What would it be like to be mentored by the Dalai Lama XIV?
Short Summary of the Dalai Lama’s Biography
According to the Official Website, “the Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet; (...) Bodhisattvas are realized beings inspired by a wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings, who have vowed to be reborn in the world to help humanity” (2020).
I am so extremely thrilled to be able to write this paper on what it would be like to be mentored by the Dalai Lama XIV. The Dalai Lama is not only the spiritual (and temporal up to 2011) leader of the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, he is also a deeply admired international speaker and recipient of numerous awards including the Nobel Peace Prize (The Official Website, 2020).
Although, the amount of hardship and turmoil that His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV has surmounted in this lifetime is unimaginable to most citizens of the Western world, his patient, compassionate, and optimistic demeanour continues to serve as a tonic for deep metaphorical wounds of our modern society.
“The Tibetan word for meditation, gom, means ‘to become familiar with’: familiar with how the mind works, how it creates and shapes our perceptions of ourselves and the world, how the outer layers of mind – the constructed labels – function like clothing that identifies our social identities and cloaks our naked, nonfabricated state of original mind, whether that outwear consists of business suits, jeans, uniforms, or Buddhist robes” (Mingyur Rinpoche, 2019).
Chronologically speaking, the Dalai Lama XIV was born in 1935 and named Lhamo Thondup, meaning “Wish-Fulfilling Goddess” (Dalai Lama XIV, 1990). One of the fundamental concepts of Buddhism is karma, which explains the interdependence of cause and effect of all phenomenon. According to this doctrine, venerated spiritual masters have great influence over their rebirth cycles. At the age of two, Lhamo Thondup has been recognized as a tulku – reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama XIII (The Official Website, 2020).
His Holiness began his formal education in Buddhist studies in 1941 and he graduated with Geshe Lharampa degree - the highest doctorate in 1959 (Dalai Lama XIV, 1990). Unfortunately, his childhood has been disrupted when China invaded Tibet in 1950 and the Dalai Lama has been called to assume full political power at the age of fifteen.
In 1959, following a “brutal suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, His Holiness was forced to escape into exile, (...) [and] since then he had been living in Dharmasala, northern India” (The Official Website, 2020).
His Holiness fully democratized the Central Tibetan Administration in exile. On September 21, 1987; he proposed a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet as follows:
1. “Transforming of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.
2. Abandonment of China’s population transfer policy that threatens the very existence of the Tibetans as people.
3. Respect for the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.
4. Restoration and protection of Tibet’s natural environment and the abandonment of China’s use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping of nuclear waste.
5. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples.”
Fast forward to 2020, the Dalai Lama XIV has traveled to more than 67 countries and “received over 150 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes, etc., in recognition of his message of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion; (...) he has also authored or co-authored more than 110 books”. The Dalai Lama XIV has also “engaged in a dialogue with modern scientists, mainly in the field of psychology, neurobiology, quantum physics and cosmology, [which] has led to a historic collaboration between Buddhist monks and world-renowned scientists in trying to help individuals achieve peace of mind” (The Official Website, 2020).
Critical Discussion of the Dalai’s Lama’s Teachings
Early in January 2020 I have been reviewing the curriculum for my Strategic Leadership MBA course. For the midterm assignment, we were supposed to pick a leader whom we would love to have as a mentor. I knew without a doubt who would that be.
As I started preparing for my assignment, I gathered about a dozen or so books. Some on the historical biography of the Dalai Lama, some on the Buddhist philosophy, and some on the broader topics of universal responsibility, leadership and global ethics. When the books got shipped from Amazon, I decided to start reading the Freedom in Exile first to better familiarize myself with the historical context of the Tibetan struggle.
When I came across a passage describing the Dalai Lama’s relationship with Chopon Khenpo, Master of the Kitchen in his residence, something stroke a deeper cord:
“When I was young, I developed a close attachment to the Master of Kitchen. So strong was it that he had to be in my sight at all times, even if it was only the bottom of his robe visible through a doorway or under the curtains which served as doors inside Tibetan houses. Luckily, he tolerated my behaviour. He was a kind and simple man, (...) not a very good storyteller, nor an enthusiastic playmate, but this did not matter one bit.
I have often wondered since about our relationship. I see it now as being like the bond between a kitten or some small animal and the person who feeds it. I sometimes think that the act of bringing food is one of the basic roots of all relationships.”
