Thursday, February 9, 2012

Monk & Tiger

On meditation retreats I've noticed that animals are much less skittish around humans. I've gotten very close to deer and wild turkeys. Lizards seem to know that you won't step on them and don't scurry away when you walk near. I actually was watchful so I would not step on them.

Meditation can result in the ability to acquire a calm mind and a cultivate a remarkable spirit of generosity.

In Thailand, a monk shared his meal with a tiger. Look:

Photo credit:

Wojciech Kalka  Thank you!


Sabio Lantz said...

Boy, I'd love to see this empirical claim tested. And I wonder what that tiger had for desert! :-)

Dan Gurney said...

Quite a bit of scientific study has been conducted on meditation, as I am sure you're aware. MRI and whatnot.

You can try meditation and see for yourself if it works for you. I don't think it works for everyone. But I have seen meditation transform some of the people who've tried it.

Sabio Lantz said...

Ah, Dan, I thought you knew, I do meditate (and have, on and off, for decades).

Also, I know of the studies and have told others of them in the past.

As to whether meditators attract animals more than non-meditators, I have never seen studies on that though I have heard anecdotal stories. Heck, I even posted my own: Dog Healed by Meditator

Dan Gurney said...

Hi Sabio,

For me, the most remarkable thing about the picture isn't what the tiger is doing. She's just having an easy snack.

What's remarkable in the photo for me is that the monk does not appear to be overcome with fear. Meditation has the effect of giving us a better handle on our responses to situations we may find ourselves in.

For example, in this photo, it's probably safer to respond as this guy does. I'd probably run away screaming in fear and get eaten. That's only a guess on my part, but the tiger doesn't seem to be regarding our monk as dessert.

What meditation can do is strongly attenuate our fear of death and simultaneously make us more alive.

Sabio Lantz said...

Check this link out with normal tourists petting the same tigers fearlessly!

We have to be careful how we read our desires into reality.

Dan Gurney said...

Amazing. It is worth noting that the tiger refuge in the photos live in a refuge that is under the auspices of a Theravadin Buddhist monastery. Still it is remarkable that people would want to walk up to a tiger and pat it.

Reminds me a bit of that fellow, "Grizzly Man"? who tried to befriend grizzly bears in Alaska, Timothy Treadwell.

Sabio Lantz said...

It should be noted: You may be surprised at what goes on at Theravadin Buddhist monasteries. It may not be all the deep meditation you imagine.

Your "it should be noted", still seemed hopeful that it was the golden auras of constantly meditating monks that tamed the tigers so even tourist can roam without fear amongst them.

Back to my original comment:

"I'd love to see this empirical claim tested."

It is amazing how strongly we cling to images that support our view of ourselves and our choices.

Dan Gurney said...

I'd love to see it tested, too, and would expect the test to see some connection. It is evidence (admittedly small sample) of what may be real. I am unaware of any other place on earth where humans and tigers interact like this.

I don't romanticize Theravadin Buddhist monasteries as much as you may imagine that I do. If you've ever read the Vinaya you're aware of what rascals monks can be.

I am also aware that in Asia Buddhism is more of a religion (in the pejorative sense of the word) than we in the west imagine it to be, though with so much travel perhaps those imaginings are dissolving.

It's human to cling to our choices. Some of us cling to the choice to be skeptical.

Sabio Lantz said...

A good skeptic's favorite joy should be to be proven wrong. No, I don't know of other Tiger parks -- but then, tigers aren't abundant. But I know of Tiger trainers. I wonder if the temple makes public little bites from tigers or if they hush it, as it would be bad for business. And as you are suspect of their Buddhism, I personally wonder if any of the monks sitting with the tigers do any more meditation than you do -- though perhaps they do more than me. :-)

George said...

I thought I left a comment a few days ago, but I apparently did not type in the word verification. In any event, Dan, I love this image. There is so much to learn here, not only about generosity, but about being the peace and kindness that we dream for the world.

Dan Gurney said...

Thank, George. I am glad you enjoyed it. That monk seems to have acquired more equanimity than I have been able to achieve so far. Wow.

Shaista said...

Wonderful image - must be lovely to share a meal with a tiger. am off on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh in April - my first proper retreat. Have you been on many retreats?

Dan Gurney said...

Shaista, good luck your retreat! I always think of them as more like an advance because during "retreats" I make advances in my understanding. I've been on quite a few retreats over the years.