Tiger was a feral tom cat when he first appeared at Shambhala Mountain Center. For the first several years, he allowed himself to be fed but not touched. Then one day Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche saw him lurking about Sacred Studies Hall and told him to “trust the humans here, they will take care of you.”
Gradually, his feral ways were (for the most part) pacified and he came to embody qualities that many a guest to SMC remembers to this day. Melissa Martin Powell called Tiger, “the epitome of the present moment.” Molly McCowan says, “I so enjoyed sitting with him on my visits. He had such serene energy, and was always willing to share his food with the magpies.”
Jeff Stone remembers a more unusual and light-hearted inspiration that Tiger contributed to the practice container at SMC. “At my seminary we were goofing around and came up with a chant called ‘four-pawed mahakitty’ which sang the praises of our wrathful tabby protector. Great cat. He will be missed.”
But Tiger was still a cat and in an instant he could turn from tranquil to wrathful. Gabriel O’Hare once witnessed Tiger dismember and devour an entire rabbit, just after he had an interview with the Sakyong. “[I was] blown away twice in quick succession.”
The novelist David Mitchell once wrote, “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” And in the past few weeks our little post about Tiger’s passing has been shared far and wide around the internet. It has been humbling to see how many lives were affected by a tom cat. Olie McCafferty expressed her gratitude thusly, “Thank you Tiger for keeping me company late at night when I was sitting outside and watching the moon and the stars… You made my Cancer Camp a very special and purrrrrrrfect time.”
Kris Loerwald spent about four days up at SMC in February, 2013. He remembers that “it snowed and snowed and snowed all the time[...]I would sit down on the bench from the dining hall, seek Tiger out, make sure his water dish was full and clean and then for about 10 minutes after every meal we would just sit there, him in my lap gazing off into the gray hazy abyss of the sky and listening to the wind whisper through the trees.
I can’t really say that I knew how much those moments really meant to me until looking back on it now in the summer when the snow is melted. But I know in those moments that Tiger and I spent together in complete and utter calm and stillness and appreciation of just that moment well… Those were some of the most profound times spent there at SMC.
Thank you Tiger for your company your willingness to listen to my unspoken dialogue and for everything else I hope safe travels to [where]ever it is you go from here.”
Many of you have expressed wishes for his positive rebirth or peaceful final rest, so we want you all to know that here at SMC we had a ceremony for Tiger that was very well attended.
The poet Gregory Orr once wrote:
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
And so it was with Tiger, who sat through snow storms, rain, wind, intense summer heat, and simply practiced keeping company.