Karma starts with a little face in window. It sits there day after day, looking in. Not longingly. That’s a projection of what I’d likely feel if I sat on the other side of bug mesh and glass. But it’s a cat, so I feel free to project a modicum of manipulative abilities into its intention. At the time, we had three cats in the house and had made a pact that soon we would be a feline-free zone. Given the average lifespan of a cat, it was a pointless pact as at least two of them are likely to out live us. We also made a pact to honour the universal truth that not only should one never feed a stray, one never names a stray. To name a creature is not to own it but to form a relationship with it that commands responsibility. Unfortunately, naming a cat is pretty much a non-reciprocal command of responsibility.
Pumpkin, then, became a fixture on the porch by the kitchen door. We learned from the neighbour that she is 11 years old and has a tendency to get pregnant a lot. But as an older cat none of her litter survived. I think visiting us has been a bit like collecting Air Miles or some Feline Point process because she’s not only earned ear-scratching rights but also her own food bowl – which she shares with the occasional blue jay and raccoon. And she’s socialized a little too. But kitty karma is a tricky thing. Well-fed and topped up with love, Pumpkin thrived – which means other things can happen that were not part of the original deal. Meet Sprout. I’m beginning to understand a fine point of the first Bodhisattva vow: Beings are numberless, I vow to save them. True, at one level it is very much about fostering relationship in this moment, a relationship that in itself fosters transformation. But it is also generational. Those ten directions – in front and behind, to the left and right, above and below – are also temporal. That moment in which a cat became Pumpkin began a karmic accelerator to this moment when a pair of eyes stared up at me, fierce and willing to take me on (I have the scar to prove it).
Steve Hagen writes in Buddhism is not what you think:
Zen is not about arriving at some end point in the future. In fact, there is no such thing.
The future is immediate, here. There is no way to understand or grasp what is about to happen, now or at any time + now. There is no way to truly know what we set in motion, except that we do. And that kitten, about a hand span of feisty fur, is the best authority on that Truth I have.