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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

‘Dalai Lama Renaissance’ requires patience

April 6, 2009

Kansas City Star
April 2, 2009

I’m beginning to understand why the Dalai Lama
laughs so much. His infectious giggle isn’t just
an expression of joy. It’s the only possible
response to the clueless sycophants who latch onto him everywhere he goes.

Those of us who aren’t revered Buddhist monks
have to fight the urge to slap these people upside the head.

"Dalai Lama Renaissance" features 40 such
"innovative thinkers," who visit His Holiness in
India to brainstorm solutions to the world’s
problems. Drawn from fields like comparative
religion and quantum physics, they don’t have
great financial means, but they have a genuine desire to improve humanity.

Their idealism doesn’t last long. Instead of
"synthesizing" (their favorite word), the
attendees bicker endlessly about how the event
should be run. Their debates are a marvel of
passive-aggressive egotism, and they accomplish virtually nothing.

When the time comes to present their ideas to the
Dalai Lama, the best they can offer is a proposal
to boycott China — something their host dislikes
because it will hurt people who are not involved
with the occupation of his Tibetan homeland.

His rejection of this idea is considerate and
good-natured, but several participants don’t
realize he’s disagreeing with them. He ends up
having to explain his philosophy the way a
kindergarten teacher explains why we don’t put glue in Susie’s hair.

Director Khashyar Darvich seems so determined to
be uplifting, he misses how ludicrous this all
is. His subjects come across as stereotypical
Western navel-gazers, who can’t get out of their
narcissistic New Age haze long enough to do
anything. Most of them accept the Dalai Lama’s
criticisms, but they don’t necessarily understand them.

Darvich does an adequate job of pointing the
camera and letting people speak, but he provides
no context, even failing to mention that this
gathering took place almost 10 years ago. What
have its participants done since? Why were they
chosen for the project in the first place? Why
did it take so long to get the movie into theaters? Darvich provides no clues.

He does, however, make the Dalai Lama look even
better than usual. Anyone who can be this patient
with this many irritating people deserves
tremendous respect. At least he can laugh about it.

Visiting monks from India’s Drepung Gomang
Monastery will conduct a peace blessing before
tonight’s 7:15 screening of “Dalai Lama
Renaissance” at the Tivoli. They are also
creating a sand mandala at the Kansas City Central Library downtown.

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