Thursday, May 7, 2009

Humanity as a Personal Responsibility:
"Dalai Lama Renaissance" (Dir: Khashyar Darvich)

--Feature Column: "Wisdom Keepers of the World w/Bettina Gordon"--

Picture this....forty of the world’s most prominent and innovative thinkers (self-proclaimed) meet in Dharmsala, India, at the exiled residence of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, to attend the "Synthesis Conference." The goal of the conference is no less ambitious than to “find solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems and to “assure the health of the earth for all future generations”.

Buckle up- this is going to be interesting!

Watching the award-winning documentary “Dalai Lama Renaissance” may be the best over-the-counter remedy for overblown egos. Seldom have I seen the clashes of highly educated Westerners, who clearly forgot to check their egos at the door, depicted so starkly and at times outright comically. One shining moment of the film includes a facilitator of the event pleading “I’d like to feel a little compassion here” just to make it through the morning session in one piece.

Although the film succeeds in delivering a healthy dose of pleasurable voyeurism in observing academics showing their sometimes quirky "humanness," the big win with the picture is ultimately in the clear proposition made by spiritual teachers that humility and self-reflection is what "needs to be brought to the table" if we are ever to change the “world out of balance."

A shining moment of the film is when His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, finally takes center stage and gives them not so much a piece of his mind as a piece of his soul. “Each human being has the moral responsibility to think about humanity, to think about the future”, says the man who the Tibetan people believe is the incarnation of the God of Ultimate Compassion. Gently, with at times childlike joy and laughter, he reminds everyone present that changing the world starts by changing the individual. “We have the chance to improve ourselves. We don’t need a complicated philosophy, just be a warmhearted person.”

It’s pretty jaw-dropping to see a gentle-man who lives on a world stage, deliver such absolute humility in every second of footage. The 40 who came to solve the world’s problems, left to improve themselves-first. Like the Dalai Lama proposed, many of the 40 who "improved themselves" did in fact go on to improve the world. Dr. Michael Beckwith shared his knowledge in the movie “The Secret,” has written hugely successful books, gives seminars to thousands worldwide and has appeared multiple times on Oprah. The scientists Fred Alan Wolf and Amit Goswami – bickering like kids in Dharmsala – appeared in “What the Bleep to We Know” and have gone on to become notable figures in the fields intersecting "quantum physics" and self development. It seems all those in attendance walked away wiser and more humble, making their impact on the world through the seed of personal transformation.

After attending a screening in New York, I had the opportunity to sit down with a fellow Producer-Director Khashyar Darvich, who went through 140 hours of footage to edit the documentary. Khashyar interviewed the Dalai Lama twice for his film, and I asked him what he had personally learned from being with His Holiness. I only had my small tape recorder with me, but thankfully Khashyar made this clip available:

After I left, one quote originally by Leo Tolstoy, and read in the film by narrator Harrison Ford, stayed in my mind for days:

Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody is thinking of changing himself.

The DVD for “Dalai Lama Renaissance” is on sale now (for a 15% discount click go to

Contributing columnist Bettina M. Gordon is a journalist, columnist and independent filmmaker who transformed from being a Wall Street correspondent into a Wisdom Hunter in search of ancient wisdom for modern people. Strong in her conviction that we cannot afford to lose the invaluable knowledge of ancient and traditional cultures, she has begun identifying wisdom keepers from around the world to document their knowledge. Bettina produced and directed the recently launched documentary “All is Made Beautiful – Native American Traditions with Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf”, which can be previewed at in this LINK

*More on Bettina's work can be found at

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