Thursday, December 27, 2012

"The Spirit of Tibet": Film Review

This is one of two recent documentaries about the influential Tibetan teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). He taught the present Dalai Lama, as well as the director and writer of this 1998 forty-five minute film, Matthieu Ricard. The Rinpoche fled Tibet for Bhutan, but was able to return to his homeland in 1985 to start the restoration of the realm's oldest monastery at Samyé, ruined by the communists.

Most of his life, divided between Tibet and Bhutan, was spent exemplifying "boundless compassion." The Dalai Lama explains how his teacher's "spiritual energy" continued as lamas reincarnate to shepherd others along the Buddhist path. Certainly, the crowds that flocked to the Rinpoche demonstrate his genial, unruffled appeal. True, it's not a critical investigation, made by Buddhists for the same, so within these limits, it may narrow the audience to those curious about him.

Lots of this film comprises him sitting before those bowing respectfully. Yet, it's a challenge to see how the acclaim he generates for the teaching of the Buddha he embodies comes through on camera. Within a short span of a few minutes, cinematic "glimpses," as the subtitle promises, may be its rationale.

For Westerners or those unfamiliar with his reputation, this provides a more contextual--arguably less hagiographical if still unfailingly reverential--perspective compared to the 2010 "Brilliant Moon" documentary (see my Dec. 2012 review). Both are narrated smoothly by Richard Gere, and some of the footage repeats, understandably, concerning the visit to Tibet, the cremation of the teacher, and the recognition ceremony for his reincarnation.

"The Spirit of Tibet" relates more basic background on Buddhism and its Vajrayana school popular throughout the Himalayas. It offers a wider perspective than "Brilliant Moon," so it may be viewed first as an overview. Still, "Spirit" may best be suited to those already convinced of this jovial, big, smiling lama's compelling message. If not, it may spark interest in this man's venerable example.
(YouTube in English; Amazon 12-13-12)

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