The Buddhist Podcast for Stories to Inspire, Mindfulness, and Spirituality
57 - Puffin the Cat Host: Venerable Miao Guang
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Once upon a time, there lived a cat named Puffin. One day, as Puffin wandered around the garden, she could smell the aroma of food wafting through the air. She sniffed around and thought, “Yum, food...But where is it coming from?” Looking around, she continued to sniff. Eventually, she followed her nose and soon arrived at the neighbor’s house. The smell of delicious food got stronger and Puffin knew she was in the right place. Quietly, seeing as no one was around, she entered the house. Puffin jumped onto the kitchen table and began to snatch food. As she was about to grab more, she heard voices coming towards her and she quickly escaped the house.
On her way back, Puffin realized what she had done and felt bad. She then thought of her mother who had passed away. She detoured to the graveyard and sat before her mother’s portrait. Feeling guilty and remorseful, she said, “Mother, I have done something wrong. I just stole someone’s food, but it was my first time! I promise I won’t do that again. Yes, mother, I remember your words, ‘do not hunger over things that don’t belong to you.’ Since I was a kitten, you always taught me not to steal and reminded me to be a pure and noble cat. That’s why I’m here to confess. Please forgive me.” Puffin cried and repeatedly said to herself, “Never will I be a thief again!”
A week went by and one afternoon, while Puffin was wandering around the garden, she again smelled delicious food. She seemed to have forgotten her earlier promise and quickly entered the house to steal again. This time, she consoled herself by saying, “The family prepared too much food anyway and I was only trying to help them finish it all!”
Then, after a couple of days, Puffin showed up at the neighbor’s house and stole food again for the third time, her theft now becoming a habit. This time, she sought to justify her actions and thought, “Why did they leave food out there to tempt me? It’s not my fault!”
Without feeling guilty or sorry, she continued to steal the neighbor’s food. By the fourth time, Puffin started to find her own suitable reasons for her wrongdoing. She began to speak not only for herself but for cat society as a whole. She made a long and eloquent argument, declaring “In cat society, it’s unfair that some are rich and some are poor. There is a need to redistribute social resources, and so we need a cat to carry out such duty in the name of justice. This burden has fallen onto me and I was chosen.”
As time went by, her theft continued for the fifth time, then sixth, seventh, and had become her daily habit, Puffin was now sitting at the neighbor’s table and eating their food like a customer in a restaurant.
Eventually, the neighbor realized what Puffin was doing. They prepared lots of food and waited for her to visit. Without fail, Puffin made her way into the house as was her habit. Except this time, she was caught red-handed by the police. And she was led, handcuffed, to the police car, she yelled to the neighbor, “I'm not a thief, I am a noble messenger of justice...I was only trying to help you...”
Despite her now difficult situation, Puffin still showed no remorse for what she had done.
This story highlights how one’s conscience can be drowned by desire. When Puffin stole food for the first time, she felt sorry and guilty. However, this moral sense did not last long. Soon, she was overwhelmed by her desires and acted in ways without conscience.
If we look at the chaos in today’s society, it is due to the lack of conscience. The Buddha once said, “If one can adorn in good conscience, such is supremely solemn.”
In order for the world to become a better place, one important principle to uphold is “humility.” We should have humility through being aware of things we have done wrong and resolve to improve. In this story, as Puffin stole food she went through a mental process, and time after time, she tried to find reasonable explanations for her mistakes. However, she made no resolve to stop her wrongdoing.
For someone without a conscience, killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, or being intoxicated means nothing. If today’s world has more and more of such immoral people, then problems arising from pornography, violence, corruption, crime, and discrimination will be endless. Everyone has a personal responsibility to keep society safe and peaceful. Each of us should work to purify our hearts and mind and cultivate a virtuous and just conscience.
Just as Venerable Master Hsing Yun says,
“Conscience is the clothing that adorns the body and mind.
Repentance is the water that purifies heart and mind.”