November 05, 2012
The Dalai Lama's Cat by David Michie
I have to say I absolutely adored this book. It was cute, informative, and really opened by eyes to Buddhism and some of its aspects, even if that wasn't its main intent. I've been wanting to learn more about Buddhism anyway, and without meaning to, choosing this book to read helped with that.
The Dalai Lama's cat focuses around HHC (His Holiness' Cat)and her journey toward enlightenment while being near the Dalai Lama. Found as a stray on the street and being a particularly weak one at that, she is nursed back to help by the Dalai Lama himself and his assistants. As she stays with him and becomes his pet, she watches different people enter his life and seek learning and learns a few lessons herself. While doing so, she finds peace with her faults and learns to be a better cat. And really, this description is simplistic of the whole story itself, but I find it hard to describe it without giving away the pleasure of reading that I had myself.
HHC is a pretty funny cat. She has her flaws but wants to be better, and I think that reflects on many people as well, so you can identify with her even if she is a cat. She parallels things in her own life with that of the problems of the staff and visitors to the Dalai Lama's home and by endearing herself to us, she also makes it easier to relate to these people as well. And those other people are interesting in their own right. Franc, an owner of a cafe nearby is pretty ego-centric but you get to watch him grow through the book. Other characters may only appear for a chapter, but you learn as well for them, like the cook with anger issues, who had to take a look at why she was angry and what she herself could do to improve it, rather than wanting others to change what they would be doing. And just as a side note, I do appreciate that some of the Dalai Lama's helpers were named after the fourteenth Dalai Lama, it added some real life relevance.
While this story is about a cat, HHC, it is so much more than that. I learned more about Buddhist beliefs than from anything else I've ever read (which is admittedly not that much), but it was such an approachable way of learning that I really enjoyed it. Each point was made with a story and what a person was doing to improve their lives rather than just giving the lessons by rote. And it made it easier to remember. I did enjoy the snippets about HHC though and how she too tried to learn. While being just your ordinary cat that loves food and has an insatiable curiosity, she just had a spark that made her very special and very capable of being the cat of the Dalai Lama. Indeed, if the Dalai Lama were to possess a cat, I'd imagine it to be very like HHC. AS you would suspect there is some mention of Buddhism in this book (and I've already mentioned it myself) if you don't enjoy reading about other ways of belief than your own, this is probably not a book you'd enjoy. But if you're curious about Buddhism and just like a good story, this is probably a good choice.
I definitely found the book an enjoyable read and will probably look at other books by this author. He has an approachable reading style and a way of imparting knowledge without forcing it down your throat. I very much liked The Dalai Lama's Cat.
The Dalai Lama's Cat