I had to leave my reading here as I was heading to a yoga class that day. After the class, I was speaking with my yoga and mindfulness instructor Rameen Peyrow, the founder of the SATTVA School of Yoga, about the concept of living and dying. I have asked him that day about how to overcome the fear of death in order to experience deeper and more profound meditative states, which he explained quite profoundly.
Also, it is worth noting here for more context, that I recently have started an advanced meditative seminar from the relatively new Awakening Your Light Body lineage out of Oregon (which I have been practicing for the last sixteen years) on Assimilating Light: Knowing Your Nature as Light, which provides for strong energetic transmissions and techniques, without a lot of philosophical nor dogmatic background (Orin & DaBen, 2020). Essentially, the premise of this seminar was discovering my authentic spark, or energetic light signature underneath the conditioning of our current reality.
On my way back home from the yoga class that day, I went to pick up some fresh flowers. As I was driving, I started to experience a deeper intuitive knowing that my past life has been linked to Tibet. Bits and pieces of scattered information floated into my awareness with more clarity, forming a more cohesive story line. I remembered the time when I was meditating in Rameen’s class a few months prior and experienced myself as an accomplished Tibetan master. “Is this because our subconscious mind is connected to different times and different people?”, I have asked him back then. I have also remembered my sincere worry from a long-forgotten dream where I was overseeing kitchen operations and a little boy got badly burned from playing around splattering oil.
When I got home, a deep sense of gratitude and sadness has overwhelmed me. I was so fortunate to have my precious life. I looked around my beautiful condo and all of my possessions thinking that my status in the world and the material wealth are more than I ever deserved, given my past merits and the current and historical struggles of the Tibetan nation. For some reason, I also started listening to a song I coincidentally downloaded the night before on repeat – Don’t Panic by Coldplay (Appendix 2).
“What will you do in the bardo?” Mingyur Rinpoche asked his readers, referring to “the bardo of becoming, the stage between dying and rebirth – an intermediate period fraught with difficulties for those who have cultivated no mental equanimity in this lifetime” (2019).
There was a knock at my door, another Amazon delivery. Soon, I was holding another book in my hands The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, except I could not exactly recall ordering it. Apparently, “the greatest value of dreams is in the context of the spiritual journey, (...) most importantly, they may be used as a spiritual practice in themselves” (Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, 1998). I was astounded to learn that many of the skills we learn in our dream state can be very well applied to our wakening reality.
A couple of days later, I had a vivid dream that I was standing on the peak of a beautiful snowy mountain directly across from His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV, surrounded by other powerful monks. The Dalai Lama XIV explained to me how to glide from peak to peak using my intent, but when I was about to jump, my cat Mango woke me up. Before I woke up, he also asked me to pray for him, since he has already been praying for me.
In my opinion, the most important teaching that the Dalai Lama is imparting on the current world are undoubtedly his Kalachakra empowerments. Although, the Dalai Lama XIV distinguishes many venerable paths to enlightenment, such as Hinayana and Mahayana, the Vajrayana path resonates with me the most. Vajrayana teachings are classified as a door to Unexcelled Yoga Tantra. It has been designed for practitioners with specific types of predispositions because of its gnostic aspect, also understood as the attainment of knowledge through direct experience (The Official Website, 2020).
The last time I was in Oregon for a live Awakening Your Light Body meditation seminar, my intent was to understand clearly my career direction. At the time I was working as a Human Resources Manager and studying psychology and business part time. During the second day of meditating in a conference room basement at that seminar, I had the most profound gnostic experience. I perceived the Spirit of Peace and the Spirit of Compassion blending together into a most exquisite energy pattern, I then experienced my physical body as an empty vessel overflowing with this ocean of energy and transmitting it out to every corner of the world. All I could hear was ‘world peace’.
Coincidentally, the Kalachakra dharma that I randomly stumbled upon by picking out a ‘forbidden’ book for initiates only from the library of Gaden Samten Ling Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society / Alberta Centre for Peace and Meditation where I was doing my research for this project, symbolizes “The Wheel of Time” and can be understood in the aspects of its outer, inner, and other manifestations (Mullin, 2013). Essentially, it is a blueprint for creating an enlightened society on Earth, as mirrored by the mythical enlightened society of Shambhala... as above, so below. In other words, it is a blueprint for creating world peace. In the five books I randomly picked out from the library was also the Lam Rim textbook by Tsong-Kha-Pa that the sangha (community) is currently using for their weekly practice, but that’s another story.
