August 15, 2020  (Web Review)

The Great 14th

Frame of Mind Films, 82 min., w/ English subtitles. VOD: frameofmindfilms.com/. Oct. 10, 2019.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

While various media and the movies Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet feature the Dalai Lama, this film is special for featuring the 14th Dalai Lama telling his own life story. The great leader reveals his compassionate heart, sense of humor, respect for others, and a preference for reality over pretension and hypocrisy. Born in 1935 in a small village in Qinghai province of China, and formally recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama when he was just four years old, the young boy was given a new name—Tenzin Gyatso. The 14th Dalai Lama’s enthronement took place in Lhasa, Tibet, in 1940, and, Tenzin Gyatso assumed full political duties in 1950 at age 15.

The 14th Dalai Lama expresses thoughtful ideas that he learned in life and now lives by.  As a young leader and Buddhist monk, he traveled to China to meet with Mao Zedong only to find out Chinese communists disdained religion; he also traveled to India and was impressed with the democratic freedoms in the Indian Parliament. After spending several years studying Buddhism, he received the highest ordination at age 19 and took his final exam in a monastery with 10,000 monks and many other scholars. Now, reading—followed by thinking—are part of his daily life. The 14th Dali Lama stresses the importance of achieving a calm mind. The best way to face adversity is with a tranquil mind; if your mind is peaceful, you can handle things better. For example, in 1959 Tibet’s political situation became unsafe as the country faced threats from the Chinese Liberation Army.  Along with others, the 14th Dalai Lama faced danger and fled to India; there he set up a government in exile and lives today as a refugee. 

Being exiled offered the Dalai Lama the opportunity and freedom to travel and meet with scientists, religious leaders, and scholars. He became convinced society needs more concern for the well-being of humanity and more warm-heartedness.  In 1989 the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. Retiring from political duties, he continued to promote religious harmony and said people need to learn more about other religions and respect them. As a steadfast Buddhist, he states love, holistic views, and altruism are the answers.  He believes in secular ethics and that society can use intelligence, investigation of reality, and science to create a more harmonious world; he created the Mind and Life Institution as a way to teach and promote mental well-being.  The Dalai Lama underscores people tap into thinking power and analyze with the help of the Buddhist approach, remain skeptical, and investigate everything. This film reveals the 14th Dalai Lama as an inspiring intelligent individual, with a wonderful sense of humor, and a love for people and nonviolence.  Recommended.  Aud:  H, C, P.  (T. Root)