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.

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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.

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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.