Karmapa Tours Google and Takes a Ride in its Driverless Car

Karmapa Tours Google and Takes a Ride in its Driverless Car

The first stage on his official tour of the United States brought His Holiness the Karmapa to Silicon Valley in California. Appropriately enough for a 29-year-old Buddhist leader who does not shy from making effective use of technology to spread the Dharma, the 17th Karmapa spent the day at Googleplex, touring its facilities, taking a ride in its prototype driverless car and giving a talk to Google staff in the afternoon.

His Holiness arrived mid-morning at the sprawling campus of Google’s global headquarters on Mountain View, California, known affectionately as Googleplex. Google often appears at the top of the list of best companies in the world to work for. The company encourages mindfulness practice among its employees, and the initial phase of the tour focused on the company’s extensive wellness services. During his visit to Google, His Holiness the Karmapa was hosted by Chade-Meng Tan, who is Google’s resident champion of personal growth and author of the book Search Inside Yourself. Meng showed His Holiness around Google’s yoga halls, fitness centers and meditation rooms, which employees are encouraged to use at any time, and fielded the Karmapa’s numerous questions about Google’s practices to promote wellbeing among its staff.

The personal tour of Google’s facilities snaked from building to building, past a car outfitted to photograph street level for inclusion in Google Maps. Next, His Holiness arrived at a facility with a wrap-around, multi-screen display of Google Earth. As his host was taking him on a virtual tour of the Grand Canyon, the request was made to view Tibet as well, and His Holiness’ sister and other members of the entourage drew near to watch. As they zoomed from aerial view and came close to ground level, and then wound their way over a pass and into the valley where Lhasa is located, the 17th Karmapa himself took the controls to move around Lhasa.

Following a lunch with key Google staff, the Karmapa was offered the opportunity to ride in Google’s state-of-the-art driverless car. He and his sister accepted the invitation and were given a rare chance to experience this fledgling technology. A Google staffer involved in the Karmapa’s visit to Google commented that when she was putting in the application for him to be able to ride in the Google Self-Driving Car, she was told she might as well not bother, since it had been many months since any applications had been granted. However, she tried anyway, only to receive the enthusiastic response that certainly His Holiness the Karmapa would be most welcome to experience the car.

After half an hour riding around campus in a car with no driver, the vehicle discharged its passengers at their final destination at Googleplex—the hall where His Holiness was to speak to Google staff. The talk was livestreamed to Google offices around the world. Google will upload this talk in the next few weeks to its Talks at Google page on YouTube.

Coming soon: A detailed report on His Holiness the Karmapa’s talk at Google and links to the video of his talk.