Beliefnet
Khyentse Norbu was recognized by Tibetan Buddhists as the reincarnation of a Tibetan saint and religious reformer, Jamyang Khyentse Wangmo (1820-1892), when he was seven years old. While in his 20s, teaching Buddhist philosophy, he fell under the spell of the silver screen, watching the works of such directors as Ozu, Satyajit Ray and Andre Tarkovsky. He spoke with Beliefnet about the tension between moviemaking and his spiritual legacy.

You were a consultant to Bernardo Bertolucci on his film "Little Buddha." How did that arrangement come about?
Bernardo was in London, where I was teaching, and he heard there was a monk who was crazy about film. He was looking for someone to advise him on the authenticity of some of the religious content of the film. My friends, who knew I wanted to make a movie, said, "Here is your chance."

What was the hardest part of making "The Cup"-apart from flying equipment from Australia to India and driving for seven days to location?
The internal struggle. Lamas running around on a movie set, that's difficult for most Tibetans-especially for traditional Tibetans-to accept.

Does your [film] life give you some relief from religious duties and constant veneration?
Yes. When I went to London, it was the first time people didn't prostrate themselves before me. It was the first time someone didn't put on my shoes for me before I left the room.

How does the film function on a religious level?
Film has the power to show us who we are. The process of illusion is similar: the seduction of sound and image is like the seduction of our own thoughts and our willingness to be manipulated. It's like a story told in the movie: One night, a man dreams a monster is on his chest, trying to choke him to death. The man awakes with fear, and sees the monster sitting on him. "What are you going to do to me? he cries, and the monster says, "Don't ask me. It's your dream."

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus