Today we are having a look at a novel from David Michie – The book is called The Dalai Lama’s Cat.
The book’s main character is a little kitten that was rescued of the streets to become the Dalai Lama’s cat. The book gives great insight in what it must be like to be the cat of a famous person.
The author has taken great care to ensure that us cat owners and lovers can relate to the character and story!
As an extra special bonus scroll to the bottom of the post to read the first chapter for free!!! 🙂
If you are looking for a book that combines charming cats, life lessons and meaningful tips this is the book for you! The author managed to write the book in a way that it combines spiritual topics with the fantasy aspect of writing out of a cat’s view to appeal to us cat lovers and owners but also to those that are looking for deeper more meaningful topics of a read.
More info on the book from the publisher:
“‘Oh! How adorable! I didn’t know you had a cat!’ she exclaimed. I am always surprised how many people make this observation. Why should His Holiness not have a cat? ‘If only she could speak,’ continued the actress. ‘I’m sure she’d have such wisdom to share.’ And so the seed was planted . . .
I began to think that perhaps the time had come for me to write a book of my own—a book that would convey some of the wisdom I’ve learned sitting not at the feet of the Dalai Lama but even closer, on his lap. A book that would tell my own tale . . . how I was rescued from a fate too grisly to contemplate to become the constant companion of a man who is not only one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate but also a dab hand with a can opener.”
Starving and pitiful, a mud-smeared kitten is rescued from the slums of New Delhi and transported to a life she could have never imagined. In a beautiful sanctuary overlooking the snow-capped Himalayas, she begins her new life as the Dalai Lama’s cat. Warmhearted, irreverent, and wise, this cat of many names opens a window to the inner sanctum of life in Dharamsala. A tiny spy observing the constant flow of private meetings between His Holiness and everyone from Hollywood celebrities to philanthropists to self-help authors, the Dalai Lama’s cat provides us with insights on how to find happiness and meaning in a busy, materialistic world. Her story will put a smile on the face of anyone who has been blessed by the kneading paws and bountiful purring of a cat.
“What a joy to spend some intimate time with the Dalai Lama glimpsed through the devoted eyes of his adventurous cat, Mousie-Tung. This charming and highly entertaining book will cheer you up and warm your heart. Curl up with The Dalai Lama’s Cat.” — Michael Carroll, author of Awake at Work and The Mindful Leader
“This enchanting story is a rare treat. I highly recommend it!” — Gay Hendricks, Ph.D., author of Conscious Loving and The First Rule of Ten
The Dalai Lama’s Cat can also be found on Facebook here.
About the Author:
David Michie is the bestselling author of Buddhism for Busy People, Hurry Up and Meditate and Enlightenment to Go. All have been published internationally and are being translated into many languages. He has also written four thrillers, most recently The Magician of Lhasa, to bring the profoundly life-enhancing perspectives of Tibetan Buddhism to a wider audience of fiction readers. David was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, educated at Rhodes University, South Africa, and lived in London for ten years. He is married and is based in Perth, Australia. www.davidmichie.com
If you would like to get the book yourself it is available from most major book sellers as well as directly from the publisher website! 🙂
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First Chapter below:
The Dalai Lama’s Cat
The idea came about one sunny Himalayan morning. There I was, lying in my usual spot on the first-floor windowsill, the perfect vantage from which to maintain maximum surveillance with minimum effort, as His Holiness was bringing a private audience to a close.
I’m far too discreet to mention who the audience was with, except to say that she’s a very famous Hollywood actress . . . you know, the legally blonde one, who does all the charity work for children and is quite well known for her love of donkeys. Yes, her!
It was as she was turning to leave the room that she glanced out the window, with its magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains, and noticed me for the first time.
“Oh! How adorable!” She stepped over to stroke my neck, which I acknowledged with a wide yawn and tremulous stretch of the front paws. “I didn’t know you had a cat!” she exclaimed.
I am always surprised how many people make this observation—though not all are as bold as the American in giving voice to their astonishment. Why should His Holiness not have a cat—if, indeed, “having a cat” is a correct understanding of the relationship?
