A Day in the Life of the Dalai Lama

The daily routine of one of the world’s most beloved religious leaders, as told by the Dalai Lama to Pico Iyer.

The Dalai Lama
5 July 2016
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Photo by Christine Guest.

Each time I receive some new teaching, that adds something to my daily practice. So nowadays, my daily recitation, compulsory, normally takes about four hours.

Usually I wake up at 3:30 in the morning. Then immediately I do some meditation, some exercise-prostrations-then bathe. Then a little walking outside. All this time I am reciting some mantra or doing some meditation. Then at 5:15, I breakfast and at 5:30 listen to the Voice of America Tibetan language broadcast. The BBC East Asia broadcast often mentions something about Tibet or China, so I usually listen to that.

After breakfast, I do some more meditation and then usually study some Tibetan philosophy or important texts. If there’s some urgent business I come here to my office, and sometimes before lunch I read newspapers and magazines-Newsweek, Time, Far Eastern Economic Review, some Indian newspapers.

Oh, yes. At 7:30 I always listen to the BBC world news. Always. I am addicted. When I visit some foreign country and I can’t listen to it because of the time change, or not having enough time, I really feel something is missing that day. I feel I don’t know what’s happened in the world. The BBC is always very good, and, I really feel, unbiased.

After my lunch I come here to my office until about 5:30. Then at 6:00 I have my evening tea-as a Buddhist monk, no dinner, sometimes just a few biscuits or some bread. At that time I always watch BBC television. Then evening meditation for about one hour and at 8:30, sleep. Most important meditation! Sleep is the common meditation for everyone-even for birds. The most important meditation. Not for nirvana, but for survival!

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the US Congressional Gold Medal. Unique in the world today, he is a statesman, national leader, spiritual teacher, and deeply learned theologian. He advocates a universal “religion of human kindness” that transcends sectarian differences. The Dalai Lama is universally respected as a spokesman for the peaceful and compassionate resolution of conflict. He has also been actively involved in bringing together Western scientists and Buddhist meditators, and is a founder of the Mind & Life Institute where such meetings of the minds can take place.