No, this isn’t an Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy movie. It’s a 2009 documentary about a typical day with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He allowed Russian filmmaker Vitali Manski and his crew to shadow him around Dharamsala, India, where he lives, from the time he arose at 3 a.m. until retiring for the night. It’s a peek that’s intimate and reassuring. I concluded that, in some ways, this holy man is no different than many of us. He is seen going through his morning hygiene, saying prayers and walking on the treadmill. He likes the BBC. I like the BBC. And yet, his life is not like any of ours. He elects to spend five months away from the world in meditation. Then, the rest of the time, every minute of his waking hours is scheduled: offering teachings, traveling, attending meetings with world leaders. His is a life of contrast.
The film also points out paradoxes. First, he teaches nonviolence as much as Ghandi did. But his living compound has a fence around it; a troop of guards accompany him wherever he goes to ensure his safety. Secondly, he is sought after by heads of state yet has none of the traditional power they would attempt to garner.
Teachings are sprinkled throughout the film. I noticed the same thing that the filmmaker stated in the last part of the film: The Dalai Lama’s words were simple. There was nothing new to me in what he said. But they caused the filmmaker to view the world differently. This reinforces my belief that simple teachings are most useful, true and provide a foundation for living. If we think we need more, or must have complicated practices, then we’re merely distracted and avoiding the spiritual work.
The only thing I found curious in any part of the documentary was the Dalai Lama’s solution to the world’s overpopulation problem: “more nuns, more monks.”
Watch the 72-minute documentary free online courtesy of Culture Unplugged.