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Dalai-Lama: Mantras for the soul

Suzanne Cords db
July 6, 2020

The Dalai Lama releases his first music album on his 85th birthday, July 6. The Tibetan spiritual leader has a message about the 'real source of happiness.'

Dalai Lama I Album I Inner World
Image: picture-alliance/abaca

"The very purpose of my life is to serve as much as I can," the Tibetan spiritual leader said, adding that music has the potential to reach many more people with the message that the "real source of happiness is warm-heartedness and a concern for others." The Dalai Lama — born Lhamo Thondup, he is also called Tenzin Gyatso — made the remarks on the occasion of the release of Inner World. Scheduled for July 6, it is his first music album.

The spiritual power of a mantra

The album by the 14th Dalai Lama is intended as a gift to humanity. Five years in the making, it contains 11 tracks of teachings and well-known mantras set to music. In Hindu and Buddhist practice, mantras are sacred words or verses recited during meditation or prayer, meant to comfort and give spiritual strength. The album addresses the Dalai Lama's key concerns — courage, healing, wisdom, purification, protection and humanity.

"The Dalai Lama should be a world leader"

On the CD, the Buddhist leader personally intones the mantras. For his followers, this has already proven to be a very special meditative experience. On one track, Compassion – released in advance and available online – the Dalai Lama recites the ancient universal mantra of love and compassion "Om Mani Padme Hum" (The jewel is in the lotus). 

Users responded quickly on social media. The mantra has a completely different meaning when spoken by him, one user writes, and another says the Dalai Lama "should be the leader of the world." Another describes the track as "a little gentleness in this hard world."

Support in tough times

Inspired by the New Zealand musician Junelle Kunin, a long-time student, the Dalai Lama hopes that Inner World can give people confidence in world shaken by crises. She wrote to him that such an album could surely help people deal with emotional stress. The album was produced by Kunin and her husband Abraham, who composed the music, and on it, joins other musicians from around the world in playing more than 30 instruments. And of course, there is the Dalai Lama's voice.

From the Tibetan throne to exile

Who knows better than this man how difficult life can be? The son of a poor Tibetan peasant family was not even two years old when Buddhist monks recognized in him the rebirth of the 13th Dalai Lama. They believed the soul of the Buddha lived on in the child. On February 22, 1940, Lhamo Dhondup ascended the throne and was given his monk name, Tenzin Gyatso. In 1950, when he reached the age of 15, he was proclaimed spiritual and secular leader of Tibet. That same year, the Chinese army marched in. In 1959, the occupiers brutally crushed an uprising by the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama fled into exile to India, where he still lives today.

Monks in robs in a black and white photo, rifles lined up on the ground
After the insurrection in Tibet in 1959, the monks lay down their arms Image: Getty Images/AFP

Non-violent resistance

Long leading a government in exile from Dharamsala, he has meanwhile relinquished his office but continues to be driven by the vision of one day giving his people a self-determined life in freedom: not through armed rebellion but through non-violent resistance. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama is revered across the globe unlike any other leader since Mahatma Gandhi. China, however, sees him as a "wolf in sheep's clothing," a separatist and evil enemy of the state.

Robed protester, colorful flags, a picture of thet Dalai Lama and city backdrop
Exiled Tibetans demonstrated in Brussels against the oppression of their countrymen in 2012Image: DW

When the Dalai Lama celebrates his 85th birthday on July 6 and launches his first CD, followers and admirers all over the world will be able to listen to the mantras. Only the people in his native Tibet will not.