Peter van Ham with His Holiness at Dharamsala, 1998
Peter van Ham was fortunate to personally meet His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet four times in the course of his carreer.
The initial contact took place at the Hessische Landtag, Wiesbaden in 1995, when His Holiness was invited to Germany to speak to a parliament session for the first time ever. During this five-minute occasion Peter van Ham was lucky enough to direct a few personal words to His Holiness and present a copy of his first book "On the Paths of the Buddha (Auf Buddhas Pfaden)" to him.

Due to the special relation that His Holiness has got to the Western Himalayan region of Spiti - which is the content of "On the Paths of the Buddha" - His Holiness showed appreciation for the book and said that it was necessary that this important region would finally find the credit it deserves.

His Holiness has given inofficial notice that he would like to retire at Kibber, a 4200-metres high village in Spiti, where his Tsen-shap, his master of debate and most important teacher during his studying days, the Eminent Serkong Rinpoche, had died in the late eighties. The re-incarnation of Serkong Rinpoche had been identified from the village of Lari, also in Spiti, and has been recognized by the Dalai Lama. The young Serkong Rinpoche has been inthronized at Tabo monastery and is currently undergoing his studies in the exile mon
asteries of Southern India.

It was this special relation that kept His Holiness receptive for the further research Peter van Ham wanted to commence: The documentation of the arthistorically important places of Spiti and Kinnaur.

The Dalai Lama attributes special importance to the Himalayan regions traditionally Tibetan in culture due to the painful development which has taken place in Tibet itself since the 1950´s and which had caused him to move into exile to India in the foothills of the High Himalayas. After the first meeting Peter van Ham directed a note to the Office of His Holiness requesting a letter of reference for their research quest - which was given to them promptly and which opened doors especially for their photographic work at monasteries like Tabo or Nako in Spiti - places which otherwise remain closed to cameras.

The personal audience at Dharamsala
But that not enough, His Holiness was even willing to submit a foreword to their published documentation "The Forgotten Gods of Tibet", which was released in English, French and German language in 1997.

In the summer of 1998 Peter van Ham received the honour of a personal audience with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala - a meeting which lasted for 45 minutes and where he presented copies of all three editions to him. The interview during that meeting focussed on the Vajradhatu mandala, the background concept of the layout of the main temple of Tabo, the situation of Buddhism in exile and the various Tibetan peoples roaming in the Himalayas. Parts of that interview may be heard on the CD "Windprayer".

The support of His Holiness extended further in that he was also writing a letter of reference for Tina Radke-Gerlach´s TV-documentary "Buddha´s Mountain Desert" that was scientifically advised by the couple.

Again, this letter helped tremendously in achieving the goal of filming inside Tabo monastery - which untill then never had been permitted - or documenting rituals such as the Bu-chan performance in Pin Valley. In the film the Dalai Lama also appears in person and elaborates on various subjects featured in the film. The interview was shot at the German city of Muenster where His Holiness attended the festivities around the "300 Years of Westfalian Peace". Peter van Ham again had the honour of interviewing His Holiness. The finished film was sent to him and was well received.

Holiness´ voice
"The Forgotten Gods of Tibet"
The seal
of the
Dalai Lama
Through the kind courtesy of film maker Friedhelm Brückner and his assistant Thea Mohr, who have been tremendously active in organising the Dalai Lama's visits to Germany and even the US, Peter van Ham were able to present their book "Buddha's Mountain Desert" to His Holiness when he visited Wiesbaden and Berlin in June 2003.