offered in feeding the temple lamps before Buddha's image, the crime would not be expiated. Hence everyone is most careful to avoid incurring this calamity. And when a cat dies its body is carried outside the village and deposited, if possible, at a place where two paths cross.

L. A. Waddell.

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Blogger I. S. said...

So perhaps it was Waddell who inspired David Snellgrove's writings on cats, particularly regarding the uselessness of Buddhism for the salvation of carnivores -- i.e., cats. This is a subject treated not only at the conclusion of Asian Commitment, but also in his weird religious/philosophical treatise, Religion as History, Religion as Myth.

As far as this line of argument goes, I put my faith in Ceiling Cat.

10:16 pm  
Blogger sdv said...

Is ceiling cat perhaps a manifestation of the dūtī biḍālī?

11:13 pm  

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