Dalai Lama Renaissance
A film review by Victoria Barkley
Renaissance, narrated by Harrison Ford, follows a week long dialogue between noteworthy Western thinkers from diverse professions and the Dalai Lama, at the Dharamsala (the Dalai Lama's Indian residence in exile) Synthesis Conference of 1999.
The eclectic collage of participants includes such prominent individuals, as quantum Physicists Fred Alan Wolf and Amit Goswami (from the film "What the Bleep Do We Know"), Dr. Michael Beckwith (from The Secret), Revolutionary Social Scientist Jean Houston, and many others.
The film's director, Mr. Kashyar Darvich introduced his 80 minute award winning documentary at a recent New York City screening as "an inner journey of blissful transformation." And he "had heard everywhere around the globe that it reflects back to each person (viewing it), as a sort of mirror."
He spoke in a staccato, struggling to keep his speech fluid. In spite of a possible speech impediment, he addressed the crowd with uncommon confidence. He just drove for hours from upstate, he said. An ashram in the Catskills, where he spent the night, offered refuge away from Manhattan. He had lots of traffic to fight, and had to park in a mid-town garage. The $40 price was almost as unnerving as the crowds at Whole Foods. At this point, everyone laughed. He showed up anyway, because he had made a commitment to spread the message of his project.
The film, which was originally released around the world in 2008, was dedicated to Brother Wayne Teasdale, an interfaith pioneer who, in conjunction with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, organized the Synthesis dialogues to find possible solutions to the world's problems.
Besides documenting the actual dialogue, the final cut includes raw footage of the real India, snippets of scenery, set to sensuous music of the region. A lama laughs and monkeys scatter, children beg, and skinny animals scamper up the road, as the cameras move through each frame, witnessing the whirling prayer wheels blessed by reverently touching fingers.
The ever so humble Dalai Lama, calling himself a simple monk, meets everyone at his or her own level, intently listening and offering insights peppered with impish, childlike delight. "We are all equal here," he declares, to set everyone at ease.
There is conflict among the synthesizers - some of whom seem to have left their pleasing personalities waiting for them back at home. In a surprising segment, a colorful medley of orange robed Tibetan monks, engaged in spicy, hot debate, is juxtaposed with Western tempers flaring in dispute. It is amusingly effective evidence of similarities behind our social/cultural facade.
The cosmic joke is that His Holiness, just by being his true Self, gives the gift of elevated resonance to the talks. Coming in personal contact with him, some of the great thinkers of the West begin to clear a few of their own issues. Stripped of excessive egos, they are humbled into a state of greater integration, able to behave with more maturity. Like unruly children, they settle down, calmed by an elder's wisdom. Mr. Darvich sums up his film to the audience:
"The 40 Westerners travel to India with the intention of changing the world with a group solution. What they learn is that the most effective way of changing the world is by first changing yourself. If we live our highest ideals, if we are compassionate, as much as we can be, like the Dalai Lama, that's how we create positive change."
Mr. Darwich, who had worked with the Dalai Lama on two previous occasions, was asked to make this trip only 8 weeks before the filming schedule. That impossible timeframe was just enough to get together a crew of 18 and 5 cameras and travel with no money because he believed this was a great opportunity to share and because everyone's intention was focused in line with that. Doors opened and things worked out, as if by invisible assistance.
"If there is an intention of service, than no matter what you do, you will receive help. There are others who also want to do good things on this earth and you receive what you need. I believe it. I have seen it."
A concrete example he shared with us was asking Harrison Ford to do the narration without having $20,000 to offer an actor of his caliber. Not only did Mr. Ford accept the invitation but aware of their financial challenges, actually drove himself to the recording studio six weeks later, waiving his perk as a celebrity to be picked up by a chauffeured limo.
In order to increase the impact of his finished work as much as possible; Mr. Darvich had personally attended over 200 screenings. At the time of the event where I met him, in mid November, he's done 20 screenings in 6 weeks in the U.S. and was heading for Australia to do it all over again in a 5 week tour. He is obviously ardently committed to spreading the word.
The director's passion comes across on the screen as a wonderful testimony of how even the most intellectually gifted can find common ground in human authenticity. If brilliant minds can change, in spite of all that ego identification with their own ideas, then surely there is hope for just ordinary folks, like you and me, to meet in the middle long enough to bond in a quest for positive solutions.
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