His Holiness the Dalai Lama will celebrate his 85th birthday on 6 July, and part of the celebrations this year will include the release of His Holiness’s first music album, Inner World, an 11-track collection of mantras and teachings set to music.
Described as “decidedly New Age” by Jon Blistein of Rolling Stone, the album features flute, piano, deep drums, and dozens of other instruments accompanying harmonized teachings from the Dalai Lama, including the repeated Sanskrit mantra of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, “Om mani padme hum.” Also included in a guest appearance is the Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar—the daughter of Ravi Shankar—in the track “Ama La.”
The album is a collaboration between the Dalai Lama and the Auckland, New Zealand, couple Junelle and Abraham Kunin. Work on the project began in 2015 when Junelle’s second attempt to reach the Dalai Lama about an album was successful.
“I just passed a letter to his assistant and was like ‘you really have to give this to him—it’s really, really, really important,’” said Junelle, a long-time follower of the Dalai Lama. “I still kinda can’t believe he said yes to us.” (Newshub)
“I’d never heard him speak like this,” Junelle said. “He really was so excited . . . he actually proceeded to explain to me how important music is. He leaned forward and his eyes were sparkling, and his fingers were rubbing together, and he [talked] about how music can help people in a way that he can’t; it can transcend differences and return us to our true nature and our good heartedness.” (The National)
The recordings were first made in 2015, but the album has taken five years to fully complete. It has already brought peace to Junelle’s family, who have had to grieve the loss of her young nephew during the recent lockdown, when health measures made it impossible to be with him and one another in his final days. Junelle offered a copy for her sister to play for her son for comfort.
“She wrote and she said ‘you know, this album really fulfilled what you really hoped it to do, and it helped us in these last days and then hours of her son’s life,’” recounted Junelle. (Newshub)
Proceeds from the album will be donated the long-time cause of the Dalai Lama, the Mind & Life Institute, which was co-founded in 1991 by the His Holiness, along with R. Adam Engel and the late Francisco Varela. It will also support Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEE), an international education program launched by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia last year.*
Inner World track list
1. The Buddha
2. One Of My Favourite Prayers
5. Ama La
* Dalai Lama Presides Over Global Launch of Emory’s SEE Learning Program in New Delhi (Buddhistdoor Global)
Dalai Lama Preps Debut Album of Teachings and Mantras Set to Music (Rolling Stone)
Auckland couple collaborate with Dalai Lama for his first-ever album (Newshub)
Music and mantras: The Dalai Lama to release his first album ‘Inner World’ in July (The National)
Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (Emory University)
Mind and Life Institute