Top critical review
25 people found this helpful
Practices of Tibetan Buddhism on film
on February 6, 2007
This is a three-hour video, in five episodes, about Tibetan Buddhist practices. Note that despite the big picture of the Dalai Lama on the package, he just makes a few brief appearances, as do various other Tibetan Buddhist teachers. The film is more anthropological than spiritual, so if you're looking to incorporate some Buddhist wisdom into your life, this is probably not the video for you. It's more like a National Geographic program, documenting people, places, and practices that you're unlikely to experience in person.
Episodes 1 and 2 are mainly collections of video of miscellaneous practices, including dances, chanting, prostrations, debating, and the creation of butter sculptures and a sand mandala. Episode 1 also includes a few minutes on the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The practices aren't explained very well, and I noticed that much of the narration went sliding through my brain as sound without registering as meaning, perhaps because it was so abstract and "metaphysical." The other three episodes are more coherent--both clearer and more cohesive.
Episode 3, on the bardo (the period between death and rebirth), shows parts of the ceremony for a lama (teacher) who has died, discusses beliefs about the bardo, shows how monks find the reincarnation of their deceased lama, and says a bit about the then-current Karmapa (head of the Kagyu lineage) and the current Dalai Lama (head of the Gelugpa lineage), who are understood to be reincarnations of the previous Karmapas and Dalai Lamas.
Episode 4, on the spirits, includes footage of two female shamans engaged in healing and divination, oracles channeling the spirits in a public ceremony, and the Nechung Oracle, who is the protector of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government.
Episode 5, on Tibetan medicine, discusses the balancing of the energies of heat, water, and wind and shows various medical practices, including pulse-reading, the application of heated cups and rods to the skin, and the gathering and use of herbs. In several brief appearances, the Dalai Lama says that Tibetan medicine works well for chronic illnesses and as preventive medicine but that for medical emergencies it's "hopeless," and he stresses the medical importance of a doctor's genuine caring and warmth.
I would've liked this film better if it included more explanation and analysis or if it offered more spiritual insight, but if you'd just like to see some of the practices of Tibetan Buddhists, this film includes lots of footage of lots of practices.
If you want to learn more about the Dalai Lama and Tibet, I'd recommend the DVD "Compassion in Exile." If you want to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism in a way that might be relevant to your own life, I'd recommend the book "The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation" by Chogyam Trungpa.