‘The Dalai Lama – Scientist’ Needs More Dalai Lama

by KB Burke on May 19, 2020

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

The Dalai Lama repeatedly quotes Buddha, “All my followers … monks, scholars … should not accept my teaching out of faith, out of devotion, but rather through investigation and experiment.”

Unknowing to many who are not close to his work, His Holiness is deeply interested in the world of science, especially modern scientific theory. The Dalai Lama — Scientist not only explores this fascination, but it gives insight into how this interest has led to the collaboration of western science and Buddhist science. Through rare and exclusive interviews, it attempts to show not only the Dalai Lama’s lifelong pilgrimage to meet with the world leaders in science and technology, but also to show how this merger has advanced the thought processes and made the world a bit smaller.

Narrated by Laurel Harris, this is not your typical documentary. Director Dawn Gifford Engle’s film plays more like a PBS special on the topic. Not being familiar with cosmology, quantum physics, or sciences of the mind, like neuroscience, it made it difficult to hold my attention on the various topics. Experts in these fields (including Paul Ekman) sit in close proximity with the Dalai Lama, interview after interview, and present their western science theories (sometimes through translation), listening to how it agrees or contrasts with Buddhist science. The way the sections are broken up reminded me of collegiate video reviews.

If there is any saving grace here, it is the Dalai Lama himself. His warmth and charisma is apparent throughout the entire film. It’s evident from his youthful days of dissembling things to see how they work, to the modern day where he was able to hold a conference with Chinese scientists, a feat never imagined after having to flee Tibet and live in India in exile. His relationships with the western scientists (who he repeatedly calls his friends) are genuine. This is shown in the most touching part of the documentary where he is shown video conferencing one of his friends as the man lays on his deathbed. The next scene is him meeting with the man’s son. The exchanges are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. As interesting as the main content of the film would be to a niche audience, it lacks more scenes like this where we truly get to see who this leader truly is.

In his 85th year, he is more committed than ever for the advancement of science. “I’m a simple Buddhist monk, but at the same time eventually I (have) become very close with scientists.” It was interesting to see how these two worlds came together. It would have been more interesting to focus more on the man behind it.

KB is a native New Yorker/Midwest transplant who’s into tech, sports, and the arts, especially film and music. He still aspires to be a DJ in his other life. You can frequently catch him watching Hitchcock classics, film noir, and anything Star Wars.


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