The Hungry Tigress: Mettamorphosis vs. Meatamorphosis

Just before Y2K failed to bring a bold end to global warming, I read a collection of Jataka Tales published by Rafe Martin: The Hungry Tigress — I own a much prized signed copy.  Each brief account centers on seemingly inexplicable acts performed by the Buddha, sudden jabs of insight that make all mystery wonderfully explicable.


It left quite an impression on me, as the lessons in this collection recalled so very well my personal attempts to instantly make sense of existence before all meaning instantly dissolved into nihilism, decadence or other shades of folly. It seems that life is nature’s way of cleaning house, today fossil-fuel dealers seek to extract as much instant energy as possible from the Carboniferous (300+ million years ago) be disinterred and burned in their entirety at the earliest possible moment. What is the irony there? That the instant energy released by igniting that fossil biomass insures the successful conclusion of a sixth extinction event, appropriately assigned the moniker “The Anthropocene.”

Not to worry, it’s not the end of the world — Earth abides and is in the prime of her life..

Let’s consider that Jataka tale about the tiger and her nearly dead cubs:

“Once, the Bodhisatta was born in a respectable family of the scholars; and mastered several Shastras. Soon he was disillusioned with the worldly life and renounced the same for the spiritual uplift. In course of time, he proved his excellence in his pursuit and became the guru of several ascetics.”

The story of the mother looking into the eyes of her hunger-ravaged cubs tells of dark nights and glaring days of painful death by starvation. Such spirituality speaks to my vegan soul, refusing to consume the flesh and hide of fellow sentient souls is a step toward enlightenment, something that allows a glimpse into the eyes of the beings incarcerated in slaughter houses.

One day, when wandering in a forest along with his disciple Ajita, he saw from the top of a hill that a tigress was lurking to kill and eat her own cubs out of hunger. Moved by compassion he thought of sacrificing his own body to feed the tigress and save the cubs. So, he sent away his disciple in search of some food for the tigress lest he might prevent him from his sacrifice. No sooner than Ajita left the site, the Bodhisatta jumped from the precipice in front of the tigress and offered his body. The noise of the fall caught the attention of the hungry tigress, who in no time scooped over him and tore him off in pieces and feasted upon them with her cubs.  

Meet your meat eye to eye, do not lock yourself into complicity with the dark captains and kings of industry who would assure you that unending war, supremacist incarceration of the inconvenient and disagreeable bright souls and spirits is a seal of quality, that which brings value to the coin of the realm.

I may be coining a word here: “meatamorphosis” — something to describe the process that transforms non-human creatures who possess the same optically connected nervous systems of the sentient beings that developed eyes during the Cambrian. What do you see when you look into the eyes of chickens, pigs and cows. Let’s ask the meat man.

That website even portrays a pig in cap and gown with a pointer to tap on each cut of cow. Holy wow!

When Ajita returned and did not find his guru in the same place, he looked around and was surprised to see that the tigress no longer looked hungry. Her cubs were also frolicking. But soon, he was shocked to detect the blood stained rags of his guru’s dress scattered there. So, he knew that his guru had offered his body to feed a hungry tigress and protected her young ones as an act of great charity. Now, he also knew why was he sent away by his guru. 

Jataka text extracted from Indira Gandhi Center for the Arts

Thanks for reading.



Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

9 thoughts on “The Hungry Tigress: Mettamorphosis vs. Meatamorphosis”

    1. You are one of my Bodhisattvas, Hariod — to paraphrase Japhy Ryder: “Oh I always meet my Bodhisattvas on the internet”, so it heartens my chakra to read that you’ve heard my Pāli can(n)on, crackling or cackling like Krakatoa in 1883, or something like that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Bill, I can’t tell whether this is a pig, cow, or some cross. But the message is indisputable; I like to call it, reassuring propaganda. The smiling, comforting countenance of the intellectual meat man tells us, beyond a doubt, animals of all species, are eager to offer their prime cuts in service of humankind, and how best to enjoy them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Meat man is an odd mix of graphic art, cartoon, poster, encyclopedia, anthropomorphia — so I guess he’s a meme. While researching this piece I encountered the term “primal cut”: shown on the familiar anatomical chart displayed at a butchery. Perhaps they had such charts behind the scenes in “Soylent Green.” I would have to get back to you on that. 😉
      Here is a link to an app that allows you to click on happy smiling cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, including the awful primal offal cut: NoseToTail
      As always, thank you for your many many inspirations 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. See how incredibly happy they are? Those are the eyes of an earthling willing to offer themselves to the greater good. My mind is at ease.
        Soylent Green, eh? I think I’d like to see that again, from today’s perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I listened to an author interview last November ‘Big Chicken’: The Medical Mystery That Traced Back To Slaughterhouse Workers”
          The author researched “poultry farms” and actually spent time in those death camps, so her reactions were firsthand reports, complete with gruesome facts. At the end of the interview the obvious question was raised: “Do you still eat chicken?” The answer: “Yes, I believe there is something in human evolutionary history that informs us that we are designed to eat meat.”

          More recently I listened to a panel program titled “More People, More Problems?” Only one call from one vegan and that caller knew her stuff. The interviewer turned the question over to a panelist who did not respond to a single word with a single word — instead he wanted to clarify, at length, some point made by a previous caller. So was that it for the vegan argument? Yes it was. However the interviewer did fire a final salvo to end the show, stating “I really LOVE steak.”

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Those tales are so instantly relevant to the reader, speaking as they do so directly to the soul. I love theater and can just imagine how the power of the Jataka tales would resonate emotionally to the audience.


Comments drive content, so please comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: