Shock of a Lifetime – My Dream Fulfilled Under the Buddha Tree

Bihar, India. I began working ‘in the field,’ out of New York in developing countries, in 1999. Never in two decades of helping humanity have I been more shocked that I was this week. On a tour of an important site, I was directed to notice a sign on the side of the road. It was a sign that my life work has moved to the next level…

Banyan Tree + Old ManThe Saraswati Bodhi Tree where Buddha meditated 2,500 years ago is the
unexpected site of the Luce Leadership Centre India. Photo: Stewardship Report.

I first came to Bihar, India’s poorest province, in 2012 to attend the Tibetan Buddhist Kalachakra and have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I am not Buddhist, but find a great calmness in Buddhism that settles my soul. I sat under the same banyan tree Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under, and heard of other trees in the area where he fasted.

IMG_8198Our Leadership Team in India is comprised of members of Lotus Charitable Trust
in Bihar, India, The J. Luce Foundation India and Nirvana NPO Japan.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

This year, I gave permission to a group of friends here to open The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation India, Inc. I have more brand than cash and I was struck by their vision and contributed what I could. This week I am back in Bodhgaya, Bihar to inspect their progress.

First, I was surprised to find a full storefront office in Bodhgaya fully staffed with volunteers.

The J. Luce Foundation India has launched two projects already: The Lotus Free
School and The Saraswati Leadership Centre India. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Then, overwhelmed with the progress they are making with a two-room temporary structure as they build a five-room with toilets and guest quarters at their Lotus Free School that opened with 75 students this summer and is doubling by 2020, with tremendous support from Nirvana NPO Japan and other Japanese funders.

But what made my mouth drop open, my heart skip a beat, a feeling of incredulousness, a pinch-me-this-can’t-be happening moment was when we stopped along a dirt road returning from the school at an enormous banyan tree – one which Lord Buddha sat under 2,500 years ago. Serene. Cool in the shade. Inspirational.

We then crossed the street and walked a few feet down the road. Look in the bushes, I was instructed. This is what I saw!

IMG_8193Unbeknownst to me, the Board of J. Luce Foundation India obtained a 99-year
lease across the road from the Saraswati Bodhi Tree. Photo: Stewardship Report.

How on earth had they done that?! When my mother inspired me to create Orphans International Worldwide, we began Raising Young Global Leaders. My father inspired me to create the J. Luce Foundation, Supporting Young Global Leaders. And in 2018, in Jamaica, we began Educating Young Global Leaders. 

Our Luce Leadership Centre in India will be in the shadow of the Saraswati banyan tree. I received the shock of a lifetime and my dream has become fulfilled under Lord Buddha’s tree.

Saraswasti v.3 copyInitial plan for the Saraswati Luce Leadership Centre India in Bodhgaya, Bihar.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce ( writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (, he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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