Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Laughter of the Dali Lama

In the film, 10 Questions for the Dali Lama, travel filmmaker-turned-pilgrim Rick Ray traveled to Dharamsala, India after he was able to secure a 45 minute audience with His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama.

Ray weaves an overview of the Dali Lama’s life and by extension, the Chinese invasion of Tibet into the narrative of his journey. Using grainy black and white footage and archival film that looks as if it must’ve been smuggled out from behind Chinese lines, he creates a compelling reason for a closer look into the Chinese/Tibetan conflict. And later, a brief interview with a Chinese political prisoner. Indeed, it is worth nothing that Tibetan political refugees still make the 1,200 mile treck from Tibet to Dharamsala for asylum.

Using a deft touch, Ray illustrates the devastation the Chinese government has wrought in just 4 decades on thousands of years of culture and tradition. 10 Questions also raises the very real, and very ugly specter of an eventual impostor Lama, put in place by the Chinese government. But even in the face of that which others might consider the ultimate blasphemy, the Lama just says that he feels sorry for the person the Chinese will select for the job.

However, it is without a doubt that the Dali Lama himself steals the show. Laughing and smiling throughout the interview, His Holiness answers those questions (in between infectious giggles that seem to suggest that though existence is absurd, it should be enjoyed) that in our hearts, we already know the answers to. That compassion, understanding, tolerance, festivals and picnics are the route to a better world. He also notes that while every life is precious, there can be too many precious lives for planetary sustainability.

But perhaps that is his cause, not to reveal arcane secrets of the universe; but to reinforce--to say and keep saying--those things that we know in our hearts to be true: compassion, love, and understanding are the things that matter most. And birth control is a good idea.

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