The Dalai Lama’s Cat – David Michie



“My little ‘bodhi catva,’”
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 my deep-throated purr.
“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.”
“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!”
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.
Snow lions are celestial animals in Tibet, representing unconditional happiness.
Moving between Jokhang and Café Franc more and more often, I began to see that up the hill, happiness was sought by cultivating inner qualities, beginning with mindfulness but also including such things as generosity, equanimity, and a good heart. Down the hill, happiness was sought from external things— restaurant food, stimulating holidays, and lightning-quick technology.
Her husband nodded. “Only sometimes these concepts get lost in translation. You come across people like the maître d’ here, who wears Buddhism like a badge. For them it’s an extension of their ego, a way to present themselves as different or special. They seem to think it’s all about the external trappings, when in fact the only thing that really matters is inner transformation.”
The danger is that self-development can lead us to more self-cherishing, self-absorption, self-infatuation. And these are not true causes of happiness but the opposite.”
“We each need to find out our own personal methods of cultivating happiness, but there are general principles. Two main true causes of happiness: first, the wish to give happiness to others, which Buddhists define as love, and second, the wish to help free others from dissatisfaction or suffering, which we define as compassion.
“The main shift, you see, is from placing self at the center of our thoughts to putting others there . It is— what do you say?— a paradox that the more we can focus our thoughts on the well-being of others, the happier we become. The first one to benefit is oneself. I call this being wisely selfish.”
If we are wise, the greatest problems can lead to the greatest insights.”
… whatever wealth or success one enjoys in the present moment arises from previous generosity, not from hard work, or taking risks, or pursuing opportunities that are conditions rather than causes.”
A trail of psychological breadcrumbs, if you will, or perhaps, more accurately, a trail of flaked salmon.
But she was in full , Wagnerian flow.
 “When our understanding of something deepens to the point that it changes our behavior, in the Dharma we call this a realization.
 “As much as possible, it is useful to think of all other beings as being just like me. Every living being strives for happiness. Every being wants to avoid all forms of suffering. They are not just objects or things to be used for our benefit. You know, Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ Interesting, isn’t it?”
 “In the Dharma, there is no place for guilt. Guilt is useless. It is pointless to feel bad about something in the past that we can’t change. But regret? Yes. This is more useful. Do you both feel sincere regret for what you did?”
As Raj Goel was venting his spleen, Tenzin happened to walk past.

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