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Book review: The Dalai Lama`s Cat by David Michie

The Dalai Lama`s Cat, a novel by David Michie. Hayhouse publishers.

After a mercifully brief spell of picking up books that were less than enthralling, I`m back on track, thanks be.

The Dalai Lama`s Cat is another treasure I have come to a bit late. But if there`s one thing this book teaches me, it is that timelines don’t matter.

An overload of charm, the book has as narrator none other than HHC, His Holiness` Cat, a Himalayan beauty with eyes as bright as blue sapphires. Rescued when she was just days old and looked all set to suffer an ignominious death in a Delhi wastebin, and rescued by none other than the world`s foremost proponent of kindness to all sentient beings, the Dalai Lama himself, HHC is taken to Dharamshala and instated as the feline monarch of all she surveys in that peaceful sanctum.

Soon enough, she acquires new names: Rinpoche by Franc who runs a café near the Namgyal monastery; The Most Beautiful Creature Who Ever Lived (capitals hers, not mine) by Mrs Trinci, the Italian woman who cooks for the Dalai Lama and his staff, Mousie-Tung by the Dalai Lama`s less than impressed driver (a rough sort of creature, sniffs HHC who of course, is less than taken with this name).

Even as she is reared with a lot of love and care, and some gentle joshing by the Dalai Lama`s staff, HHC starts to slowly imbibe the basic tenets of Buddhism. And being the narrator, she passes that knowledge on to us, the readers.

HHC learns that it is not her circumstances that caused her distress but her belief about these circumstances. That when our understanding of something deepens to the point that it changes our behaviour, that is the true turning point.

She finds out why exactly people bow to the statue of the Buddha…and no, it’s not what you think it is. That giving in to a weak mind, being overwhelmed by fears, is in Buddhism, termed laziness. That as one negative thought opens doors to a whole trail of negative thoughts, the opposite dynamic holds good, too: positive thoughts also multiply, and produce the most wonderful effects.

Oh, and what a beautiful portrait is drawn of that gentle being who takes care of HHC, the Nobel Laureate who is also `a dab hand with a can opener.`

In the final analysis, though, this really is a book you should just read and enjoy, imbibe and absorb, not analyse. The Dalai Lama and HHC are on the same page: striving to be happy, to spread happiness. And the reader gets to wondering just why we let go of all the happiness that is within our grasp and chase senseless things instead.

Interesting snippet: Somewhere I read David Michie quoting a University of Texas study showing that cat lovers are more curious about unorthodox ideas and traditions than the more narrow-minded perspectives held by lovers of those other, popular, domestic pets, dogs. This finding, says Michie, proves that that cat lovers are not only innately superior, but more open to the wisdom of the Buddhas than the population at large.

So. A tale told by a boddhicatva. Heartwarming? Check. Charming? Very. Thought-provoking? That too. What more does a reader want?

BuddhismcatsDavid MichieThe Dalai lama`s Cat

Sheila Kumar • July 29, 2015


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