A long time ago, in feudal Japan, there once lived a samurai warrior. He was a strong and respected man who had won many battles in his life. One mighty enemy, however, kept outsmarting the samuai every time, no matter what he did. Who was this formidable opponent, you ask? It was a hairy, cunning and incredibly muscular rat! This villain had crawled into the samurai’s house and had – very contently – made himself a home there. He usually nosed about in the kitchen, exercised his running muscles around the bedrooms and was found many times to gnaw verociously on the walls, before taking a well-deserved nap in the storage room. One morning, the rat showed himself again. The samurai shouted and cursed out of sheer frustration and ran after him while frantically waving his sword around. Finally, he cornered the rat, lifted his sword to end the miserable situation once and for all… and chopped a hole right into the outer wall! And the rat? He trodded away calmly and unharmed. At his wit’s end, the samurai turned to his gardener and sighed: ‘This must end..! What is left for me to do?’ The gardened had an idea. ‘At the edge of the village lives a farmer with his family and three cats, descendents from an illustrious dynasty of ratcatchers. Let me inquire if I can borrow these cats.’ And so it happened. Not much later the gardener showed up again, followed by the farmer. With the farmer were three farm hands, each carrying a basket that contained one of the illustrious cats. The farmer took the first cat out of its basket: a young fellow with brown stripes. The animal was pushed through the hole and into the house. There was a rumbling and a drumming, the like of which had never been heard before and – in a graceful curve – the poor young cat most quickly flew out of the house and landed right onto the grass.
‘Don’t worry!’ said the farmer when his eyes met the astounded look on the samurai’s face.
He took the second cat out of its basket – a tough, grey specimen. This animal was also shoved through the hole and into the house. Not a sound came out of the house. Motionless, the samurai waited. It was quiet for a few more seconds. Then, an enormous roar was heard and the tough grey cat unceremoniously flew out the same way as his youger predecessor – and landed in the bushes. ‘Ah, those were only warm-up exercises!’ the farmer responded quickly and he motioned soothingly with his hands. He opened the final basket. ‘This cat is my most experienced ratcatcher. He has finished off many a rat in his lifetime. Just watch, that rat has lived its final hour!’ The huge black cat was shoved inside. Again, there was not a sound. It stayed quiet… very quiet. For a while, nothing seemed to happen. All of a sudden an enormous smack was heard and the black cat flew out of the opening with incredible speed and landed right in the middle of a flowerbed. Disheartened, the farmer hung his head. ‘What’s this!?’ the incensed samurai shouted viciously. ‘These were supposed to be experienced ratcatchers from an illustrious dynasty, weren’t they?’ He looked at the farmer most vengefully.
‘Wait’ said the gardener hastily, ‘I also know of an old carpenter who lives the next village. Folks say he has a very special cat, a veritable champion. It may take a while, but I’ll be back before nightfall with this cat!’ And so it happened and by nightfal the gardener indeed returned, carrying a basket on his back. He put the basket on the ground and opened its door. Out came a slender little grey cat. ‘Huh!? Is that the champion? ‘ the samurai scoffed. ‘Looks can be deceiving!’ the gardener replied and he let the little cat into the house. After just a few seconds the little cat solemnly stepped out, carrying a dazed rat in its mouth. It laid the rat in front of the samurai’s feet and carried off.
Peace was again upon he samurai’s house. And as everyone enjoyed a cup of sake on the happy conclusion, a conversation between the four cats in our story went on beneath the cherry blossom tree.The three famer’s cats had been watching in astonishment as their slender colleague had emerged with the wretched rat after only a few seconds.They wished to know more about it. With reverence, the eldest of the three asked: ‘Master, please tell us – how did you catch the rat?’ The slender cat looked at the three cats in front of him. ‘Please, may I know with whom I heave the pleasure of conversing?’ he replied. ‘We are cats from an illustrious dynasty of ratcatchers’, the mddle cat answered. ‘All three of us learned the art from our father, who learned it from his father, and he from his father, and so on, ten generations back!’ ‘Ah, indeed! And may I ask how you approached the matter?’, the slender cat asked. The others gazed at each other. ‘Look’, said the youngest one. You just have to cut to the chase with such rats.You’re bigger and therefor stronger than the rat, so – one well-aimed punch with your sharp claw is quite enough! I concentrated and: boom!’ and he made a grim face. “Unfortunately, this rat took the better of me…’ he added glumly. ‘Yes’ the middle cat reacted, ‘concentration on you punch is one thing. But one must also concentrate one one’s breathing. This should become quiet and calm. So I waited for that. And then I executed my plan and – with concentration – I took a mighty blow!’ ‘Ah, indeed’ the slender cat nodded.’Unfortunately, this rat was the shrewdest one I have ever met…’ the middle cat sighed gloomy. ‘Yes, you are both correct’, the eldest cat nodded in return. Concentration and breathing and planning are very important. But above all, one has to be filled with the Energy which cleaves Heaven and Earth: the Energy of Life! So I became still, very still, watched my breathing and, thus meditating, I resided in the Now. And waited until the rat was very close to me. And then I struck a concentrated blow. But, alas! This was an absolutely unique rat. I missed anyway!’
‘You all have the start of a good technique’, the slender cat praised his students. ‘Concentration, breathing, planning, and the Force which cleaves Heaven and Earth are all components. But…’, and he looked at the eldest cat, ‘were you really in the Now? It seems to me as if you were secretely still looking forward to a moment in the future, namely the moment that you would make an end to the rat’s life. He who is really in the Now, is empty of past and future and only focused on Being – without desire and preconceived ideas. Every movement that follows from this will reach its aim. Each action will be spontaneous and therefor perfect!’ The three cats nodded in agreement and solemnly bowed their heads in appreciation of this wise lesson.
‘But wait,’ resumed the slender cat, ‘If you think that what I do is enviable, then let me tell you now that there is something even nobler to strive for! Two vilages south of my village there lives an old hermit together with an old, white cat. This cat never does much all day long except napping, purring and sleeping. His mastery goes beyond action, beyond the doing. It is strange, but not a single rat shows himself within a mile of where this old, wise cat happens to be..! That, my friends, is true mastership, Around such a master there resides only peace.’