A few days later, I have been following my dream yoga practice and before falling asleep, I asked again for a deeper intuitive understanding of my dharma here (life purpose / teachings) (Dalai Lama XIX, 2018). Right before I woke up the next morning, I had a dream of getting ready to go to work at Starbucks, except that everyone there was fully enlightened! I suppose the message was that everything I do is a spiritual practice to benefit all sentient beings.
My only criticism of this exercise, of trying to comprehend what it would be like being mentored by the Dalai Lama XIV is the non-linear aspect of the teachings, as well as the overwhelming scope of my dharma here. I am just an ordinary person. I run a Human Resources Consulting firm, Elevate Potential, and I am developing a Mindful Leadership training for my clients (elevatepotential.org). Are we indeed in a process of creating an enlightened society, is that truly the vision here? How do we get there?
Strategic Leadership Application
“Who are you now? Where are you now?” we were encouraged to ask ourselves at the beginning of our Strategic Leadership MBA course, since the answer may change as we go deeper into self-inquiry (Study Guide, 2020). These are very good questions, and I am grateful for the answers that I have received thus far.
Fast forward to 2020, His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV was addressing Tibetan and Chinese students in New York via a webcast from India on Secular Ethics and Universal Responsibility in which he emphasised the importance of developing compassion and inner peace by training the mind. Although Mintzberg et al. seem to suggest that “it might be easier to collaborate with enemies than friends”, in my opinion this is easier said that done! (1996).
Dr. Warren Bennis suggests that true leadership is measured by “how one copes with and overcomes adversity” (2005). If this is accurate, then I cannot think of a more exemplary leader than His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV. “We know from research on transformational leadership that at the core of effective leadership is the creation of values which inspire, provide meaning for, and instill a sense of purpose in an organization’s members” (Conger, 1991).
Owen et al. further explain that “transformational leaders identify their own values and those of people in the organisation to guide their actions, thus developing a shared, conscious way of behaving and acting; (...) power is distributed because these leaders do not see it as being limited, but extendable” (2004). The Dalai Lama XIV clearly demonstrates his concern for liberating all sentient beings through his emphasis on universal responsibility and ethics (2008).
Hughes et al. prescribe that: “strategic thinking should be understood as a collective, or social, process that includes diverse perspectives from both inside and outside the organization” (2014). Furthermore, Schoemaker describes that: “strategic leaders must be adept at finding common ground and achieving buy-in among stakeholders who have disparate views and agendas (2013). In my opinion, this ability to align divergent ideas, is perhaps the most astonishing observable skill that His Holiness is currently utilizing. He has been involved in many difficult conversations with dignitaries, scientists, religious leaders, an everyday people; winning respect on all fronts.
“Collaborative leadership is the capacity to engage people and groups outside one’s formal control and inspire them to work toward common goals – despite differences in convictions, cultural values, and operating norms” (Ibarra & Hansen 2011).
Furthermore, Patterson et al. describe the skill of influencing into following steps: finding vital behavious, changing minds, overcoming reluctance by connecting to values, learning new skills and emotions, partnering with opinion leaders, modestly and intelligently rewarding early success, harnessing the visible and invisible power of the environment, and implementing multiple sources of influence (2008). Perhaps this is the exact prescription of His Holiness’s success? Should I follow it then?
All in all, the amount of optimism and charisma that the Dalai Lama XIV transmits through his teachers is unsurpassed, in my humble opinion.
Leadership Lessons and Takeaways
I am deeply grateful and honored to have the profound ability to spend time lately contemplating Buddhist philosophy and ideals. As I wrote down in my dream journal:
“We are saddened that the world runs on hasty policy...
...and we are saddened that the laws are not being followed...
...but let’s reinstate Tibet to its true power that it once was...
...for the benefit of all.”
As Bennis describes, to be a leader is to “be a dreamer with their eyes wide open, (...) a pragmatic realist” (2005). The pragmaticism becomes important here, because “we need to find the link between our traditions and our present experience of life; (...) nowness, or the magic of the present moment, is what joins the wisdom of the past with the present” (Trungpa, 2007).
His Holiness describes that “it is the task of the leader to create a company with a strong and warm heart and to see things as they really are” (Dalai Lama XIV, 2008). Perhaps, I will be blessed in this lifetime to create an influential movement encouraging business leaders to learn about and utilize mindfulness at work. After all, in today’s economy, organizations need a social license to operate, which means that corporate social responsibility is the key to their long-term success (Sexty, 2017).
