His Holiness the Dalai Lama appears on Billboard’s charts for the first time with his debut album release, Inner World.
The album debuts at No. 1 on the New Age Albums chart (dated July 18) and No. 8 on World Albums with 2,000 equivalent album units earned in the U.S. in the week ending July 9, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. About half of that sum is via album sales, as the set concurrently debuts at No. 98 on the all-genre Album Sales chart.
Inner World, which was released on the Dalai Lama’s 85th birthday, July 6, features his spoken-word mantras and teachings mixed with music. The music was recorded by New Zealand musicians Junelle and Abraham Kunin.
Dalai Lama is the title given by Tibetan people to the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. The religious name of the current, 14th Dalai Lama, whose vocals appear on the album, is Tenzin Gyatso, who has held the position since 1940.
Per the Associated Press, Junelle Kunin pitched the idea for the album to The Office of His Holiness years ago after trying, unsuccessfully, to find music that paired with his teachings as a form of stress relief. Her offer was initially turned down, until she pitched it again during a 2015 trip to India, when she met the Dalai Lama and handed a letter with her idea to one of his assistants. The Dalai Lama himself later accepted the offer.
The Dalai Lama’s vocals on Inner World are taken from recorded conversations he had with Kunin. He also recites the mantras of the seven Buddhas, which covers such topics as wisdom, courage, healing and children. After finishing the conversations, Junelle’s husband, Abraham, helped create the music and sounds heard on the album.
Notably, Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar, who is the daughter of legendary musician Ravi Shankar, is featured on one of the album’s tracks, “Ama La.”