How I Became Friends with the Dalai Lama
Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama
May 16, 2016
A Happy Accident
Like most other important events in my life, meeting the Dalai Lama was not a deliberate choice, but an accident. I avoided anything about him, regarding the interest in the Dalai Lama as just another bay area cult like Synanon. But when my then 15-year-old daughter Eve came back from trekking in the Himalayas for a month, the teacher that provided this trip placed each of the 15-year-olds with a refugee family in Kathmandu, Nepal. This lit Eve’s interest in the plight of the Tibetan refugees.
I knew that the Dalai Lama was meeting with small groups of scientists at his palace and if invited, you could bring a silent observer. Thinking this would be a treat for Eve, I submitted my name, we were invited and we went.
From nearly the first moment that we met, I had a déjà vu experience, as if I had known the Dalai Lama all my life, as if he were the brother I never had. This seemed very strange to me; I later learned from the Dalai Lama that he had the same feeling. He did not regard this at all strange because of his belief in reincarnation. We could have known each other in a previous incarnation.
Since that first meeting, we have met for a total of about fifty hours over the course of five meetings, for intense one on one conversations. They have been enormous fun, challenging, intellectually provocative, and have opened my mind to now believe that just because I can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Some of our discussions are reported in our book Emotional Awareness, others are contained on my website www.paulekman.com, if you click on the Dalai Lama drop down menu on my website you will be able to access our video discussions. You will also be able to see the project, which Eve and I completed at the Dalai Lama’s request, the Atlas of Emotions. Health permitting (mine, his is excellent) I expect to see him again at the beginning of the summer.