Besides, anyone with a particularly acute power of observation would recognize the feline presence in His Holiness’s life by the stray hairs and occasional whisker I make it my business to leave on his person. Should you ever have the privilege of getting very close to the Dalai Lama and scrutinizing his robes, you will almost certainly discover a fine wisp of white fur, confirming that far from living alone, he shares his inner sanctum with a cat of impeccable—if undocumented—breeding.
It was exactly this discovery to which the Queen of England’s corgis reacted with such vigor when His Holiness visited Buckingham Palace—an incident of which the world media were strangely unaware.
But I digress.
Having stroked my neck, the American actress asked, “Does she have a name?”
“Oh, yes! Many names.” His Holiness smiled enigmatically.
What the Dalai Lama said was true. Like many domestic cats, I have acquired a variety of names, some of them used frequently, others less so. One of them in particular is a name I don’t much care for. Known among His Holiness’s staff as my ordination name, it isn’t a name the Dalai Lama himself has ever used—not the full version, at least. Nor is it a name I will disclose so long as I live. Not in this book that’s for sure.
Well . . . definitely not in this chapter.
“If only she could speak,” continued the actor, “I’m sure she’d have such wisdom to share.”
And so the seed was planted.
In the months that followed I watched His Holiness working on a new book: the many hours he spent making sure texts were correctly interpreted; the great time and care he took to ensure that every word he wrote conveyed the greatest possible meaning and benefit.
More and more, I began to think that perhaps the time had come for me to write a book of my own—a book that would convey some of the wisdom I’ve learned sitting not at the feet of the Dalai Lama but even closer, on his lap. A book that would tell my own tale—not so much one of rags to riches as trash to temple. How I was rescued from a fate too grisly to contemplate, to become the constant companion of a man who is not only one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate but also a dab hand with a can opener.
Often in the late afternoon, after I feel His Holiness has already spent too many hours at his desk, I will hop off the windowsill, pad over to where he is working and rub my furry body against his legs. If this doesn’t get his attention, I sink my teeth politely but precisely into the tender flesh of his ankles. That always does it.
With a sigh, the Dalai Lama will push back his chair, scoop me up into his arms, and walk over to the window. As he looks into my big, blue eyes, the expression in his own is one of such immense love that it never ceases to fill me with happiness.
“My little ‘bodhicatva,’” he will sometimes call me, a play on bodhisattva, a Sanskrit term that in Buddhism refers to an enlightened being.
Together we gaze out at the panoramic vista that sweeps down the Kangra Valley. Through the open windows a gentle breeze carries fragrances of pine, Himalayan oak, and rhododendron, giving the air its pristine, almost magical quality. In the warm embrace of the Dalai Lama, all distinctions dissolve completely—between observer and observed, between cat and lama, between the stillness of twilight and the bountiful appreciation of my deep-throated purr.
It is in these moments that I feel profoundly grateful to be the Dalai Lama’s cat.
I have a defecating bullock to thank for the event that was to change my very young life—and without which, dear reader, you would not be reading this book.
Picture a typical monsoonal afternoon in New Delhi. The Dalai Lama was on his way home from Indira Gandhi Aiport, after a teaching trip to the United States. As his car made its way through the outskirts of the city, traffic was brought to a halt by a bullock that has ambled into the center of the highway, where it proceeds to dump copiously.
Several cars back in the traffic jam, His Holiness was calmly gazing out the window, waiting for the traffic to start up again. As he sat there, his attention was drawn to a drama being played out at the side of the road.
Amid the clamor of pedestrians and bicyclers, food-stall proprietors and beggars, two ragged street children were anxious to bring their day’s trading to an end. Earlier that morning, they had come across a litter of kittens, concealed behind a pile of burlap sacks in a back alley. Scrutinizing their discovery closely, they soon realized that they had fallen upon something of value. For the kittens were no garden-variety alley cats, but clearly felines of a superior kind. The young boys were unfamiliar with the Himalayan breed, but in the kitten’s sapphire eyes, handsome coloring, and lavish coat, they recognized a tradable commodity.
Snatching us from the cozy nest in which our mother had tended us, they thrust my siblings and me into the terrifying commotion of the street. Within moments my two elder sisters, who were much the larger and more developed of us, had been exchanged for rupees—an event of such excitement that in the process I was dropped, landing painfully on the pavement and only narrowly avoiding being killed by a motor scooter.
