Greetings again from the darkness. This 2012 documentary from director Leon Stuparich is an intimate portrait of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The cameras follow his holiness on his two week trek through Great Britain in 2008. We get so close that we can’t help but feel as if we are present – if not physically, at least spiritually.
An introductory history lesson provides details such as Dalai Lamas have been around since the 8th century, and each has chosen to be re-born to better serve others. The 14th Dalai Lama took full political control of Tibet at age 15 in 1949. Ten years later, the Chinese Army crushed the Tibetan uprising and the Dalai Lama led 80,000 Tibetans across the Himalayas on foot to a peaceful settlement. In 1973, he became the first Dalai Lama to spread his wisdom and message of peace to the western world. That message? Universal Responsibility: promotion of human values, promotion of religious harmony, and to continue serving Tibetan people.
What really stands out, as we follow on his fast-paced agenda, is the description of him as a “peaceful presence” and “a joyful being”. His impact on those he meets is immediate and heart-felt. Never shying away from touch, it’s clear his sense of compassion and peace are there for anyone open to his message. Somewhat surprising is his frequent laughter, smiles, waves and show of appreciation. This is a man of peace as well as at peace.
But make no mistake, his vision and message remains strong. He wants a better life for Tibetans, and he wants a better world for us all. His 1989 Nobel Peace Prize has provided even more opportunity for him to spread the message. This 2008 United Kingdom trip took him to such places as Albert Hall, Lambeth Palace, Oxford University and Nottingham. He spoke to such diverse groups as the Tibet Society, politicians, educators, students, religious leaders, the press, and a Mongolian audience.
We never see his energy wane nor his message waver, though we do see various signs of emotion depending on the audience. No matter one’s religious beliefs, it is quite powerful to see one man making such an impact through a message of peace and tolerance, and sage advice such as stay on the path for knowledge, inner-strength, and compassion. This little film is as close as most of us will ever come to being in the Dalai Lama’s presence … and it feels pretty darn close.