The head monk had a pet cat that had a nasty habit of meowing and rubbing against the monks’ bodies at common prayer time. The head monk then decided that the cat should be tied when all the monks gathered for communal prayer.
Just a couple of years later, the head monk died of old age but the cat still lived. The monks continued to tie the cat during prayer time.
After a few more years, the cat died. The monks immediately bought another one to replace it, and they still tied it at prayer time.
Two hundred years later, a visitor came by the monastery and observed that the monks would chase a cat and tie it up right before prayer time. When he asked about this, the host monk began a short discourse on the righteous merits of tying a cat during prayer time.
The master kept a cat that was so adorable that pretty soon, his disciples were divided into two factions, each wanting to claim responsibility for taking care of the cat. The rivalry between the two groups became so intense that one day, the master grabbed the cat and a sword in front of the disciples and said, “If you don’t say the right word now, I will cut this cat in two and give half to each of you so that you will stop fighting.”
There was an uproar as the disciples uttered different words in an effort to save the cat.
One shouted, “Love!”
Another said, “Compassion!”
Still another said, “No more fighting!”
All were met by a vigorous shake of the master’s head. He then lowered the cat and prepared to strike it. Suddenly, a young monk who had not been interested in the quarrels and the factions leaped to the master and slapped his face.
The other disciples stood in shocked silence, fully expecting the master’s fury at the one who had disrespected him in such a fashion.
But the master merely rubbed his cheek, smiled, and said, “This young monk has saved the cat.”