The Tiger that thought it was a goat story

I love this story from Reflections on the Art of Living - A Joseph Campbell Companion, Selected and edited by Diane K. Osbon: ... (Heinrich) Zimmer loved to recount an amusing animal-fable from India. It tells of a tigress, pregnant and starving, who comes upon a flock of little goats and pounces upon them with such energy that she brings about the birth of her little one and her own death.

The goats scatter, and when they come back to their grazing place, they find this just-born tiger and its dead mother. Having strong paternal instincts, they adopt the tiger, and it grows up thinking it’s a goat. It learns to bleat. It learns to eat grass. And since grass doesn’t nourish it very well, it grows up to become a pretty miserable specimen of its species.

When the young tiger reaches adolescence, a large male tiger pounces on the flock, and the goats scatter. But this little fellow is a tiger, so he stands there. The big one looks at him in amazement and says, “Are you living here with these goats?” “Maaaaa,” says the little tiger. Well, the old tiger is mortified, something like a father who comes home and finds his son with long hair. He swats him back and forth a couple of times, and the little thing just responds with these silly bleats and begins nibbling grass in embarrassment. So the big tiger brings him to a still pond.

Now, still water is a favourite Indian image to symbolise the idea of yoga. The first aphorism of yoga is: “Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of mind stuff.” Our minds, which are in continual flux, are likened to the surface of a pond that’s blown by a wind. So the forms that we see, those of our own lives and the world around us, are simply flashing images that come and go in the field of time, but beneath all of them is the substantial form of forms. Bring the pond to a standstill, have the wind withdraw and the waters clear, and you’ll see, in stasis, the perfect image beneath all of these changing forms.

So this little fellow looks into the pond and sees his own face for the first time. The big tiger puts his face over and says, “You see, you’ve got a face like mine. You’re a tiger like me. Be like me.”

Now that’s guru stuff. I’ll give you my picture to wear, be like me. It’s the opposite of the individual way.

So the little one’s getting that message; he’s picked up and taken to the tiger’s den, where there are the remains of a recently slaughtered gazelle. Taking a chunk of this bloody stuff, the big tiger says, “Open your face.” The little one backs away, “I’m a vegetarian.” “None of that nonsense,” says the big fellow, and he shoves a piece of meat down the little one’s throat. He gags on it. The text says, “As all do on true doctrine.”

But gagging on the true doctrine he’s nevertheless getting it into his blood, into his nerves; it’s his proper food. It touches his proper nature.

Spontaneously, he gives a tiger stretch, the first one. A little tiger roar comes out - Tiger Roar 101. The big one says, “There. Now you’ve got it. Now we go into the forest and eat tiger food.”

What interests me is how I evoke the tiger nature from within someone who thinks they are a goat. So if there’s a model or map I’m acting out of this is it. Part of the ‘how’ of how I know where I’m going is you need to remember the MythoSelf is a hardware based technology, so there is a body of experience.  And because I’ve been skilfully led by Joseph and David and Jeff and many others again and again and again to access my experience, I have the embodied knowing of how to do it with others. And to clarify it’s not the ‘same universal experience’ but unique and special to the individual. AND this is the starting point.