The findings of my MBA Applied Project thesis were already very encouraging. I was able to “integrate research from neuroscience and neuroleadership, human capital movement, management theory, leadership coaching theory, and social and industrial psychology; in order to expand our understanding of the potential benefits of mindfulness training on work performance” (Bil, 2019).
Currently, a per my Human Resources Consulting website (2020):
“Elevate Potential positions itself as a strategic business partner in bringing the newest human capital trends, best practices, and research; to support clients in achieving an engaged and productive workforce.
Our mission is to provide innovative and strategic human resources solutions that help organizations unleash their full performance potential.
Our values are trust, peace, and compassion.”
Perhaps I should work on rephrasing that vision and mission statement to indicate the intent of creating a more peaceful world through mindful leadership training? Would that be appropriately aligned with where my clients are currently at though? In order to achieve proper buy in, “success depends on proactive communication, trust building, and frequent engagement” (Schoemaker, 2013). Perhaps I should also consider taking a change management course?
Senge describes that “at its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question, ‘What do we want to create?’” (2006). So, in terms of leadership lessons and takeaways from this assignment so far, I definitely experienced more clarity around where I need to focus my energy, which is great. The Dalai Lama XIV instructs us that “living ethically requires not only the conscious adoption of an ethical outlook but also a commitment to developing and applying inner values in our daily lives” (2011). Thus, my aspirations are already lifted.
In terms of takeaways relating to my further personal and professional development, I have to admit that it requires great confidence to be able to teach mindfulness. Perhaps, I need to develop more compassion for myself to first realize that I do not need to be perfect all the time to be able to help others. In fact, understanding the depths of human struggles and fallibilities may enable me to provide more helpful teachings from experience. However, it is definitely clear that I could benefit from some public speaking classes to become a better storyteller.
Also, I have realized that I know so very little about Tibetan Buddhist tradition and philosophy. Therefore, as for preliminary practices, I signed up for a Lam Rim course with Kushok Lobsang Dhamchöe at the Gaden Samten Ling Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society / Alberta Centre for Peace and Meditation in February - March, 2020 based on the Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand book by Pabongka Rinpoche. I know that Kushok was also given advanced Kalachakra empowerments by the Dalai Lama, but he is currently visiting His Holiness in India and I haven’t had the pleasure of actually meeting him yet. I am not aware of Kushok giving any empowerments to students before, hence my interest in potentially travelling to Mongolia this summer to study and practice with Khentrul Rinpoche.
Khentrul Rinpoche has been inspired by His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s XIV effort to initiate so many students at different karmic levels into the Kalachakra lineage, and “he is creating the conditions for lay practitioners to realize the heart essence of these profound teachings in this lifetime and usher in the golden age of peace and harmony” (Tibetan Buddhist Rime Institute, 2020).
All in all, it is quite humbling to know that “we are born free of religion, but we are not born free of the need for compassion” (Dalai Lama XIV, 2011). According to Khentrul Rinpoche ‘Kalachakra is very detailed in giving insight and direction to help anyone of any religious tradition realize their true nature, (...) this teaching helps us move past habitual limitations to unleash our limitless potential of love and compassion” (Tibetan Buddhist Rime Institute, 2020).
Therefore, based on what I understand, I would like to believe that our human nature is inheritably good, and that we have the potential to transform the planet in a positive way. I am eager and inspired to work hard to fulfil this vision and to follow the guidance of my intuition one step at a time. Who knows where this path will lead me, perhaps I will be lucky enough to even receive the Kalachakra empowerments from the Dalai Lama XIV himself in this lifetime, or at least to meet him in person as well?
To conclude, here is an excerpt from the Dalai Lama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
“No matter what part of the world we come from, fundamentally we are all the same human beings. We all seek happiness and want to avoid suffering. We all have essentially the same needs and similar concerns. As human beings, we all want to be free, to have the right to decide our own destiny as individuals as well as the destiny of or people. This is human nature.
The problems that confront us today are created by men, whether they are violent conflicts, destruction of the environment, poverty, or hunger. These problems can be resolved thanks to human efforts, by understanding that we are brothers and sisters and by developing this sense of fraternity. We must cultivate a universal responsibility towards each other and extend it to the planet that we have to share.
I feel optimistic that the ancient values that have sustained mankind are reaffirming themselves today, preparing the way for a better, happier twenty-first century.
I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, so that together we can succeed in building a better world through mutual understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings” (Dalai Lama XIV and Strill-Rever, 2009).
Bil, L. (2019). Mindful Leadership. Athabasca University Faculty of Business.
Conger, J. A. (1991). Inspiring others: The language of leadership. The Executive, 5(1), 31-45.
