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How to live with joy in troubled times, according to unlikely friends Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama

‘If anyone could help us live with more joy in the face of the pain in our own lives and the pain in our world, it was these two men.’

In documentary Mission: Joy, the spiritual leaders offer a master class in lasting happiness

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama joke around while filming Mission: Joy in Dharamsala, India. (Miranda Penn Turin/Mission:Joy)

Deeply moving and laugh-out-loud funny, Mission: Joy — Finding Happiness in Troubled Times is a documentary that provides unprecedented access to two international icons who transcend religion — the Dalai Lama and retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died in 2021 — and a glimpse into their unlikely friendship.

In their final joint interview, the self-described "mischievous spiritual brothers" give a master class in how to create joy in a world that was never easy for them. They offer neuroscience-backed wisdom to help each of us live with more joy despite our circumstances.

Inspired by the New York Times bestseller The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, the film shows the exchanges between the two Nobel Peace Prize winners that led to that book. 

Consisting largely of never-before-seen footage shot over five days at the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, the film follows the luminaries as they recount stories from their lives, each having lived through periods of incredible difficulty and strife.

'By rights, his holiness should be a sourpuss!' Desmond Tutu teases the Dalai Lama | Mission: Joy

2 months ago
Duration 1:02
His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu discuss how to live with more joy in the documentary Mission: Joy.

With genuine affection, mutual respect and a healthy dose of teasing, they impart lessons gleaned from their experience, ancient traditions and the latest science on how to live with joy in the face of life's challenges, from the extraordinary to the mundane.

"I don't think you could find two people on the planet who are more different than the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, or 'Arch,' as his friends call him," said Doug Abrams, co-author of The Book of Joy, in the documentary.

"One's from Africa; one's from Asia. One's a Buddhist; one's a Christian. One grew up in absolute poverty; the other grew up in a thousand-room palace. But immediately, they recognized each other as what they called their 'mischievous spiritual brother.'... 

"If anyone could help us live with more joy in the face of the pain in our own lives and the pain in our world, it was these two men."

Watch Mission: Joy — Finding Happiness in Troubled Times on CBC Gem.

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