The Dalai Lama: Scientist review – a mildly enlightening soft-focus insight | Film

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If you’re looking for a definitive Dalai Lama documentary, this narrow-focus film about his lifelong passion for science probably won’t cut it. Directed by Dawn Gifford Engle, it zips through the biographical basics: how a search party of monks arrived at his family farm when he was toddler and identified him as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, his boyhood in a monastery and escape on horseback from Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959. As a boy he spent hours taking things apart and putting them back together; he might have become an engineer or electrician, he says. And it’s his conversations with scientists that form the bulk of the film.

Since the late 1980s, he has held more or less annual audiences with distinguished scientists – his own personal Reith Lectures. The archive shows what a natural he is in these conversations, charismatic and with an extraordinary gift for establishing intimacy: all undivided attention, a penetrating question here, a wry, twinkly eyed quip there. The American psychologist Paul Ekman, a secularist who walks in sceptical and convinced that Buddhism is a new age fad, walks out a Dalai Lama convert.

I’m not certain that the film takes science as seriously as His Holiness (the gratingly inspirational narration doesn’t help). The structure is divided into five sections focusing on different branches of science; each ends with an irrelevant graphic setting out the overlap between scientific thinking and Buddhist teaching. The Dalai Lama’s deepest connections seem to be with psychologists and neuroscientists; he cheekily jokes to the father of cognitive behavioural therapy, psychiatrist Aaron Beck, that the Buddhists got there first with CBT – “It’s analytical meditation!” Watching the documentary, I kept expecting Stephen Hawking to pop up – can it be that these two rock-star global treasures never met?

Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Dalai Lama: Scientist review – a mildly enlightening soft-focus insight | Film

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