The Dalai Lama: Scientist
Stars: The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Susan Bauer-Wu, Aaron Beck and Michel Bitbol
Director/Writer: Dawn Gifford Engle
Cinematography: Elizabeth Holloway, Franz Reichle and Dave Wruck
PeaceJam Productions
Rating: PG
Running Length: 94 Minutes

 The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader for Tibetan Buddhists, has a past going back hundreds of years. The Dalai Lama is chosen through reincarnation, and the present Dalai Lama XIV (Tenzin Gyatso) is over 80 years old and lives in India. He has won the Nobel Peace Prize and also the John Templeton Humanitarian Award. The beginning of the film, by filmmaker Dawn Gifford Engle, gives the audience a brief history. This Dalai Lama is a gracious and friendly person, with a sense of humor.

 When a Dalai Lama dies, there is a search for the reincarnation of a spiritual leader, and the selected child must pass a series of tests to determine if he has knowledge of the past. After Tenzin Gyatso was chosen, he went to a monastery school to learn many things, including science.  The present Dalai Lama is especially interested in science, and in several interviews throughout the films calls himself a lazy student at first, and then with the help of a telescope, began the study of Cosmology, and how the universe came into being.  All was not well in Tibet and Communist Red China soon invaded Tibet, but the Dalai Lama escaped when 300,000 people formed a human wall around his abode.  He went to India, which had granted him land, and from there has been a spiritual ruler not only to his people in Tibet, but to followers of Buddhism around the world. What is poignant is the friendship between the Dalai Lama and the late scientist, Francisco Varela.

The Dalai Lama's interest in science is shown through the rest of the film,  as it is devoted to several conferences in which he partakes in conversations with noted scholars. The film is then divided into sections ranging from Cosmology to Cognitive Science to the function of the brain when stimulated to Molecular Biology and Genetics. Because of the Dalai Lama’s interest, in the present age, he is encouraging young student monks to also include scientific study in their class work.  For example, part of the Buddhist religion is quiet meditation, and this is also done in present psychology to relax a person who may experience migraine headaches.  One of the tests shown in the film is the results of a brain test showing brain wave differences.

One does not have to be a scientist to view this film and the discussions are not over your head. If you were not familiar with the Buddhist religions before, you will gather a brief outline of their beliefs and how their leader, the Dalai Lama, is moving them into the 21st century. What was interesting to me were the scientific studies, with graphics, concerning the Big Bang Theory.  Sometimes a ruler can rule his country without actually being there. The influence is not only regional, but can be world-wide.

Copyright 2020 Marie Asner