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Words of My Perfect Teacher (2003)

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Title: Words of My Perfect Teacher (2003)

Words of My Perfect Teacher (2003) on IMDb 6.2/10

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Release Date:

21 November 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Palavras do Meu Mestre  »

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Opening Weekend:

$2,800 (USA) (22 December 2006)

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$19,898 (USA) (9 February 2007)
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Khyentse Norbu: When you don't have obsession, when you don't have hang up, when you don't have inhibition, when you are not afraid you will be breaking some rules, when you are not afraid you will not be fulfilling someone's expectation's, what more Enlightenment do you want?
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Mr. Ordinary
29 December 2006 | by (California) – See all my reviews

When it comes to films about the Buddhist and Hindu worlds, you really have to know beforehand what you're looking at, otherwise it will make little or no sense -- or worse. Capturing the inner journey on film is probably impossible. Having issued that warning, I can tell you this is a good film.

When we first meet Rinpoche (a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist teacher), he is a solitary little man walking around London, followed by a handful of totally enthralled students. He has a passion for soccer, and apparently good food, too. It is not clear if he has a shrine room, an organization, or a practice center -- the usual venue for Buddhist teachers. He seems aware of but untouched by his surroundings.

It is only when we get to his home base in Bhutan that we see he is a major spiritual, social, and political figure. People are bowing to him all over the place, he blesses hundreds of people, he is chauffered, and wined and dined.

So what does this actually tell us about the dharma? A lot, but you have to know what you're seeing before you see it. First, his Western students are immensely lucky to have such access to him; they hang out watching TV, cook dinner together, etc. As Rinpoche laments himself, in Buddhist countries the gap is too great between him and the ordinary people for him to be as effective a teacher as he should.

It also shows us how an enlightened being is truly without ego pretense. He is as happy and comfortable living in a plebe flat in London, as sitting on a throne in Bhutan and naming babies for groveling parents. He is not so much a teacher of important subject matter, but the embodiment of that subject matter. It's that total lack of pretense that rings true. Not that he's an easy man to be around -- far from it, but it is one of the jobs of the real teacher to keep his students off balance. It keeps them from turning into a barnacle on the guru, and forces them to work with their own minds, which is the whole point of this particular spiritual path. Occasionally he does say a few words about the dharma, mostly geared to Westerners.

This film also contains a gem of an interview, two interlaced interviews actually, one of them with Gesar Mukpo, the half American/half Tibetan son of Chogyam Trungpa Rin. and a tulku in his own right, and the other with Steven Seagal, who gets sliced and diced as a total phony. People need to be warned about the bad teachers. In fact, it was around the time Steven Seagal was enthroned that I left Buddhism as a formal member.

So once again, this is a film for true believers. Preaching to the choir so to speak. It is also possible for someone who knows nothing about Buddhism to watch this film and become inspired to check out the dharma, and I think that was a primary reason he gave approval for the film.

It's been about 40 years since Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism landed in the West, and this film is a fascinating reality check on how it is developing. This film shows that overall it is developing very well, not only in terms of creating good students, but challenging Tibetans to adapt the core of their teachings to a very alien culture.


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