The boys had much more trouble selling us two smaller, scrawnier kittens. For several hours they trudged the streets, shoving us vigorously at the windows of passing cars. I was much too young to be taken from our mother, and my tiny body was unable to cope. Failing fast for lack of milk and still in pain from my fall, I was barely conscious when the boys sparked the interest of an elderly passerby, who had been thinking about a kitten for his granddaughter.
Gesturing to set us two remaining kittens on the ground, he squatted on his haunches and inspected us closely. My older brother padded across the corrugated dirt at the side of the road, mewing imploringly for milk. When I was prodded from behind to induce some movement, I managed only a single, lurching step forward before collapsing in a mud puddle.
It was exactly this scene that His Holiness witnessed.
And the one that followed.
A sale price agreed on, my brother was handed over to the toothless old man. I, meantime, was left mired in filth while the two boys debated what to do with me, one of them shoving me roughly with his big toe. They decided I was unsaleable, and grabbing a week-old sports page of the India Times that had blown into a nearby gutter,,they wrapped me like a piece of rotten meat destined for the nearest rubbish heap.
I began to suffocate inside the newspaper. Every breath became a struggle. Already weak from fatigue and starvation, I felt the flame of life inside me flicker dangerously low. Death seemed inevitable in those final, desperate moments.
Except that His Holiness dispatched his attendant first. Fresh off the plane from America, the Dalai Lama’s attendant happened to have two $1 bills tucked in his robes. He handed these to the boys, who scampered away, speculating with great excitement about how much the dollars would fetch when converted into rupees.
Unwrapped from the death trap of the sports page (“Bangalore Crushes Rajasthan By 9 Wickets” read the headline), I was soon resting comfortably in the back of the Dalai Lama’s car. Moments later, milk had been bought from a street vendor and was being dripped into my mouth, as His Holiness willed life back into my limp form.
I remember none of the details of my rescue, but the story has been recounted so many times that I know it by heart. What I do remember is waking up in a sanctuary of such infinite warmth that for the first time since being wrenched from our burlap nest that morning, I felt that all was well. Looking about to discover the source of my newfound nourishment and safety, I found myself looking directly into the Dalai Lama’s eyes.
How do I describe the first moment of being in the presence of His Holiness?
It is as much a feeling as a thought—a deeply heartwarming and profound understanding that all is well. As I came to realize later, it is as though for the first time you become aware that your own true nature is one of boundless love and compassion. It has been there all along, but the Dalai Lama sees it and reflects it back to you. He perceives your Buddha nature, and this extraordinary revelation often moves people to tears.
In my own case, swaddled in a piece of maroon-colored fleece on a chair in His Holiness’s office, I was also aware of another fact—one of the greatest importance to all cats: I was in the home of a Cat Lover.
As strongly as I sensed this, I was also aware of a less sympathetic presence across the coffee table. Back in Dharamsala, His Holiness had resumed his schedule of audiences and was fulfilling a long-standing commitment to be interviewed by a visiting history professor from Britain. I couldn’t possibly tell you who exactly, just that he came from one of England’s two main universities. You know, the ones that take part in that boat race every year. Yes—them.
The professor was penning a tome on Indo-Tibetan history and seemed irked to find he was not the exclusive focus of the Dalai Lama’s attention.
“A stray?” he exclaimed, after His Holiness briefly explained the reason why I was occupying the seat between them.
“Yes,” confirmed the Dalai Lama, before responding not so much to what the visitor had said as to the tone of voice in which he had said it. Regarding the history professor with a kindly smile, he spoke in that rich, warm baritone with which I was to become so familiar.
“You know, Professor, this stray kitten and you have one very important thing in common.”
“I can’t imagine,” responded the professor coolly.
“Your life is the most important thing in the world to you,” said His Holiness. “Same for this kitten.”
From the pause that followed, it was evident that for all his erudition, the professor had never before been presented with such a startling idea.
“Surely you’re not saying that the life of a human and the life of an animal are of the same value?” he ventured.
“As humans we have much greater potential, of course, “ His Holiness replied. “But the way we all want very much to stay alive, the way we cling to our particular experience of consciousness—in this way human and animal are equal.”
