The Dalai Lama’s Templeton Prize

Photo by Vic Mansfield

In March 2012, a friend sent a link to a Huffington Post article: Dalai Lama Wins Templeton Prize For Work On Science, Religion. I flashed back to forgotten details of the weeks around my husband Vic’s death in June 2008.

Templeton Press published Vic’s last book Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics: Toward a Union of Love and Knowledge in March 2008, just three months before Vic’s death. The book focused on the deep connections between Buddhism and physics. Chinese education taught Tibetan students that they could not be both scientists if they held religious beliefs, so the Dalai Lama hoped Vic’s book would give these students a different perspective.

Dalai Lama and Vic Mansfield

While Vic went through cancer treatment, the Dalai Lama wrote a generous forward to the book. Six weeks before Vic’s death, the Dalai Lama spent two days at Colgate University where Vic taught physics and a course on Tibet.

Vic presented the silk-wrapped book to His Holiness at a science and Buddhism colloquium, weeping as he thanked the Dalai Lama for his inspiration and love. Stepping down from his raised chair, the Dalai Lama opened his arms to my dying husband and held him like a mother. I wrote about it in an article called The Last Embrace: The Dalai Lama Blesses a Dying Man published in Lion’s Roar Magazine.

After that embrace, Vic no longer feared his coming death.

A few weeks after the Dalai Lama’s visit and a month before Vic’s death, the Templeton Foundation asked Vic to write a recommendation for the Templeton Prize, an annual award granted to a living person who …”has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.” Despite Vic’s illness and many health crisis interruptions, he wrote a two page letter nominating the Dalai Lama. He asked me to read it for editing corrections or anything he might have left out. He planned to polish the formatting and send it the next day.

Instead, Vic’s health worsened in the night and he could no longer breath. I forgot about the nomination in those other worldly days as I walked with Vic to the threshold of death, but about a week after Vic died, Paul Mullin at Templeton Foundation sent an email asking if Vic had written the promised recommendation. I found the nomination on Vic’s computer desktop and forwarded it as Mr. Mullin requested.

I imagine there were others, perhaps many others, who nominated the Dalai Lama for this prestigious prize, but Vic’s convincing argument for why a spiritual and political leader should receive the reward was part of the whole. How happy Vic would have been about the outcome of his last act.


This short and inspiring video of the Dalai Lama accepting the Templeton Prize gives a glimpse into the way the Dalai Lama views his contribution to humanity.

You can see Vic and the Dalai Lama teaching at Colgate on this page of Vic’s website. See Vic Mansfield’s website for excerpts from his last book and other articles about science and religion.

  1. So amazing!! I was deeply impressed and deeply moved when David showed me the video of Vic’s and the Dalai Lama’s conversation. I can see where David gets his teaching skills from 🙂

    • Thanks, Liz. It’s reassuring that our actions in life create positive energy after our deaths. Lots of wonderful similarities between David and Vic.

  2. Great Blog Mom!! Love you both!

  3. The link to the title of your article, “Zapped by the Dalai Lama” caught my notice, because I, too, had gotten zapped by him, totally unexpectedly.
    Two decades ago, I was driving from Lansing to Ithaca, and decided to take an unusual route, that took me by the Tompkins County Airport. As I approached the entrance, I noticed an unusual abundance of cars, for that little airport– back then even smaller than it is today. The parking lot must have been filled, because cars were parked all along the highway. I suddenly recalled having read that the Dalai Lama was coming into Ithaca that day, and on a lark, I decided to park my car and dash up to the airport entrance, to see if I might catch a glimpse of the spiritual rock star. Right as I was dashing , a calvacade came pulling out from in front of the airport; I recognized His Holiness in the backseat of the first car, by his beatific smile and yellow robes. As if by reflex, I put my palms together, bowed, then reached out. He returned the bow, and the reach. Touching him was, so briskly, was quite like being “zapped” with energy. I neither expected that experience– nor forgot it. And, equally unexpectedly, I remember I felt great most of the rest of the week, as if being by “better self.”

    • How beautiful, Lucy. Thank you for writing this. I wonder if that was the 1979 visit to Ithaca. He also came around 1986 (I’d have to check the dates), but there was a lot more security then. I’ve seen many powerful teachers from many traditions, but HHDL is electric. When I’m with him, my heart feels wide open. Recently, he’s behind walls of security. You might be interested in reading my article about my husband’s last meeting with HHDL just before Vic’s death in 2008. “The Last Embrace” published at Lion’s Roar.

  4. I was zapped by the Dalai Lama when he visited Wisdom’s Goldenrod again in 1990 or 91…I was about 12 years old. I was lined up first in the receiving line somehow, my hands in prayer position anxiously waiting. When the door to the library opened, he entered and placed his hands around my hands. I was nervous and had a hard time making eye contact but he caught my eye as we bowed to each other. I was zapped in that moment and my next memory of him is with someone down the line. How did he get down there, I thought, he was just right here with me. That was my experience of being zapped – a complete and total loss of time with an overwhelming sense of peace.

    • Thanks for sharing that story, Elyse. According to my photo album, it was October 1991. What a powerful memory and experience. I have a great photo of the Dalai Lama with your grandma EllaMay. Vic took many photos that day, but it was all slides then. In his notebooks of slides that I have not yet had digitalized, there may be a photo of you that day. Lots of history in those slides and soon I will sort through them.

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