DALAI LAMA, THE: SCIENTIST
(director/writer: Dawn Gifford Engle; cinematographers: Dave Ruck/Franz Reichle/Elizabeth Holloway; editor: Elizabeth Holloway; cast: The Dalai Lama, Laurel Harris (Narrator), Paul Ekman (Psychologist), Eric Lander (mathematician/geneticist), Christof Koch (neuroscientist), George Greenstein (astrophysicist), Francisco Varela (biologist, philosopher and neuroscientist), Richard J Davidson (psychology professoe), Susan Bauer-Wu (president of the Mind and Life Institute), Jon Kabat-Zinn (Stress Reduction clinic founder), Michel Bitbol (philosopher of science), Dan Goleman (psychologist), Arthur Zajonc (physicist), Amisha Jar (neuroscientist); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jo Snow/Bertha Gonzalez/Ana Morales/Jacque Gellein/Rip Gellein/Jihyun Park/; The PeaceJam Foundation; 2019)
“Gets into interesting subject matter.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The activist filmmaker, from the PeaceJam Foundation, founded in 1996, and six-time Nobel prize nominee, Dawn Gifford Engle (“Daughter of the Maya”/”Children of the light”), gets into interesting subject matter in her endearing film about the 85-year-old Tibetan leader, The Dalai Lama XIV (Tenzin Gyatso). She shows him as a religious leader who is wise to recognize science as a good source of knowledge as well as demonstrating an openness to the world and modern society about his ancient religion. The Dalai Lama’s secret is that he always knew since childhood he had a passion for science and now even calls himself “half Buddhist monk, half scientist.” This film is part of a series of documentaries Engle’s made about Nobel Peace Prize winners.
The Dalai Lama is known all over the world not only for his religious activity but also for his political stances. He is the Nobel peace prize winner, as well as the winner of many other international awards. During his long life, he has also developed close relationships with a large number of leading scientists. In this academic film, Engle recalls how the Dalai Lama is in tune with all of science and shows how Tibetan Buddhism and science are in harmony in advancing the world’s knowledge. It should be noted that not all religions work that closely with modern science. Science chooses to question things and construct new models, while religion asks its followers to discover who they are and what purpose is their life. To get religion and science to be on the same page, only can make the world a better place. And even if The Dalai Lama might not always agree with the scientists, the common bond they have is solid.
This is not a film that recruits Buddhists or advances the religion, but one that shows religions can have their own identities while still being advocates for science.
The film is narrated by the actress Laurel Harris. It’s mostly about the Dalai Lama having conversations with all the scientists I listed above in the cast section, as it shows the human side of the Tibetan leader and how Buddhist theories and science theories are in check.
The most touching story was the friendship the Dalai Lama had with the biologist Francisco Varela, who died of an illness.
The film is now available on Vimeo. Besides being so informative, it shows never before seen footage of the Dalai Lama.
REVIEWED ON 4/12/2020 GRADE: B+