“Well, perhaps some of the more complex mammals . . . ” The professor was battling against this troubling thought. “But not all animals. I mean, for instance, not cockroaches.”
“Including cockroaches,” said His Holiness, undeterred. “Any being that has consciousness.”
“But cockroaches carry filth and disease. We have to spray them.”
His Holiness rose and walked over to his desk, where he picked up a large matchbox. “Our cockroach carrier,” he said. “Much better than spraying. I am sure,” he continued, delivering his trademark chuckle; “you don’t want to be chased by a giant spraying toxic gas.”
The professor acknowledged this bit of self-evident but uncommon wisdom in silence.
“For all of us with consciousness“—the Dalai Lama returned to his seat—“our life is very precious. Therefore, we need to protect all sentient beings very much. Also, we must recognize that we share the same two basic wishes: the wish to enjoy happiness and the wish to avoid suffering.”
These were themes I have heard the Dalai Lama repeat often and in limitless ways. Yet every time he speaks with such vivid clarity and impact, it is as though he is expressing these things for the first time.
“We all share these wishes. But also the way we look for happiness and try to avoid discomfort is the same. Who among us does not enjoy a delicious meal? Who does not wish to sleep in a safe, comfortable bed? Author, monk—or stray kitten—we are all equal in that.”
Across the coffee table, the history professor shifted in his seat.
“Most of all,” the Dalai Lama said, leaning over and stroking me with his index finger, “all of us just want to be loved.”
By the time the professor left later that afternoon, he had a lot more to think about than his tape recording of the Dalai Lama’s views on Indo-Tibetan history. His Holiness’s message was challenging. Confronting, even. But it wasn’t one that could easily be dismissed . . . as we were to discover.
In the days that followed, I quickly became familiar with my new surroundings. The cozy nest His Holiness created for me out of an old fleece robe. The changing light in his rooms as the sun rose, passed over us, and set each day, and the tenderness with which he and his two executive assistants fed me warm milk until I was strong enough to begin eating solid food.
I also began exploring, first the Dalai Lama’s own suite, then out beyond it, to the office shared by the two executive assistants. The one seated closest to the door, the young, roly-poly monk with the smiling face and soft hands, was Chogyal, who helped His Holiness with monastic matters. The older, taller one, who sat opposite him, was Tenzin. Always in a dapper suit, with hands that had the clean tang of carbolic soap, he was a professional diplomat and cultural attaché, who assisted the Dalai Lama in secular matters.
That first day I wobbled around the corner into their office, there was an abrupt halt in the conversation.
“Who is this?” Tenzin wanted to know.
Chogyal chuckled as he lifted me up and put me on his desk, where my eye was immediately caught by the bright blue top of a Bic pen. “The Dalai Lama rescued her while driving out of Delhi,” Chogyal said, repeating the attendant’s story, as I flicked the Bic top across his desk.
“Why does she walk so strangely?” the other wanted to know.
“Apparently she was dropped on her back.”
“Hmm.” Tenzin sounded doubtful as he leaned forward, scrutinizing me closely. “Perhaps she was malnourished, being the smallest kitten. Does she have a name?”
“No,” Chogyal said. Then, after he and I had batted the plastic pen top back and forth across his desk a few times, “We’ll have to give her one!” he exclaimed, enthusiastic about the challenge. “An ordination name. What do you think—Tibetan or English?” (In Buddhism, when someone becomes a monk or nun they are given an ordination name to mark their new identity.)
Chogyal suggested several possibilities before Tenzin said, “It’s better not to force these things. I’m sure something will present itself as we get to know her better.”
As usual, Tenzin’s advice was both wise and prophetic—unfortunately for me, as things turned out. Chasing the pen top, I progressed from Chogyal’s desk halfway across Tenzin’s, before the older man seized my small, fluffy form and put me down on the rug.
“You’d better stay there,” he said. “I have a letter here from His Holiness to the Pope, and we don’t want paw prints all over it.”
Chogyal laughed. “Signed on his behalf by His Holiness’s Cat.”
“HHC,” Tenzin shot back. In official correspondence, His Holiness is frequently referred to as HHDL. “That can be her provisional title until we find a suitable name.”
