Visiting the home of the Dalai Lama

Three days from now, my wife and I will be flying to Delhi, with 20 high school students in tow.

Dalai Lama

We’ll stay overnight, and then shoot up to Dharamsala, India on a night train, to the place where the Dalai Lama took refuge in 1959, when the Chinese government made escaping from Tibet, the only viable option for His Holiness.

I’ve written a couple of (some would say) odd letters in my time.  Asking Warren Buffett if I could sleep in his garage was right up there.  Incidentally, I did meet the great man (despite sleeping at one of Omaha’s Holiday Inn’s)  and I was interviewed by CNBC’s Becky Quick

There was a lesson there:  do something a bit off the wall, and you can earn your 15 minutes of fame. 

But somehow, writing to the Dalai Lama was stranger. 

First of all, how do you address a guy like that?  And I find it so odd that so much pomp and ceremony goes into meeting such a humble servant of Buddhism. 

Sure…I recognize that he’s the holiest Buddhist figure of them all, but there’s also something so casual and unassuming about him.  He’s the kind of guy, from what I’ve seen and read, that most of us would comfortably enjoy having over for dinner.  Call me sappy, but there’s something really “huggable” about the guy.

Unfortunately, His Holiness is going to be out of town for a month during our visit.  So I’ll miss two of my heroes during the same week. 

Investment legend, Michael O’Higgins will be stopping by Singapore during his annual round-the-world trip, so I’ll miss having a drink with him while I’m trekking in Northern India.

But how can I complain?  My wife and I will be with 20 great kids, trekking in some of the world’s most majestic landscape.

During that time, I won’t have access to the internet, so I’ve written a series of posts to publish while I’m away.

I won’t be able to answer questions or comments for about a week.  But I should have a story or two to share when I get back.

Photo by: Luca Galuzzi –

Andrew Hallam

I’m a financial columnist for Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, as well as for AssetBuilder, a financial service firm based in Texas. I’m also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School and Millionaire Expat: How To Build Wealth Living Overseas. My mission is to educate, motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and best practices for investing, using evidence-based strategies. I'm happy to comment on your questions.

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12 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Hey Andrew,

    This was good to read for a change. Do you have room for 1 other "kid"? Please post some pics of the trip. I have this on my 100 things to do list.


  2. @Mike

    Hey Mike,

    When I get back, I'll post pictures and let you know what the organizer was like:

  3. Kat W. says:


    I hate to say it, but Westerners have a somewhat misguided view of the Dalai Lama. In truth his media image does not convey the heavy hand with which he rules the exile community and the rest of his followers. If you want to see videos and documents that show more about his illegal ban on a Buddhist practice, his secret requests for arms, and other eye opening things, please check out Thank you!

  4. John Gault says:

    I would agree with you that mainstream media's depiction of the Dalai Lama is almost always as a sympathetic figure, and you could also argue his handling by political figures on both sides of the Pacific at times makes it appear as if he is merely a pawn in some larger Sino-U.S. global arm-wrestling competition which no side wants to lose.

    However, his stance on the Dorje Shugden does not an evil man make. The Dalai Lama is a religious figure asked his opinion on whether or not he believes another human was a deity or a merely a human. Westerners would have trouble even participating in this argument…is it comparable to the claim that Hercules' dad was Zeus himself, more similar to the early Church battles (see Council of Nicaea) over whether or not Christ was the son of God, or akin to the annual school-yard tiff over whether Santa Claus was a saint that once helped out the poor or merely just a children's myth created to justify three weeks off of school? Bottom line…I'm staying out of all these arguments…I'll leave the convincing of the masses on what to believe to the army of "statesmen and philosophers and divines."

    For me, my issue is with the depiction of the Dalai Lama…here are his main reasons for disagreeing with the veneration of the Dorje Shugden 1) worship of the Dorje Shugden leads to sectarian conflict/violence – people focusing more on how we are different than how we are the same, 2) worshiping a spirit is not Buddhism. Siddharta Gautama was prince who suggested 8 ways to reduce suffering; he was not a deity, didn't want to be treated as such; subsequent mortals that claim to be deities should likewise be approached with trepidation, 3) China supports the Shugden cult to hurt the cause of Tibet (yes…both sides of course have evidence that affirms or disputes this claim).

    Now…if I was to buy the book referenced in the website, it would undoubtedly provide all the "proof" that the Dalai Lama is an evil man trying to destroy a poor, innocent, powerless organization just trying to utilize their natural right of free speech.

    But even if the author's argument was as rock solid as the paper-trail argument Colin Powell presented to the United Nations eight years ago, I don't care.

    Judge the man by the body of his life's work…not by the "outliered" talking points assembled because they eventually might look good on a protest poster or might secure you an interview on an anti-liberal radio show. Westerners might not be fully informed, but misguided…I think they're doing OK.

  5. John Gault says:

    Oh…and Andrew…since I'm pretty sure you were just letting us know you were excited about taking a trip and not actually inviting a dialogue on the merit of one of your heroes…Have a great trip!

  6. Do most Easterners view the Dalai Lama differently to most Westerners Kat?

  7. @John Gault

    That's a very impressive response John. True, I was just writing about a trip I was taking, but I'm very curious now, to see if Kat has anything to add. Still out there Kat?

  8. Have a safe trip Andrew, come back safely!

  9. Looking forward to seeing some photos of the trip! I recently watched 7 years in Tibet again and found the story quite compelling. Tibet & India are places I would both like to visit someday.

  10. I'm looking forward to reading your post(s) about the experience Andrew. Take pictures and share them with us when you get back. Travel safely!

  11. Definitely take as many pics as possible!

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