Dalai Lama XIV. (1990). Freedom in Exile – the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama. HarperOne Publishing.
Dalai Lama XIV and Van Den Muyzenberg, L. (2008). The Leader’s Way – the Art of Making the Right Decisions in Our Careers, Our Companies, and the World at Large. Broadway Books. New York.
Dalai Lama XIV and Strill-Rever, S. (2009). My Spiritual Journey – Personal Reflections, Teachings, and Talks. HarperOne. An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Dalai Lama XIV. (2011). Beyond Religion – Ethics for a Whole World. Signal. McClelland & Stewart.
Dalai Lama XIV. (2018). The Complete Foundation. The Systematic Approach to Training the Mind. Shambhala Boulder.
Dalai Lama XIV. (2020). Secular Ethics and Universal Responsibility Webcast. Retrieved from: youtube.com
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Ibarra, H., & Hansen, M. T. (2011). Are you a collaborative leader? Harvard Business Review, 89(7/8), 68-74.
Tibetan Buddhist Rime Institute. Holder of Jonang Kalachakra. (2020) Kalachakra Tantra Pilgrimage to Mongolia. Retrieved from rimebuddhism.com
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1. Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra Flower. Retrieved from adobe.stock.com/ca
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3. Mindfulness Research Publications by Year. 1980 - 2018. Retrieved from researchgate.net
1. Words of Truth
2. Coldplay, Don’t Panic (song lyrics)
Words of Truth
A Prayer Composed by:
His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet
Honoring and Invoking the Great Compassion
of the Three Jewels; the Buddha, the Teachings,
and the Spiritual Community
O Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and disciples
of the past, present, and future:
Having remarkable qualities
Immeasurably vast as the ocean,
Who regard all helpless sentient beings
as your only child;
Please consider the truth of my anguished pleas.
Buddha's full teachings dispel the pain of worldly
existence and self-oriented peace;
May they flourish, spreading prosperity and happiness through-
out this spacious world.
O holders of the Dharma: scholars
and realized practitioners;
May your ten fold virtuous practice prevail.
Humble sentient beings, tormented
by sufferings without cease,
Completely suppressed by seemingly endless
and terribly intense, negative deeds,
May all their fears from unbearable war, famine,
and disease be pacified,
To freely breathe an ocean of happiness and well-being.
And particularly the pious people
of the Land of Snows who, through various means,
Are mercilessly destroyed by barbaric hordes
on the side of darkness,
Kindly let the power of your compassion arise,
To quickly stem the flow of blood and tears.
Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion,
Maddened by delusion's evils,
wantonly destroy themselves and others;
May they achieve the eye of wisdom,
knowing what must be done and undone,
And abide in the glory of friendship and love.
May this heartfelt wish of total freedom for all Tibet,
Which has been awaited for a long time,
be spontaneously fulfilled;
Please grant soon the good fortune to enjoy
The happy celebration of spiritual with temporal rule.
O protector Chenrezig, compassionately care for
Those who have undergone myriad hardships,
Completely sacrificing their most cherished lives,
bodies, and wealth,
For the sake of the teachings, practitioners,
people, and nation.
Thus, the protector Chenrezig made vast prayers
Before the Buddhas and Bodhisativas
To fully embrace the Land of Snows;
May the good results of these prayers now quickly appear.
By the profound interdependence of emptiness
and relative forms,
Together with the force of great compassion
in the Three Jewels and their Words of Truth,
And through the power
of the infallible law of actions and their fruits,
May this truthful prayer be unhindered
and quickly fulfilled.
This prayer, Words of Truth, was composed by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, on 29 September 1960 at his temporary headquarters in the Swarg Ashram at Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal State, India. This prayer for restoring peace, the Buddhist teachings, and the culture and self-determination of the Tibetan people in their homeland was written after repeated requests by Tibetan government officials along with the unanimous consensus of the monastic and lay communities.
Coldplay – Don’t Panic (song lyrics)
Bones sinking like stones
All that we've fought for
Homes, places we've grown
All of us are done for
We live in a beautiful world
Yeah, we do
Yeah, we do
We live in a beautiful world
Bones sinking like stones
All that we've fought for
Homes, places we've grown
All of us are done for
We live in a beautiful world
Yeah, we do
Yeah, we do
We live in a beautiful world
We live in a beautiful world
Yeah, we do
Yeah, we do
We live in a beautiful world
Oh, all that I know
There's nothing here to run from
Everybody here's got somebody to lean on