If I had to summarize The Dalai Lama’s Cat in just a few words, they would be “Buddhism 101, brought to you by an adorable cat.” But these few words wouldn’t do this charming book justice. While this warm-hearted story of a small kitten rescued from the slums of New Delhi through fortuitous circumstances may be a little contrived, it’s also utterly delightful.
When the Dalai Lama, who is on his way home in a limo, having just returned from a trip to America, sees a kitten being thrown into the gutter, he dispatches a staff member to rescue the kitten. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like living with the Dalai Lama, now you’ll be able to find out. Through the cat’s eyes, and narrated in her voice, the reader gets a close up view of the Dalai Lama’s inner sanctum and household. Much loved and spoiled by the Dalai Lama and his entire staff, Mousie-Tung, also known as HHC (His Holiness’ Cat), and dubbed “Little Snow Lion” by the Dalai Lama himself, encounters Hollywood stars, Buddhist masters, famous self-help authors and many others who come to visit His Holiness. The little cat soaks up the Dalai Lama’s teachings simply by being in close proximity to his light.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’ve read numerous books about and by the Dalai Lama over the years, and I had the good fortune of hearing him speak twice. The first time, I saw him appear at Washington National Cathedral on the first anniversary of September 11. I stood in line for several hours with hundreds of others, under a blue September sky eerily reminiscent of the original 9/11, in a city that had been attacked that day, a year earlier. And yet, there was no fear or worry in that line. Everyone was excited about getting to see the Dalai Lama. When I finally made it inside the cathedral, I was far far in the back – but yet, I felt what so many people report after they’ve been in His Holiness’ presence: an incredible feeling of peace, a sense of love and compassion radiating off of him, and his immense joy in every single moment. My second encounter with the Dalai Lama was a few years later, when he was speaking in a DC sports arena. That time, I sat only a few rows away from him. The experience was similar to the first one, but the closer physical proximity made it even more powerful.
David Michie’s portrayal of the Dalai Lama adds a dimension of ordinary “humanity” to this global icon. Through Mousie-Tung’s eyes, the reader gets to see this kind, compassionate and brilliant man go about his every day business. His interactions with the cat thoroughly charmed me. Throughout the book, as Mousie-Tung tells her story, the reader gets introduced to some of the basic concepts of Buddhism. And who better to explain these teachings than a cat? Those of us who have opened our hearts to the many lessons cats teach us won’t find it much of a leap at all to believe that cats are indeed “boddhicatvas,” as Mousie-Tung calls herself (in Buddhism, a boddhisattva is an enlightened being).
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and other Buddhist principles, this is an easily accessible way to do so. If you believe that cats have many lessons to teach us, reading this enchanting book will be a transformational experience for you.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite passages:
“Most interesting, my little Snow Lion,” the Dalai Lama remarked after a while, as he closed his book and came over to stroke me.
“I am reading about the life of Albert Schweitzer, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. He was a very compassionate man, very sincere. I have just read something he said: ‘Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.’ I agree with that, don’t you, HHC?”
Closing my eyes, I purred.
This book was sent to me by the publisher. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.