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Little Buddha I have some personal interest in this one. One of my first teachers was a consultant for the Tibetan Buddhist authenticity. His wisdom was completely jettisoned in favour of pandering t

You can watch here on

Documentary about Bikkhuni in Thailand.

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Review of Crazy Wisdom.

American Buddhist Perspective

Justin Whitaker


Recently I was sent two DVD Screeners, this one, about the life and times of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and another called “Force of Nature” about the Japanese-Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki. I will review the Suzuki movie this week, and today I’ll write a bit about the Turngpa flick.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who was born in Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion, lived, quite frankly, a crazy life. And his charisma in teaching the Dharma and ability to motivate and inspire a generation of drop-outs and seekers across the West certainly suggests that he had great wisdom.

This well-made documentary traces the fullness of both his craziness and his wisdom. As a story of a man so instrumental in bringing Buddhism to the West, it is a film that should be seen. Having passed away in 1987, Trungpa left a broad and still flourishing Dharma movement known as Shambhala and today has at least a half-dozen biographies written about him. Those I have met over the years who have met him always use one word in describing their encounter: unforgettable.

Even those from distinctly different schools of Buddhism felt attracted by his unconventional, direct, and often shocking teaching methods. In the film, you get at least a hint of those – such as the story of when he invited his students to bring all of their marijuana to a retreat, and then tossing it all, bag-full after bag-full, into the fireplace chanting, “burning self deception, destroying our illusions…” (Here is a fascinating audio recording of one of the students telling what happened before the dope-burning incident, including Trungpa getting into a fist-fight with one of his students…)

And yet Trungpa himself was a heavy drinker, perhaps an alcoholic, and perhaps dying young (at age 47) due to his heavy drinking. Such behavior, along with marrying a 16 year-old girl in England and then continuing to sleep with other students, has led many to discount his teachings and perhaps even the whole Shambhala movement. And before we speculate about the Modernist nature of these activities, keep in mind that such unorthodox practices have been a factor in Tibetan Buddhism from as early as we can tell (certainly dating back to the time of Yeshe O’d, 958–1055). Often in the West there is still the impulse to project a certain purity, perhaps even somber and rigid nature, to pre-Modern Buddhism. But the more we look into the history, the more we see very multi-faceted the traditions have been. So seeing a Tibetan acting a bit ‘crazy’ perhaps shouldn’t surprise us too much.

[Anyone familiar with Aku Tunpa will know exactly what I mean. Unfortunately a web search doesn't turn up much on this famous Tibetan rascal - perhaps an alternate spelling is needed?]

In any case, one of the bright points of the film comes up when Pema Chödrön, one of Trungpa’s best known students, discusses the tension between his wisdom and behavior, ultimately concluding with what to me appeared to be supreme honesty by saying, “I do not know. I can’t buy a party line where I say it was ‘sacred activity’ or something like this – come up with ground to make it okay. I also can’t come up with ground or fixed idea to make it not okay.”

And speaking again of influences on Trungpa, I don’t want to pick on a recent very good book too much, but this film does a nice job of showing that Trungpa was influenced by Western material culture, political ideas, military organazation, music, dress, and more (not just psychology or Romantics). And as I mentioned in a recent post, this seems to have been a factor of Buddhism since its inception.

Rachel Saltz of the NY Times suggests that “the movie goes mushy when it should be critical, and leaves you with questions that it’s not prepared to answer.” The film is definitely sympathetic, relying largely on former students still very much devoted to Trungpa, many of whom are moved to tears in describing him. And while we hear of people leaving his community, we don’t get to hear from any of them. But I’m not sure what exactly they would add. What would a more critical examination of his life look like? You can read one account here, called Stripping the Gurus.

In the end I was very pleased with the movie and would definitely consider showing it in the classroom as part of a course on Tibetan Buddhism or Buddhism in the West. In either case I would be careful to provide context – if many of the events depicted in Stripping the Gurus are factual, then even more openness and honesty would have been good in the film. But even without that, I think the film opens the door for discussions of ethics in Buddhism.

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The Truth is Unbelievable, a film made by German/Argentinian artist

Cora de Lang.

The documentary tells the story of the life of Bhikkhu Sumedha (Aja Iskander Schmidlin) who was born in Switzerland, but lived the last decades of his life in a cave in Manapadassana Lena in Dulvala, near Kandy. He didn’t want to be remembered as German or Swiss, but simply a Sri Lankan monk.

The Truth Is Unbelievable is the culmination of Bhikku Sumedha’s last days spent with Ven. Mettavihari, Cora de Lang and Richard Lang in his cave. It is a presentation of their interviews with him, recorded images and sounds, viewing his installation in the cave.

In the film, Bhikku Sumedha reflects on the heart of the Dhamma, transience of sensual pleasures, the dangers of impermanence, the mask-like nature of selfhood, and the possibility of a peace that transcends all conditioned modes of understanding.

His paintings which are semiotics reflect a coming together of a deep emotion and intellect. He visualised the Dhamma, and also dived theoretically in the depths of Theravada thought.

The film was shown as Best International Documentary at the 2008 Swansea Life Film Festival, UK.

