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Emotional Awareness Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance and Compassion

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

288 Pages


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At their first meeting, a remarkable bond was sparked between His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s most revered spiritual leaders, and the psychologist Paul Ekman, whose groundbreaking work helped to define the science of emotions. In Emotional Awareness, these two leading thinkers engage in a landmark conversation about human emotions and the pursuit of psychological fulfillment. The two luminaries share their thinking about science and spirituality, the bonds between East and West, and the nature and quality of our emotional lives.

In this unparalleled series of conversations, the Dalai Lama and Ekman prod and push toward answers to the central questions of emotional experience. What are the sources of hate and compassion? Should a person extend her compassion to a torturer—and would that even be biologically possible? What does science reveal about the benefits of Buddhist meditation, and can Buddhism improve through engagement with the scientific method? As they come to grips with these issues, they invite us to join them in an unfiltered view of two great traditions and two great minds.

Accompanied by commentaries on the findings of emotion research and the teachings of Buddhism, their interplay—amusing, challenging, eye-opening, and moving—guides us on a transformative journey in the understanding of emotions.


Praise for Emotional Awareness

“If you regularly peruse this department, your eyes may glaze over at the mention of yet another book on psychology and Buddhism. But Emotional Awareness—which takes the form of an extended conversation between high-caliber subject experts Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama—offers a fresh, unique exploration of many subtle issues raised by the intersection of these disciplines. The conversation format works well here because it allows the reader to witness a personal relationship develop between two ‘scientists of the mind’ as they gently probe each other’s system of thought with striking intellectual rigor. Both have dedicated their lives to reducing psychological suffering and now, in the autumn of their careers, seem to enjoy the opportunity to refine their views through dialogue. (The two first met in 2000 through the Mind and Life Institute, which brings together the Dalai Lama and researchers to discuss scientific topics.) Full of intelligence, unexpected humor, and tender surprises, Emotional Awareness clarifies for the layman what the big deal is about psychology and Buddhism.”—Andrea McQuillin, Shambhala Sun 

"A rich feast for the mind . . . This is a singular meeting of two intellectual traditions—and two remarkable minds and hearts."—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

"Another title from, or more properly, created around, the beloved Dalai Lama, this book represents a kind of convergence of differing but not perhaps inherently contradictory worlds: that of Tibetan Buddhism and that of the science of the observation of human emotions, as represented by Ekman, an expert on Charles Darwin's still-underrated work on the expressions of the emotions in humans and animals. Their conversations touch on questions of emotional balance, anger, and the range and limits of compassion, but a brief review can hardly do justice to the range and depth of this fine book, which ought to draw not only the Dalai Lama's considerable readership but also those attracted to scientific approaches to Buddhistic thought."—Graham Christian, Library Journal

"This edited transcription of 39 hours of dialogue between the Dalai Lama and renowned psychologist Ekman addresses issues ranging from the importance of mindfulness, the evolutionary function of moods, meditative breathing and the cultivation of compassion. Ekman and the Dalai Lama are articulate, deeply serious scholars, and their investigations into 'the varieties of anger,' the destructive potential of contempt and the power of forgiveness contain a wealth of fascinating insights . . . [The Dalai Lama] and Ekman delight in playfully invoking everything from traditional Buddhist thought to Western philosophy, Darwin, communism and personal anecdotes in a single breath. It's an intellectual treat."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Tenzin Gyatzo, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is the temporal and spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the head of the Tibetan government in exile. The author of The Art of Happiness, among other books, he resides in Dharamsala, India.

Paul Ekman is the world’s foremost expert on facial expressions, a professor emeritus at the University of California in San Francisco, and the author of Emotions Revealed. He has served as an adviser to police departments, antiterrorism groups, and animation studios, and Ekman’s research inspired Lie to Me, the FOX TV series. He lives

Read the full excerpt


  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman

  • Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and is the temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. The author of The Art of Happiness, among many other books, he is the head of the Tibetan government in exile and resides in Dharamsala, India.

    Paul Ekman, Ph.D., is the world’s foremost expert on facial expressions and a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. He is the author of fourteen books, including Emotions Revealed and lives in northern California.

  • Dalai Lama
    Dalai Lama
  • Paul Ekman Ph.D.
    Paul Ekman Ph.D.