The Dalai Lama and Dr. Kazuko: A 47-Year Friendship

Dharamshala, India. Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura and I had an audience with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, India, yesterday. They have been friends for almost fifty years; she was the first to bring Tibetan cultural performances to the U.S. and invite H.H. to tour Japan. Looking back, they were then 35 and 32; today, he is 84 and she 81. Old friends, indeed.

_DSC4926 copy 2Dr. Kazuko introducing the author to His Holiness the Dalai Lama
in Dharamshala, India, 2019. Photo: Stewardship Report.

His Holiness embraced Dr. Kazuko warmly, holding their heads together. He seemed tired but strong and pleased to see her again. Dr. Kazuko pledged to live until 113, the age his Holiness has declared he will live to. He smiled widely at this news. I promised to continue Dr. Kazuko’s work with Tibetan orphans at Manjushree in Tawang. His Holiness held my hand firmly, looked me out in the eye, and replied, “Good.”

Dr. Kazuko’s Gaia Holistic Foundation, along with Tibet Fund, and Orphans International Worldwide (OIW) have hosted a celebration of His Holiness’ birthday each summer at Essex House on Central Park South in Manhattan. Next summer the Dalai Lama turns 85 and once again we will celebrate in New York, as others do around the world. Our celebration is for the life and work of His Holiness, and ends with a flag ceremony of all nations – May Peace Prevail on Earth!

Dr. kazuko + His HoiinessHis Holiness and Dr. Kazuko first met in 1970. She invited
him to Japan shortly thereafter. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Dr. Kazuko has supported the Manjushree Orphanage for Tibetan children from when they first began with 18 orphans under the direction of Lama Thupten Phuntsok – until now with its 270 beautiful, lively children. Dr. Kazuko spearheaded the effort to build a one million dollar academic building there a few years ago that we will visit tomorrow.

36823179_2058540247521002_3912008976593584128_nGaia Holistic Foundation, Tibet Fund and Orphans International host a dinner each
July in New York to celebrate His Holiness’ birthday. Photo: Stewardship Report.

The Manjushree Orphanage Dr. Kazuko supports is 8,000 feet up in the Himalayas on the Tibetan (now Chinese) border, birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama. It is in a military zone protected by the Indian Army. Our friend and India’s Got Talent star Thupten Tsering is a graduate of Manjushree.

It was founded by our dear friend Lama Thupten, who was asked by His Holiness to return to his hometown, a major seat of Old Tibet, and care for his community.

IMG_5895Manjushree’s academic building was spearheaded by
 Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Our time in Dharamshala, the seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, was coordinated by The Tibet Fund (LINK), led by our friend Lobsang Nyandak in New York with Sherab Woeser in Dharamshala.

While in this capital city we also met with the President of the Tibetan Authority, a graduate of Harvard Law School, as well as the director of the Tibetan Children’s Village ( where about 1,200 children are growing into responsible and well-educated global citizens.

IMG_6157Girls from the Manjushree Orphanage relaxing in the afternoon sun.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

Tibet’s president, Lobsang Sangay, expressed enormous appreciation to Dr. Kazuko for her almost half-century commitment to the Tibetan people. My only wish is that I have at least half that much time to continue her good work.

IMG_0475The author with Tibetan Government in Exile President Lobsang Sangay
and Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura. Photo: Stewardship Report.

The first time I met His Holiness was also with Dr. Kazuko, seven years ago at the 2012 Kalachakra in Bodhgaya, Bihar Province. This is where the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree 2500 years ago and where His Holiness leads the week long Tibetan Buddhist equivalent of the Billy Graham Crusade. With rumors that it might be the Dalai Lama’s last Kalachakra, more than 200,000 attended the event in sleepy Bodhgaya. 

Kazuko-08Dr. Kazuko organized a group of Japanese and Americans to attend the Kalachakra
with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Bihar, India, 2012. Photo: Stewardship Report.

His Holiness said then that he expected he would one day be replaced, possibly by either a woman or a committee. We can only hope that day is far in the future. I hope he will live, along with Dr. Kazuko, to at least 113. H.H. the Dalai Lama and Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura are friends now for 47 years. In 2048, when he is 113, they will have been friends for 78 years! I wish them both a long life and long friendship!

Series On Pilgrimage: Following the Footsteps of Buddha Across N.E. India in 15 Parts

Series on Tibet in India, September 2019 in 15 parts

  1. The Dalai Lama & Dr. Kazuko: A 47-Year Friendship
  2. Tibetan Children’s Village: Step One to Success
  3. India: Great Protector of the Tibetan People
  4. With Incredible Tibetan Orphans, Reflecting on How I Got Here
  5. Meet Japanese Grandmother of Tibetan Orphanage in India
  6. Lama Thupten Phuntsok: Tibetan Monk’s Life Outside Monastery 
  7. First Trip to Tibetan Orphanage High in Himalayas
  8. Dharamshala for Americans: Dalai Lama’s Hometown
  9. Himalayas for Americans: From India/Pakistan to Bhutan & Nepal – plus Chinese Tibet
  10. Himalayas: Once Great Tibet, Now Divided 
  11. Meet American Lobsang Sangay, President of Tibet
  12. Kazuko: Planning Nine Orphanages Globally
  13. Whatever Faith Tradition, It’s All About Kindness
  14. Orphanage Burns; Matt Luce Pledges to Rebuild It 
  15. At 50, I Gave Away My Wealth, at 60, My Possessions

See Also:

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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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