The Dalai Lama: Leadership and the Power of Compassion

By Ginger Chih

My passion to document the Tibetan experience began when the Tibet Fund asked me to explore a photographic record of the worldwide Tibetan diaspora. This project appealed to me as a documentary photographer for nearly ten years, a student of Tibetan Buddhism and an international consultant and executive coach who had integrated Tibetan Buddhist philosophy into my work. I knew it was time for me to give something back to the Tibetan people, so I happily volunteered.

Fast forward to 2018…most mornings, the Dalai Lama receives a few hundred people in his residence courtyard in Dharamsala. On one such morning, the Dalai Lama spotted me, camera in hand, and asked “Who are you?” I explained that I was born in China, escaped after the communist takeover and grew up in Japan. I told him I had been photographing the exiled community for almost a decade and had been to all of the 24 major settlements in India and Nepal. He gave me a heartwarming smile and nodded.

I photographed the Dalai Lama numerous times over the course of three weeks, during which time, he kept an incredibly busy schedule. He taught, attended Long-Life Prayers, performed ordinations, hosted a Mind & Life Dialogue, and consulted State Oracles. At one point, he invited me to photograph him at home while meditating.

Although his attendants were quite friendly, it became clear that I had been granted rare access to His Holiness. As I looked through the camera’s viewfinder one foot away from the Dalai Lama, his visage changed from quiet serenity to focused concentration, illuminated by a simple grace. It was a privilege to witness him in meditation. It is my hope that through these photographs and stories, people will gain greater insight into the Dalai Lama, the rich Tibetan culture, and its value to the world.

Ginger’s book is now available in to read in the Jamyang Library and to buy from the Jamyang Bookshop.

All photo credits Ginger Chih