Beyond the executive assistants’ office was a corridor that led past more offices, toward a door that was kept carefully closed. I knew from talk in the executive assistants’ office that the door led to many places, including Downstairs, Outside, The Temple, and even Overseas. This was the door through which all His Holiness’s visitors came and went. It opened onto a whole new world. But in those early days, as a very small kitten, I was perfectly content to remain on this side of it.
Having spent my first days on earth in a back alley, I had little understanding of human life—and no idea how unusual my new circumstances were. When His Holiness got out of bed every morning at 3 a.m. to meditate for five hours, I would follow him and curl up in a tight knot beside him, basking in his warmth and energy. I thought that most people started each day in meditation.
When visitors came to see His Holiness, I saw that they always presented him with a white scarf, or kata, which he then returned to them with a blessing. I assumed this was how humans usually greeted visitors. I was also aware that many people who visited His Holiness had traveled very long distances to do so; that, too, seemed perfectly normal to me.
Then one day Chogyal picked me up in his arms and tickled my neck. “Are you wondering who all these people are?” he asked, following my gaze to the many framed photographs on the wall of the executive assistants’ office. Gesturing to a few of the photos, he said, “These are the past eight Presidents of the United States, meeting His Holiness. He is a very special person, you know.”
I did know, because he always made sure my milk was warm—but not too hot—before giving it to me.
“He is one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders,” Chogyal continued. “We believe he is a living Buddha. You must have a very close karmic connection to him. It would be most interesting to know what that is.”
A few days later, I found my way down the corridor to the small kitchen and sitting area where some of the Dalai Lama’s staff went to relax, have their lunch, or make tea. Several monks were sitting on a sofa, watching a recorded news item on His Holiness’s recent visit to the U.S. By now they all knew who I was—in fact, I had become the office mascot. Hopping up on the lap of one of the monks, I allowed him to stroke me as I watched TV.
Initially, all I could see was a huge crowd of people with a tiny red dot in the center, while His Holiness’s voice could be heard quite clearly. But as the news clip progressed, I realized that the red dot was His Holiness, in the center of a vast indoor sports arena. It was a scene that was replayed in every city he visited, from New York to San Francisco. The newscaster commented that the huge crowds of people who came out to see him in every city showed that he was more popular than many rock stars.
Little by little, I began to realize just how extraordinary the Dalai Lama was, and how highly regarded. And perhaps because of Chogyal’s comment about our “very close karmic connection,” at some stage I started to believe that I must be rather special, too. After all, I was the one His Holiness had rescued from the gutters of New Delhi. Had he recognized in me a kindred spirit—a sentient being on the same spiritual wave length as he?
When I heard His Holiness tell visitors about the importance of loving kindness, I would purr contentedly, certain in the knowledge that this was exactly what I thought, too. When he opened my evening can of Snappy Tom’s, it seemed as obvious to me as it was to him that all sentient beings wanted to fulfill the same basic needs. And as he stroked my bulging tummy after my dinner, it seemed equally clear that he was right; each of us does just want to be loved.
There had been some talk around this time about what would happen when His Holiness left on a three-week trip to Australia and New Zealand. With this and many other travels planned, should I remain in the Dalai Lama’s quarters, or would it be better if I were found a new home?
New home? The very idea of it was crazy! I was HHC and had quickly become a vital part of the establishment. There was no one I’d rather live with than the Dalai Lama. And I’d come to treasure other parts of my daily routine, whether it was sunning myself on the windowsill as His Holiness talked to visitors, or eating the delicious food he and his staff served me on a saucer, or listening to lunchtime concerts with Tenzin.
Although His Holiness’s cultural attaché was Tibetan, he was a graduate of Oxford University in England, where he had studied in his early 20s, developing a taste for all things European. Every day at lunchtime, unless there was very pressing business to attend to, Tenzin would get up from his desk, take out the small, plastic box of lunch his wife had prepared for him, and make his way along the corridor to the first-aid room. Seldom used for that purpose, it contained a single bed, a medicine cabinet, an armchair, and a portable sound system that belonged to Tenzin. Following him into the room out of curiosity one day, I watched him settle back in the armchair and press a button on the remote control of the sound system. Suddenly, the room was filled with music. Eyes closed, he rested his head against the back of the chair, a smile appearing on his lips.
