Graham Coleman and David Lascelles made this meditative documentary during the late 70s and early 80s centered on the Tibetan people in exile.
The first section, which is also the shortest, sets the scene with some background information on Tibetan culture and recent history.
We also see the building of the new Sera monastery in south India, and extracts from an address the Dalai Lama makes to the Tibetan community on the anniversary of the Chinese take-over of their country, in which he urges the people not to loose their values even while struggling to regain their losses.
The central section is also the longest segment, lasting for around 75 minutes. Called Radiating the Fruiit of Truth, it is set at a monastery in Nepal and is a record of the preparations and performance of a ritual in the cycle known as Dolma Yuldok called A Beautiful Ornament, which is traditionally said to have been composed by Nagarjuna.
From here on there is no voice-over commentary, and instead we get subtitles based on an explanation of the ritual given by the 20th century master Dudjom Tinpoche. The ritual centers on the worship of Green Tara and the calling to mind of the fierce god Hayagriva.
Part III, The Fields of the Senses is set in Ladakh, where we see peasants working in the fields, while the monks in an overlooking monstery perform rituals for the well-being of the land.
The Abbot also gives a sermon on impermanence and the benefits of gaining a human life, before they are called to perform the last rites for an elderly man who had just died in the village. This final section includes readings from the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead.
This is one of the most meditative films I have seen on Tibetan Buddhism, which doesn’t analyse or explain very much, but tries to observe and represent the experience itself. It also has some wonderful and very intimate photography of the monks in retreat, in performance and going about their everyday lives.
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