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The 5 Best Buddhist Documentaries

In our ‘The Weekly 5’ series we aim to present you with 5 ideas, products, or publications that you can utilize to enhance the quality of your life. We will look at a wide variety of topics with information that can assist you in your pursuit for fulfillment. This week we reveal our list of The 5 Best Buddhist Documentaries.


The 5 Best Buddhist Documentaries:

The sophistication of modern-day filmmaking offers us the opportunity to see and experience the world in unimaginable ways. Documentaries, in particular, give us the chance to find inspiration in real-life stories from around the globe. Many documentaries move us in ways that a typically Hollywood film cannot, and they also increase our understanding of a variety of topics. One subject that is regularly highlighted in various documentary films is Buddhism, and the following 5 films will certainly give you important insight into the religion of kindness and compassion. Here is our list of the 5 Best Buddhist Documentaries (trailers included):

1.) Journey From Zanskar:

The preservation of Tibetan Buddhist culture has remained of great importance for the country’s exiled leadership since the 1950 Chinese Invasion and continued Chinese influence. It is believed that the northern Indian city of Zanskar is the last original Tibetan Buddhist society that has, because of its isolated location, remained unaffected by outer influence. In “Journey From Zanskar,” filmmakers follow Tibetan Buddhist monk Geshe Yonten as he leads 17 children from Zanskar, over 17,000 foot Himalayan Mountain passes, towards the town of Manali, where the children can receive a proper education. The film was released in 2011.

2.) Unmistaken Child:

The concept of reincarnation, or rebirth, is found within the various Asian religions of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. These spiritual traditions believe that after an individual passes away, they are born again into a different physical form. In the tradition of Buddhism, this means that when highly ranked monks and lamas pass, a search begins to find the reincarnation of the spiritually significant individuals. In “Unmistaken Child,” which was released in 2008, filmmakers follow the journey of Tibetan monk Tenzin Zopa as he searches for the reincarnation of his revered teacher, Geshe Lama Konchog. This award-winning documentary is filmed over a 5 1/2-year time span.

3.) Daughters of Dolma:

In 2013, filmmaker Adam Miklos released the widely acclaimed documentary, “Daughters of Dolma,” which explores the lives of Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in the Katmandu Valley. The extraordinary journey, that is Daughters of Dolma, focuses on a variety of interesting topics and brings to light the gender equality issues found within modern-day religion. Not only are the spiritual intricacies of the women’s everyday lives highlighted, but also their interests away from monastery life. A number of nuns, from Karma Ngoedhon Osal Choekhorling and Karma Samten Ling Nunneries, share their life stories and beliefs about age, gender equality, compassion, kindness, and Western culture.

4.) The Dhamma Brothers:

In this 2007 documentary, a team of prominent psychologists begins offering an intensive meditation course in one of America’s most dangerous prisons. The film focuses on the first group of prisoners to participate in the 10-day meditation course, who become known as, “The Dhamma Brothers.” The meditation technique taught to the prisoners is Vipassana, which is in the lineage of S.N. Goenka, and the film features interviews with prisoners, prison employees, and family members. Four individual prisoners, who all have been convicted of murder, are prominently featured in the film.

5.) Buddha’s Lost Children:

Within the borders of Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, and Laos is an area of land, called The Golden Triangle, which is distinctively known for drug-producing opium operations. For the children who grow up in this poverty-ridden region, the temptations of wealth, that can be had from the drug trade, are often hard to overcome. In “Buddha’s Lost Children,” filmmaker Mark Verkerk looks at how one man has dedicated his life to helping these children who are often victimized by circumstance. The man whose story is explored is, former Thai boxer turned Buddhist monk, Phra Khru Bah Neua Chai Kositto.

3 More Buddhist Documentaries Worth a Watch:

While these films rank as our 5 best Buddhist documentaries, there are other noteworthy titles that are worth mentioning. If the previous 5 documentaries don’t satisfy your quest for Buddhist understanding, here are 3 more watch-worthy titles:

  • The Buddha”: A 2010 documentary that explores the life of Siddhartha Gautama.
  • Wheel of Time”: A 2003 documentary that highlights the complex ordination rituals for Tibetan Buddhist monks.

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