“Bach’s Prelude in C Major, HHC,” he told me after the short piano piece ended. I hadn’t realized he even knew that I was in the room with him. “Isn’t it exquisite? One of my all-time favorites. So simple—just a single melody line, no harmony, but conveying such depth of emotion!”
It turned out to be the first in an almost daily series of lessons in music and Western culture that I received from Tenzin. He seemed to genuinely welcome my presence as a being with whom he could share his enthusiasm for this operatic aria or that string quartet—or sometimes, for variety, the re-enactment of some historical event in a radio drama.
While he ate whatever was in his plastic lunch box, I would curl up on the first-aid bed—a liberty he indulged since it was just the two of us. My appreciation of music and Western culture began to develop, one lunch hour at a time.
Then one day, something unexpected happened. His Holiness was over at the temple, and The Door was left open. By then I had grown into an adventurous kitten, no longer content to spend all her time cosseted in fleece. Prowling along the corridor in search of excitement, when I saw the door ajar, I knew I had to go through it, to explore the many places that lay beyond.
Downstairs. Outside. Overseas.
Somehow I made my shaky way down two flights of stairs, grateful for the carpeting, as my descent accelerated out of control and I landed in an undignified bundle at the bottom. Picking myself up, I continued across a short hallway and outside.
It was the first time I’d been outdoors since being plucked from the gutters of New Delhi. There was a bustle, a feeling of energy, with people walking in every direction. I hadn’t gotten very far before I heard a chorus of high-pitched squeals and the pounding of many feet on the pavement. A tour group of Japanese schoolgirls caught sight of me and took pursuit.
I panicked. Racing as fast as my unsteady hind legs would take me, I lurched away from the shrieking horde. I could hear them gaining ground. There was no way I could outrun them. The leather of their shoes slapping the pavement became a thunder!
Then I spotted a small gap between brick columns that supported a verandah floor.
An opening which led under the building. It was a tight squeeze, and I had very little time. Plus, I had no idea where the gap led. But as I bolted inside, the pandemonium abruptly ended. I found myself in a large crawl space between the ground and wooden floor boards. It was dark and dusty, and there was a constant, dull drumming of foot traffic overhead. But at least I was safe. I wondered how long I would need to stay there until the schoolgirls had gone away. Brushing a cobweb from my face, I decided not to risk another attack.
As my eyes and ears adjusted to my surroundings, I became aware of a scratching noise— sporadic but insistent gnawing. I paused, nostrils flared, as I searched the air. For along with the sound of incisors chomping came a pungent whiff that set my whiskers tingling. My reaction, instantaneous and powerful, triggered a reflex I hadn’t even known I possessed.
Even though I had never before seen a mouse, I recognized it immediately as a creature of prey. It was clinging to brickwork, its head half-buried in a wooden beam which it was hollowing out with its large front teeth.
I moved stealthily, my approach masked by the constant sound of footfalls on the floor above.
Instinct took over. With a single swipe of my front paw, I swept the rodent off balance and onto the ground, where it lay stunned. Leaning down, I sank my teeth into its neck. Its body went limp.
I knew exactly what I must do next. Prey secured in my mouth, I padded back to the gap between the brick columns, checked the pavement traffic outside, and seeing no Japanese schoolchildren, hurried back along the pavement and back inside the building. Dashing across the hallway, I made my way up the stairs to The Door. Shut tight.
Now what? I sat there for quite some time, wondering how long I would have to wait, until finally someone from His Holiness’s staff arrived. Recognizing me but paying no attention to the trophy in my mouth, he let me in. I padded down the corridor and around the corner.
Because the Dalai Lama was still at the temple, I went to the office of the executive assistants, dropping the mouse and announcing my arrival with an urgent meow. Responding to the unfamiliar tone, Chogyal and Tenzin both turned and looked at me in surprise as I stood there proudly, with the mouse on the carpet at my feet.
Their reaction was nothing like I had expected. Exchanging a sharp glance, they both shot out of their chairs. Chogyal picked me up, and Tenzin knelt down over the motionless mouse.
“Still breathing,” he said. “Probably in shock.”
“The printer box,” Chogyal said, directing him to the empty cardboard box from which he had just removed a fresh ink cartridge.
