Feline spirituality

Feline spirituality
The Power of Meow
David Michie
Hay House
2015, pp 199, Rs 399

This book is one of a series, and is based on the life of His Holiness’s Cat (HHC) whom the Dalai Lama chooses to call his “Little Snow Lion”. The title appears to be a take-off from Eckhart Tolle’s spiritual guidebook, The Power of Now, and starts with a surprising quotation from Tolle, “I have lived with several Zen masters, all of them cats!” In the 1960s, there was an interesting and informative book called Living with the Lama.

In it, the Siamese cat, which has lived with the Lama Lobsang Rampa for 25 years, is supposed to have transmitted its thoughts to the Lama, who in turn writes them down, resulting in this novelty of a book. Though the author, David Michie, a Buddhist practitioner and motivational speaker, has made no such claims to clairvoyance, one wonders if he drew his inspiration from this book in the Rampa series.

HHC is a cat with an attitude who speaks of being “gorgeous beyond words…a global celebrity” etc., yet her observations make for exciting reading, as they move from the temporal to the spiritual, even for someone who is not exactly a cat lover! In the prologue, HHC shares her familiar-sounding dilemmas about mastering the art of meditation and mindfulness. She writes about how when her mind has just settled down to focusing on her breath, it shifts to thinking “about Mrs Trinci’s diced chicken liver,” or the discomfort in her hind legs.  Mrs Trinci is introduced as a chef to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and as the story progresses, other absorbing characters also make their entries, with their life stories providing valuable backdrops to the main theme.

A lot of the book is about learning the art of meditation, as taught to both humans and HHC, by the Dalai Lama himself. The comparison to the fleas that cats suffer from and the flea-infested minds of humans, which leads to great mental agitation and holds them back from practising mindfulness, is original. The beneficial effects of meditation are also dwelt upon at length, quite often in the words of the Dalai Lama, like “When we are mindful, we have more peace, more happiness. Greater freedom.” It is a revelation that both “meditation” and “medication” come from the root Latin word, medeor, which means “to heal” and “to make whole.”

There are some funny interludes in the book, as when HHC strays into a room and perches on the lap of His Holiness, when he is giving a television interview and becomes a global celebrity. There is another humorous occasion, when in a conversation on Skype with the Vatican, HHC pops in, only to find a dog on the screen who introduces himself as His Holiness’s Dog. No prizes for guessing that the dog belongs to the Pope!

One can’t have a story without a villain. Even those angles have been touched upon with HHC and Serena, another of the main characters, facing their share of problems. Needless to say, good triumphs over evil and the reader is not disappointed. The issue of prejudice is also dealt with through the eyes of HHC, who overcomes misplaced suspicion and learns to trust. Michie uses HHC to dwell on various human emotions, especially the negative ones, and offers solutions to overcome them.

Themes like rebirth keep recurring since they make up an essential part of Buddhism. The author is to be credited for weaving such a delightful story whilst dealing with serious topics like mindfulness and meditation. He has made them easy to grasp, even by those who are new to Buddhism. For old practitioners too, there is much to offer in the sense of being able to revise one’s knowledge and gain further insights on a subject of unending depth.

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