Today most Tibetan Buddhists celebrate the Year of the Female Iron Rabbit. I had written about the Tibetan new year in an earlier post as the Nalandabodhi’s calendar and Tsurphu, Karmpa’s monastery in Tibet, celebrated Losar on February 3rd. As I am involved with several great teachers and Sanghas I will celebrate the new year again today. This is a great day for a Sang or smoke offering and if I were in Boulder with Tibetan friends I would probably also celebrate with a glass of chhaang. I am still in Mexico City working with my co-director Fernanda Rivero on our film “Never Give Up – Karmapa 17″
Maybe you are sick of hearing from me about our film but I will say a little more as we need your help. We are not only working on editing our own film on Karmapa, we are also working at our own expense on a short film for the Karmapa Office on the 900 Year Celebration. This film is to be shown in centers around the world celebrating this special year of 900 rebirths of Karmapas for the benefit of all beings. Originally it was to accompany the travels of the magical Dusum Khyenpa statue. Due to the recent political events in India concerning His Holiness the 17th Karmapa it is not certain whether this statue of the first Karmapa will be traveling the world. Nonetheless the Karmapa office has asked us to finish our film for them as soon as possible, as it will be shown in Dharma centers around the world. We are already behind schedule due to the events in India so we are hiring an additional editor to help us with this project.
Our film, “Never Give Up: Karmapa 17” differs from other films that have been made on the Karmapas or other charismatic Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Most of these films are directed to “Buddhist sangha” or to the followers of those teachers. Rather than literally following His Holiness the 17th Karmapa around from place to place our film explores the ideas he is presenting in his teachings and interviews. In particular we examine the idea of solitary meditation and the Buddhist path of “training the mind” and the direct practice of compassionate social action in the world. We explore this issue through interviews with other contemporary and popular Buddhist teachers like Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Ponlop Rinpoche and Matthieu Ricard. We also follow the lives and work of three women who are students of the Karmapa and who inspired by his teachings of the Buddha are moved to engage in social action in Bodhgaya.
Our movie, which begins with the Kagyu Monlam and the “900 Year Celebration” of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa, will with poetic overtones illustrate through its imagery the Karmapa’s teachings on the importance of compassionate action. This includes caring for animals, vegetarianism, women’s rights and environmental action. I think the issue of how one integrates one’s spiritual practice and one’s work to help others is a big concern among Buddhist and non-Buddhists around the world. According to the Karmapa, the foundation of Buddhist action is mindfulness. Although mindfulness and awareness is achieved through continual practice one cannot wait until enlightenment to go out to help others. During his talks in Bodhgaya the Karmapa emphasized the importance of working every day to alleviate the suffering of others. In Bodhgaya, and during his U.S. Tour, he challenged those present to work to change the direction of the environment abuse that is leading to planetary disaster.
The Karmapa says, “we can never give up on sentient beings” and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to ease their suffering. While long time students of Buddhism will be interested in this film, non-Buddhists and anyone concerned with taking social action for the benefit of others and the planet will find this film inspiring. We are delving into the ideas and teachings of the Buddha and the 17th Karmapa by documenting the compassionate action of others in the world. This is a film that goes beyond devotion to a particular charismatic person and beyond Tibetan Buddhism as a “religion”. Never Give Up – Karmapa 17 explores the purpose of our lives and the teachings of the one whose name means “Activity of the Buddhas” – Karmapa.
We just added three interviews with Tsoknyi Rinpoche, The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche to our website www.openheartfilms.com under the tab Interviews. We hope by sharing a further glimpse into our film you will be inspired to donate to this project. We have a great incentive program for various donation amounts you can read about on our site. Thanks again to all those friends and supporters who have already donated. We really appreciate it and we will continue working hard to make this an incredible film.
Our very own narrative consultant Naomi Levine has a great article in Elephant Journal detailing the lambasting that His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has recently undergone in the Indian press.
Waylon Lewis’ own blog on Elephant Journal is a fun read.