Join the Tricycle Community to watch For the Benefit of All Beings and five other Buddhist films through July 4.
What inspired you to make For the Benefit of All Beings? Many students over the years had requested to Garchen Rinpoche that there be a movie made about his life story. Rinpoche finally agreed and asked me to make a movie that would help his students remember him after he passed away.
My aspiration was to make a film that captured his essence and would transmit his infinite love and wisdom, not only to his students but to an audience that would never normally meet him.
I knew it would be the greatest gift I could give if I could create a film that would allow others to experience Garchen Rinpoche’s immeasurable light in this world, which is like seeing a star in the daytime.
How did you first meet Garchen Rinpche? I first learned of Garchen Rinpoche when I was shooting a film in Tibet in 1994. I was unable to get to Kham to meet Rinpoche then, but the karma finally ripened when I was in Nepal in 1996. I was fortunate to be among his first small group of western students before he travelled to the West.
What was the biggest challenge in making this film? Working with the afflictions in my mind! There have been numerous challenging situations over the 4 1/2 years that were the perfect petri dish to see my mind, not to blame others, but rather to own it as my karma.
Garchen Rinpoche has always said, the accumulation of merit really means accumulating love and purification is of self-grasping.
It is amazing how the guru has an uncanny way of putting me in situations that press all my affliction buttons, giving me ample opportunity to try and cut self-grasping, which turns out to be the root of my suffering every time! My ability to choose love instead has grown over the years, even if it takes me awhile to arrive there.
Practice is the biggest challenge and greatest reward.
How did you get permission to shoot in Tibet? Actually, I did not seek permission. Where I filmed was outside of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the restrictions for tourist travel are not as severe. Still, it was a dangerous trip and it appeared as if the authorities were aware of our whereabouts and the locals were concerned for our safety. I believe we were protected by a vajra shield that Garchen Rinpoche maintained from afar. Needless to say, I learned that I am not cut out for a James Bond career in the future.
How do you hope that audiences will engage with the film? My hope is that people will have an experience of Garchen Rinpoche that opens their hearts in a profound way that melts away some of the self-grasping.
Despite being a Tibetan Buddhist lama, his story is a universal example that can inspire anyone to do better, be better and ultimately realize the full potential of awakening—for the benefit of all beings. His life is a teaching, just like so many of the great masters of the past that we have studied and inspire us.
It is profound the way Garchen Rinpoche tells his story, by weaving dharma perspective and practice into unthinkable suffering situations of Tibetan history while illuminating the undeniable law of cause and effect and our true nature simultaneously.
What did you learn while making For the Benefit of All Beings? I am a witness to Garchen Rinpoche’s unconditional love for all beings. In multiple cultures, whether with a high lama or an uneducated stranger, Rinpoche is always the same with everyone. Completely loving with the most sublime equanimity. He is tireless and truly lives every second of his life for the benefit of all beings. A living buddha before my eyes.
Being in his presence put my flawed dualistic perception of self and other into sharp relief and I was consequently encouraged by his example to continually try to melt away my wrong views with love. This would inevitably dissolve the barrier, dissolve the anger or whatever was arising, and transform a suffering situation into happiness. Sometimes the practice was more immediate; other times it would take me longer.
This is the practice and I am deeply grateful to Garchen Rinpoche for giving me the opportunity to practice in the desert, on the high mountains of Tibet, in mansions or caves, around the world and back. It’s been a journey of a lifetime and he has firmly planted an altruistic wish in my heart to be of benefit to others.
I encourage everyone to come to see this film on the big screen and to meet Garchen Rinpoche who will be attending the screenings in Washington D.C. on July 10 , 12, and 14. You can buy tickets on www.forthebenefitofallbeings.com.
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