Being born a Hindu, reincarnation is an important part of my belief, and by some miracle, I have a memory of what’s happening to me. In my past life, my name was Advik, and I was a simple merchant who sold my wares to anyone with a few rupees in their pocket. During my lifetime, I tried to be fair to my customers, and I was doing well, but Vishnu, the protector of the world, must have thought differently. As I passed from my old life into the cycle of samsara, I found myself not to be reincarnated as a person, but as some beast yet unknown to me.
Though I was fully conscious of my surroundings, I was powerless to manipulate the body I lived in. With closed eyes, I inhaled the scent of my mother and dragged my body ever closer to her, thirsting for the milk she offered. When I finally reached my goal, my tongue caressed her nipple, and I was rewarded with its nectar.
When time passed, I was finally able to open my eyes and was greeted by my surroundings. Surrounding me, as far as my tiny eyes could see, there was grass, taller than I stood. Above was a canopy of leaves umbrellaing from tree branches for as far as I could see. A grunt from my mother told me she was returning from wherever she was, and though my world was now seen in black and white, I couldn’t fail to recognize the stripes outlining the face and body of the giant cat approaching me. Though I was frightened at the sight of this ferocious animal, her cub who I named Sita and whose body I was sharing with, was overjoyed at her homecoming, and for the next few months, this was our daily ritual.
As Spring turned into Summer, Sita grew to a point where the grass was no longer a visual barrier for me, she began to travel with her mother throughout the day. While the sun gleamed overhead, they would normally bask in it, soaking up its rays, but occasionally, when the sun would set, it was time to hunt for prey.
I’ll never forget the first night this happened. Sita was walking behind her mother when the scent of a wild pig overpowered our nostrils. Sita’s mother paused, then stealthily approached a nearby clearing. There, in the middle of it, was a wild boar with two piglets grazing in a field. Sita joined her mother as she slowly crouched, trying not to give away her position away. Like a snake, she slithered ever closer, and then, she sprung like a snake snatching the unaware boar by its neck and dragged it to the ground. As the boar shrieked its last dying breath, the two piglets dashed for the forest, but the slower of the two failed to escape, as Sita grasped the piglet in her jaws and crushed the life out of it. As her nostrils flared, Sita inhaled the scent of fear as well as taste its blood as her teeth pierced the piglet’s throat. Within seconds the piglet’s lifeless carcass lay in front of her. Wishing to show off her first kill, Sita dragged the piglet back to where her mother was feasting. As soon as Sita reached her mother, she began to devour her piglet as well.
When I lived in my past life as Advik, I was a vegetarian, and the thought of eating meat was disgusting to me. So, when Sita’s teeth began to pierce the raw flesh of its neck and the taste of blood touched her tongue, never in my life had I wished to be somewhere else, and when Sita’s mouth shifted from the piglet’s neck to its underbelly, I felt like vomiting.
As the days turned into months, Sita slowly felt less desire to stay with her mother, until one day she wandered off into the jungle and never returned. Sita’s mother must have known this day was coming, for I never heard her roar out or never once saw her shadow passing in front of me. To me, it was a bittersweet moment, but as for Sita, now turned adult, it was second nature to her. Day by day, she would constantly travel, never sleeping in the same place twice, never looking at the tracks she left behind.
Then one day, Sita felt an odd sensation traveling down her loins, and then inhaling a scent familiar from other female tigers, but the first time coming from her. Later that day, a male tiger approached her, and he was hungry for more than just food. Fortunately, for Sita, she had no thoughts of resisting his desires.
And so, it began, fast and furious and for the next four days, the mating was nonstop and when it was over, the male tiger retreated into the jungle and disappeared. As for Sita, she waited for night to fall, then searched for prey.
A little over three months later, we had company. Sita gave birth to two cubs, a boy, and a girl. For the next several years, the cycle of life continued to churn. I’ve lost track of how many cubs Sira gave birth to, but I do know only a handful survived. Occasionally, Sira would catch a scent of one of them, but then would turn away.
In the twenty-five years of her existence, Sira learned to live a solitary life, but not alone. Arthritis in her hips is her constant companion, as well as the pain in her chest. Instinctively, she knew time was running out and she would close her eyes to the jungle. Her daily naps lengthened to several hours, until she closed her eyes for the last time. My life as a tiger ended.
As darkness followed my atman entered the stage of moksha and I thought to myself, Vishnu was wise to reincarnate me as a tiger. My experience as one taught me not to ponder on my self-worth or what others thought of me. Otherwise, I might have wasted my time living the life of a selfish human being. Vishnu is wise, so when the cycle of samsara completes, I will gladly accept what he has to offer me.