every moment of life, an opportunity to practice, benefit from the Dharma

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Last Tuesday, my mother’s cat, Chloe, who had been with our family for over 20 years, went out and didn’t come back that night. The next day she didn’t return either, and after going outside and calling her name around the property, my mother had the feeling she’d gone somewhere to die peacefully.

It wasn’t until Sunday morning that my dad found her in a very bad condition, her hind end crushed, dragging herself back to the house.

At the same time, I happened to send my mom an email saying that Fina wanted to see her on Skype, so when she’d gathered herself enough, she called us and let us know what was happening at home.

At one point, my mother asked what the Buddhist perspective was on compassionately ending her suffering. I couldn’t say I knew, but the only thing that I could get out was, “let her do her thing.”

After talking, I found and emailed her this quote from Thanissaro Bhikkhu in an article titled Educating Compassion;

“…he [Buddha] regarded every moment of life as an opportunity to practice and benefit from the Dharma. It’s a well-known principle in all meditation traditions that a moment’s insight into the pain of the present is far more beneficial than viewing the present moment with disgust and placing one’s hopes on a better future. This principle applies as much at the end of life as it does anywhere in the middle.”  

I also found these two quotes from the Buddha (not from the same article);

“A bhikkhu must not recommend killing, suicide or help arrange a murder.”
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“It is noteworthy that even praising death or assisting death out of compassion, that is, euthanasia, is still considered a Defeat for a bhikkhu (Vin.III,79;86).” (HS ch.15)
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That night I chanted Gwansaeum Bosal and asked that she would be with Chloe. At 2am something told me it was time to stop. The next day, my mom sent an email saying that after we spoke she sat with Chloe and at 2pm (2am Korea time) she went over and lit a candle I’d sent her from a temple, and when she came back, Chloe had passed.

11 responses »

  1. Oh, I went through this with a cat a few years ago. She was very sick from kidney failure and my daughter and I decided to let her die naturally. We gave her subcutaneous fluids, acupuncture and medicines for pain. And we watched her decline and become weaker and demented, and still we cared for her. Finally, she went into the last phases of death and she died in my daughter’s arms. Who knows what she attained during those last weeks? I have no idea if we did the best thing for her, or if we only perpetuated her suffering. Perhaps pain does not always involve suffering, eh?

    Kwan Seum Bosal for Chloe, and for her family and friends.

  2. Wish I can go calmly when the time comes, without suffering myself and others too much.

    How can we distinguish between ‘hope’ and ‘attachment’?

      • Thank you.
        This evening I talked with a girl who took care her parents till deathbed. She said they fought for not their attachment to their life but for love to her. When the time came, they all realized, accepted, and be able to let them go.
        Her story touched me. Is this same thing you said?

        • It’s similar.
          I often think of how when famous monks or Zen Masters die, people are sorry to loose them but there’s often a feeling that their death was okay. At least that’s how I feel when I hear about it. But knowing that someone is suffering their death makes it difficult for the people who are with them.

  3. Oh Joseph, thank you so much for posting this perfect picture of Chloe, and for taking the time to find the Buddhist passages that helped me to find peace in the midst of deep anguish. Chloe was a profoundly intuitive and loving entity who defied all definitions of animals as lesser beings than humans. She provided a living example of unconditional love for almost 25 years and was my constant companion, wise counsel and healer. I cannot recall even a moment in her long life that I felt anger towards her,; nor do I ever recall her committing a reprehensible act. In fact, she often elicited awe by her amazing capacity to hold presence, even in the face of potential danger, as she did on occasion facing off dogs who came into our yard. Most of them retreated from her without even getting close.
    Chloe was a Himalayan cat and I (we) often conjectured that maybe she was a superior being disguised as a cat. I do not hesitate to claim that she was highly evolved and knew how to project her intentions telepathically. I will never know what she endured or how far she had to crawl to make it back to us, but I can think of no greater expression of Love than her incredible journey home. I wrapped her in a blanket and held her in my arms like a baby, rocking her gently and holding her close to my heart. She laid her head in my cupped hand and fell asleep. Her body was amazingly relaxed and she even dreamt. She opened her eyes occasionally and looked at me, even made little meow sounds, and I gently stroked her head and harmonized my breathing with hers. I silently communicated my expressions of love and gratitude, and with every breath she reflected the same energy. I gave her permission to let go of her suffering and offered to assist her, but in the end she chose her own moment to leave. And I trust that it was Love, not suffering, that characterized her transcendent passage to that moment of grace. She opened wide the doors of my inner temple and I hope they’ll remain so. If, in fact, there are Companions of Light who walk us to the door of birth and greet us at the door of Death, then I may meet Chloe again in her spirit form. I believe I’ve already had a clear glimpse of it, in fact. Love does not need to conquer all; it simply needs to be allowed…
    “May all beings be happy;
    May all beings be safe;
    May all beings be peaceful,
    May all beings live with ease.”

  4. Hello,
    Kwan Seum Bosal for Chloe and for her human friends and family, may she be in a place of peace and happiness.
    And though I respect and admire the decisions made around Chloe and her passing, can I just point out that – in other cases – assisting the death of a loved companion animal might be the right thing to do. (In the Pali cannon, both Bhikkus Vakkali and Channa, in different Suttas, suffering pain of illness, cut their own throats and attain final Nibbana.) But, clearly, every being and circumstance is different, and reading Trudy’s account of Chloe’s passing, I’m moved and touched. Thank you for sharing this.
    Kwan Seum Bosal
    Marcus

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