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There's also 'The Man who skied down everest' http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073340/

Which is by no means about Buddhism, it is about a Japanese stunt man's attempt to ski down Everest. However, it won an oscar for 'Best Documentary' in its year, and much time is spent upon the route up Everest and the way of life in the villages en route. Incredibly well shot, and thought provoking throughout. A must see.

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Another Thai-produced film coming out soon in which the bad guys are monks is Mindfulness Over Murder...

But there is still no DVD with English soundtrack or subtitles.

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Best Buddha movie. It's free move with 3D "พุทธศาสดา Thus have I heard" on below link (I can't insert link, please copy and paste in your browser) The movie is Thai language. It'll make you deep understand the buddha history. In this page has movie example. Or you can search on google with "Thus have I heard" keyword.

Edited by pangolin
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My Dinner with Andre - one of my all time favourite movies - just the dialogue between two artistic friends meeting up after 10 years apart over dinner in New York. Saw it first when I was 20 and was blown away by the concepts and dialectic between the 'artistic seeker of truth' Andre and the comfortably numb suburbanite playwright Wally. Watched it again last year and it is one of those movies that grows with you and keeps on giving - I get to understand it more and more with the passage of time.

Tell me, why do we require a trip to Mount Everest in order to be able to perceive one moment of reality? I mean... I mean, is Mount Everest more "real" than New York? I mean, isn't New York "real"? I mean, you see, I think if you could become fully aware of what existed in the cigar store next door to this restaurant, I think it would just blow your brains out! I mean... I mean, isn't there just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as there is on Mount Everest?



A shorter mash up of the movie which gives you a flavour with some added clips from other movies.

Edited by beautifulthailand99
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I just saw (in the MBK shopping center, Bangkok) this movie about the pilgrimage to India of the Chinese monk Xuanzang about 1400 years ago.

It is a modern and very free, poetic interpretation of the journey. A struggle against the many demons (which in a more western language may be called complexes, attachments) on the path to enlightenment. Personally I liked the movie, also because i.m.o. it is made technically very good, with many elements of eastern action movies and a lot of humor.

More info about Xuanzang here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xuanzang

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Quinn: Zen's bad boy Brad Warner translates to film

By Megan Quinn, Camera Staff Writer
Daily Camera

Brad Warner is far from your typical Zen Buddhist monk.

But then again, what's typical?

Warner is a Zen priest, a punk musician and a writer with a snarky, pop culture-centered tone. He's also the subject of a new film, "Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen," coming to Boulder next week.

Warner's work often puts a modern face on Zen Buddhist practice, including issues of sexuality and modern-day life. He has written four books on the subject of Zen Buddhism and spirituality, and his nontraditonal style has inspired some Buddhist practitioners while raising eyebrows with others.

A screening of "Brad Warner's Harcore Zen" is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the University of Colorado's Muenzinger Auditorium.

Warner has written extensively about Zen Buddhism in his books, which include "Sit Down and Shut Up," "Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate," "Sex, Sin, and Zen" and his latest, "There Is No God and He Is Always With You." He also writes a blog and has contributed to the alternative porn site suicidegirls.com.

The juxtaposition of traditional Zen practice and Warner's seemingly nontraditional personality appealed to Pirooz Kalayeh, director of "Hardcore Zen."

Kalayeh is a former Naropa University student and graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. After moving to Los Angeles, he ended up attending one of Warner's Zen classes and was intrigued.

"I knew I wanted to do a film about him," he said.

Yet Warner was more than wary. No fewer than three other filmmakers had expressed interest in making his work into a film, but none of them followed through.

"I think I just told him, 'Well, if you show up, I guess you can film me,'" Warner said with a laugh.

Kalayeh did more than show up. He followed Warner around in his everyday life, his meditation sessions and writing classes.

The film, which incorporates all facets of Warner's life and includes feedback from fellow Zen practitioners and friends, explores why Warner is both controversial and inspirational for modern-day Buddhists.

In the film, Warner explains how he strives to follow a formal Zen practice while living an ordinary life, including spending time in several punk bands, writing books and drawing on work he did early in his career as a translator for Asian monster movies.

As a young man, he says in the film, "I got into punk and Zen for the same reason ... searching for something authentic and true."

Nina Snow, a yoga instructor and friend of Warner's, says in the film that acquaintances to whom she introduced Warner were "relieved that he was kind of a regular guy. Most of my friends are not looking for the guy in the robes, floating off the ground."

Kalayeh said he strove to portray Warner in an honest way, including the controversies about Warner's views on topics such as sex and spirituality.

One of the first screenings of "Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen" took place at a European Buddhist film festival. While many of the films depicted images of people meditating in calm settings, "Hardcore Zen" included scenes of Warner's punk band and a staged fight scene between Warner and a critic of his teachings. In several scenes, Warner answers questions while wearing a leather jacket over a bunny costume.

Kalayeh said viewers aren't always sure how to respond to the film -- and those unexpected reactions are a good thing.

"But that's Brad, right? He's edgy, daring, unconventional and traditional all in one," Kalayeh said. "I wanted the film to reflect that same attitude he brought to Zen."

For more information about "Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen," visit http://local-screen.com/hardcore-zen/boulder-co.

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