In addition to gearing up for our annual pilgrimage to the Stewart House in Nova Scotia, I’ve been attending to my wife’s birthday celebration.  She was happy enough to delay the actual purchase of a present until she found something that pleased her, but there was the card, the cake and fill in present to be found.  In deference to her feelings, I won’t mention which life marker just passed, but it was one she hadn’t expected quite so soon.

And we had a cat crisis to deal with.  I have written only once about our cat in this blog, and that was when we sent her on a very convoluted route from Florida to Melbourne, and then into the dreaded place called quarantine.  Unlike the tom next door, Tibbey is a very quiet, well-mannered Maine Coon cat.  Her principal focus seems to be grooming herself, something she takes very, very seriously.  She is an attractive cat and wants to stay that way.

Somehow she managed to slice open her pad.  We didn’t notice it until Saturday night, which meant that we had to take her to an emergency clinic.  Since then, we’ve been shuttling her back and forth to our regular vet on what seems to be a continuous basis.  Despite sporting an “Elizabethan” collar, (which looks much better on Cate Blanchett),  she has no difficulty shedding bandages that wrap all the way up her leg.  And then there are the pills.

Needless to say, I needed a diversion.  What could be better than Buddha’s day?  It is celebrated over the weekend of February 16 and 17 at Federation Square in the centre of Melbourne.  It marks the birthday of Prince Siddartha Gautama, who was to become Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.

Soon after his birth, nine heavenly dragons appeared and emitted two streams, one cool and one warm, and the purest fragrant rain fell to bathe the newborn Prince.  He immediately took seven steps and seven lotus flowers sprang from his feet.  Flowers drifted down from the heavens.  Not bad for a new baby.  He was born into a very wealthy family and not allowed to venture from the palace.  One day as a young man he ventured out and witnessed distressing sights that changed his life forever– people plagued by old age, disease, poverty and death.  Siddartha dedicated the rest of his life to finding a way to be free of earthly troubles, to put an end to suffering.

In Melbourne there are a number of nationalities with large Buddhist populations– Chinese, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese and Indonesian.  The event is sponsored by the Buddha’s Light International Association and Fo Guang Shan Melbourne, one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the world.  In Australia, Buddhism is the fastest growing religion, the second largest religious group in every state.

There were a good number of activities and events spread out over the two days, from flower arranging to Tai Chi,  meditation to demonstrations of  vegetarian cooking.  There was an interfaith prayer for world peace, a baby blessing ceremony and the ritual bathing the Buddha.  According to Buddhists,  it is simple to wash away physical dirt, but much more difficult to cleanse one’s inner dirt of greed, anger and ignorance.

Buddhism is the only religion that has appealed to me since I cast off  my Christian upbringing.  It seems to encourage the practice of peace, not simply the preaching of it.  Have a joyful attitude and keep an open mind;  have courage and compassion for all things.

Our cat’s philosophy has a certain appeal as well.  Wash your paws, keep a clean coat and the rest will take care of itself.   With any luck, your keepers are reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned, and trainable.   Cheers.