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Idea Architect Douglas Abrams: Cultivating Joy, Collaborating With Spiritual Masters & Elevating Consciousness

By February 17, 2017January 26th, 2024No Comments

“No dark fate determines the future – we do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and recreate our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have both survived more than fifty years of exile. Both have endured the soul-crushing violence of oppression. And yet despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.

How is this possible? And what can we learn from their example to cultivate more joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?

To answer this question, in 2015 Douglas Abrams united the two spiritual giants in Dharamsala, India on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. During the course of what became a rare, five-day conversation on the nature of human happiness and suffering, the two Nobel Peace Prize recipients traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.


A beautiful synthesis of this transcendent union, it’s no surprise that Abrams’ The Book of Joy* became an instant New York Times bestseller. It’s a book that deeply humanizes an Archbishop who has never claimed sainthood and a Dalai Lama who considers himself a simple monk. It’s a book that transports you deep within the intimate friendship that binds these two incredible souls. And it’s a book that vividly probes the very nature of joy itself — the illusions that eclipse it, the obstacles that obscure it, the practices that cultivate it, and the pillars that sustain it.

In addition to being a celebrated author, editor and literary agent, Doug is the founder and president of the creative book and media agency Idea Architects, where he works with true visionaries to create a wiser, healthier, and more just world. He is also the co-founder with Pam Omidyar and Bishop Desmond Tutu of, a public benefit company working to share life-changing and world-changing ideas. Doug has worked with Desmond Tutu as his co-writer and editor for over a decade, and before founding his own literary agency, he was a senior editor at HarperCollins and also served for nine years as the religion editor at the University of California Press.

I wanted to know more about what my Stanford classmate learned spending so much intimate time with two of the planet’s most conscious and revered spiritual leaders. What was his biggest takeaway? How did he synthesize their wisdom into such an extraordinary book? And what impact has the experience had on how he lives his life today?

This conversation is the result. It’s everything I was hoping for, and then some.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Co-written by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Doug’s bestselling book is available now: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World*

For more information, visit

Background, Context & Reference

Notable People Discussed in today’s podcast

  • Desmond Tutu: South African social rights activist, retired Anglican bishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid
  • The Dalai Lama: spiritual leader of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” school of Tibetan Buddhism who travels extensively, promoting kindness and compassion, interfaith understanding, respect for the environment, and, above all, world peace
  • Victor Frankl: an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, known as the founder of logotherapy
  • Dr. Edi Eger: clinical psychologist, Holocaust survivor and author
  • Richard Davidson: professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as well as founder and chair of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center
  • Amy Elizabeth Biehl: American Stanford University graduate and Anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa who was murdered by black Cape Town residents while a black mob shouted anti-white slurs
  • John Bargh: a social psychologist currently working at Yale University, where he has formed the Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Evaluation (ACME) Laboratory

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics. Theme music by Ana Leimma.

*Disclosure:Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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