Using an old envelope as a brush, Tenzin herded the mouse into the empty container. He regarded it closely. “Where do you think—?”
“This one has cobwebs on its whiskers,” observed Chogyal, cocking his head in my direction.
This one? It?! Was that any way to refer to HHC?
At that moment, the Dalai Lama’s driver came into the office. Tenzin handed him the box with instructions that the mouse was to be observed and, if it recovered, to be released in the forest nearby.
“HHC must have got out,” said the driver, meeting my blue-eyed gaze.
Chogyal was still holding me, not in his usual affectionate embrace but as though restraining a savage beast. “HHC. I’m not sure about that title anymore,” he said.
“It was only a provisional title,” concurred Tenzin, returning to his desk. “But His Holiness’s Mouser doesn’t seem appropriate.”
Chogyal put me back on the carpet.
“What about just ‘Mouser’ for an ordination name?” suggested the driver. But because of his strong, Tibetan accent, it sounded like “Mousie.”
All three men were now looking at me intently. The conversation had taken a dangerous turn that I have regretted ever since.
“You can’t have just ‘Mousie,’” said Chogyal. “It has to be Something Mousie or Mousie Something.”
“Mousie Monster?” contributed Tenzin.
“Mousie Slayer?” suggested Chogyal.
There was a pause before the driver came out with it.
“What about Mousie-Tung?” he suggested.
All three men burst out laughing as they looked down at my small, fluffy form.
Tenzin turned mock-serious as he regarded me directly. “Compassion is all very well. But do you think His Holiness should be sharing his quarters with Mousie-Tung?”
“Or leaving Mousie-Tung in charge for three weeks when he visits Australia?” mused Chogyal, as the three collapsed in laughter again.
Getting up, I stalked from the room; ears pressed back firmly and tail slashing.
In the hours that followed, as I sat in the tranquil sunlight of His Holiness’s window, I began to realize the enormity of what I’d done. For almost all my young life I had been listening to the Dalai Lama point out that the lives of all sentient beings are as important to them as our own life is to us. But how much attention had I paid to that on the one and only occasion I was out in the world?
As for the truth that all beings wish to be happy and to avoid suffering—that thought hadn’t crossed my mind while I was stalking the mouse. I had simply let instinct take over. Not for one moment had I considered my actions from the mouse’s point of view.
I was beginning to realize that just because an idea is simple, it isn’t necessarily easy to follow. Purring in agreement with high-sounding principles meant nothing unless I actually lived by them.
I wondered if His Holiness would be told my new “ordination name”—the grim reminder of the greatest folly of my young life. Would he be so horrified when he heard what I’d done that he would banish me from this beautiful haven forever?
Fortunately for me, the mouse recovered. And when His Holiness returned, he was immediately caught up in a series of meetings.
It wasn’t until late in the evening that he mentioned the subject. He had been sitting up in bed reading, before closing his book, removing his glasses, and placing them on the bedside table.
“They told me what happened,” he murmured, reaching over to where I was dozing nearby. “Sometimes our instinct, our negative conditioning, can be overpowering. Later we regret very much what we have done. But that is no reason to give up on yourself—the buddhas, they have not given up on you. Instead, learn from your mistake and move on. Like that.”
He turned out the bedside light, and as we both lay there in the darkness, I purred gently in appreciation.
“Tomorrow we start again,” he said.
The next day, His Holiness was going through the few pieces of mail his executive assistants had selected for his attention from the sackfuls that arrived every morning.
Holding up a letter and a book sent by the history professor from England, he turned to Chogyal, “This is very nice.”
“Yes, Your Holiness,” Chogyal agreed, studying the glossy cover of the book.
“I am not thinking about the book,” said His Holiness, “but the letter.”
“After reflecting on our conversation, the professor says he has stopped using snail bait on his roses. Instead, he now releases the snails over the garden wall.”
“Very good!” said Chogyal with a smile.
The Dalai Lama looked directly at me. “We liked meeting him, didn’t we?” I remembered that at the time, I had thought how deeply unenlightened the professor seemed. But after what I’d done yesterday, I was hardly one to judge.
“It shows that we all have the ability to change, doesn’t it, Mousie?”