In 1964 and 1965 the French filmmaker Arnaud Desjardins gained access to the Tibetan community in exile, in the first filming of their life and culture allowed by the Dalai Lama since going into exile. The material from those filmings was compiled into two films which I will be showing over the next couple of weeks.
At that time the Tibetans were simply a refugee people, with a very low profile in the world, as this was before they had taken their culture to the West, and before the Dalai Lama was well known outside of specialist circles.
Desjardins gained unprecedented access to the tradition, and filmed some of the most famous yogis and also made film of previously unseen rites and rituals, in what are essentially film essays on the subject.
Desjardins was one of the main people who managed to popularise and raise interest in the Eastern esoteric traditions, and he later became a teacher in his own right, in the Advaita tradition, with ashrams in France and Canada.
Previous to making these films he had worked with Hindu gurus in his 1959 Ashrams, which featured Ma Anandamayi, Ramdas and Krishnabai, besides others, and he had also made a film about the sufis of Afghanistan.
The first film, entitled Buddhism, shows the Tibetans living in the Himalayas and discusses their cultural plight, now that the living tradition was under so much pressure both at home and in exile.
It shows their traditional arts, folk music and medicine, before turning its attention to some of the great living masters, including a 30-year old Dalai Lama, and the sixth karmapa, of whom Desjardins says:
“…of all the sages, whether Hindu, Muslim Sufi, or Buddhist he is the most impressive sage with whom I have had the privilege to stay with…”
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Om Mani Padme Hum
14th Dalai Lama (Age 30)