The Dalai Lama tells his own story in ‘The Great 14th’

The Dalai Lama opens up to the public telling his own life story through the documentary by Frame of Mind Films, “The Great 14th, The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso In His Own Words.”

“I lost my own country. A major portion of my life was outside Tibet,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama said “The Great 14th.” “[There has been] a lot of difficulty, a lot of challenge, but I have no regret.”

The Friday Harbor Film Festival, San Juan Islands Museum of Art and Frame of Mind Films join together in a special showing of the documentary June 1, at 7 p.m. at the San Juan Community Theatre. Tickets are $15. Director Rosemary Rawcliffe will be available for an in-person question-and-answer period following the film.

During the approximately hour-and-a-half documentary the Dalai Lama touches on his childhood, Tibet, love, compassion, education and using a calm mind for a better life and ultimately a better world.

“When you are in a conversation you feel like you are the only one on the planet. I’ve heard other people say the same thing. When he turns his attention on you, it’s like kindness, compassion, love, and you feel seen,” Rawcliffe, who spent years with him on the project, said. That feeling of being in the room with him emanates throughout the documentary, from his constant chuckles to his serious concerns, pained by the suffering of others.

“In the face of a whole lifetime of loss and vilification by the Chinese, he rises above it, and he says no matter what the circumstances around you, never give up,” Rawcliffe said. As the audience listens to the Dalai Lama tell his story in “The Great 14th” it is apparent he himself never gave up in the face of what he calls the darkest days.

“Life is not easy. The best way to face these difficulties is with a calm mind,” he explains in a soothing voice. Even when sharing the tough details of his exile from Tibet, the audience is not left with anger or bitterness but is instead taken in by his conviction that anger is not a helpful emotion. Rather than anger, for one’s mental and physical health, for the sake of humanity, move forward with compassion, with an open heart and smart mind.

“The ultimate source of happiness is within ourselves,” he explains.

“He says if you are angry at someone it’s like drinking poison, it only hurts you,” Rawcliffe noted.

“It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

“The Great 14th” is filled with Tibetan history and culture providing the audience with the framework and understanding behind the current situation there, and clips of a young Dalai Lama are also woven into his storytelling.

In 2011, The Dalai Lama voluntarily relinquished political authority to create the first Tibetan democracy. Holding the political and spiritual power of the Dalai Lama had been a 400-year-old tradition beginning with the 5th Dalai Lama. “I proudly, happily ended that,” he says with a smile in the documentary, explaining why he feels democracy is important and has been working persistently toward the democratization of Tibet.

According to Rawcliffe, he has a deep commitment that he truly lives in service to the world. It doesn’t matter what country a person is from, what religion or what economic class, he loves everyone equally.

“Whether a believer or non-believer we all have the responsibility to take serious concern about the well-being of humanity,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama says.

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