The Dalai Lama will spread his Buddhist teachings and mantras throughout his first-ever album Inner World on July 6, the same date as his 85th birthday, via Khandro Music and L.A. Reid’s HitCo Entertainment.
The Tibetan religious leader prepared 11 tracks that fuse music with mantras of seven Buddhas and conversations touching on wisdom, courage, healing and children, according to the Associated Press exclusive. He shared “Compassion,” one of the most famous Buddhist prayers, as the first “single” today (June 9), which calls listeners to open up their hearts and bring them closer to one another by feeling love and compassion through wisdom, according to his official website.
“Music has the potential to transcend our differences. It can return us to our true nature of warm-heartedness,” the Dalai Lama wrote on his website while announcing the new album, later explaining why he took on this artistic project. “The very purpose of my life is to serve as much as I can. Music can help people in a way that I can’t.”
Junelle Kunin, a musician, practicing Buddhist and longtime student of the Dalai Lama, first pitched the idea of the Dalai Lama releasing an album five years ago, and she’s been working on it ever since with her husband and fellow musician Abraham Kunin.
“I’d never heard him speak like this. He really was so excited… he actually proceeded to explain to me how important music is,” Junelle recalled from her 2015 trip to India when she petitioned for the album. “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.”
She said the long-term project unexpectedly arrived when the world needed to hear from the Dalai Lama most, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests following the racist murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and more Black people in America.
“The entire purpose of this project is to try to help people. It’s not a Buddhist project, it’s to help everyday people like myself, even though I am Buddhist,” Junelle said in the AP interview. “The messages couldn’t be more poignant for our current social climate and needs as humanity.”
The “Ama La” track features Grammy award-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar. The album also comes with a companion booklet filled with special insights behind each mantra by Venerable Robina Courtin and exclusive artwork from New Zealand duo Ella Brewer and Tiffany Singh that blends Tibetan and contemporary styles. Net proceeds from Inner World will benefit Mind & Life Institute and Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEE Learning), an international K-12 educational program the Dalai Lama developed with Emory University.
Listen to “Compassion” and check out the Inner World tracklist below.
Inner World tracklist:
1. “One Of My Favorite Prayers”
2. “The Buddha”
5. “Ama La” feat. Anoushka Shankar