To the western imagination, Tibet evokes the exotic, the spiritual, and since its invasion by China, the political; a fabled land, sheltered from modernity and threatened by extinction. Endowed with all that the West has lost, Americans are enchanted with Tibet and its particular form of Buddhism. In American, the Dalai Lama has achieved rock-star status, and many turn to him for answers to today’s pressing conflicts and concerns.
Gelek Rimpoche was born in this legendary Shangri-la. Trained as a traditional monk then forced to flee in 1959, he has lived an extraordinary life spanning continents, customs and cultures. No longer in monks robes, now a citizen of the United States, his story is a mirror of America’s romance with Tibet and the assimilation of its unique treasures.
The documentary, The American Rimpoche: A Tibetan Lama in the 21st Century, interweaves conversations with Gelek Rimpoche and interviews with key players in American’s adoption of Tibetan Buddhism. Framed by remarkable photos of old Tibet taken by Rimpoche’s father in the 1940’s and 50’s, the film will break ground in exploring one man’s job as a modern spiritual teacher and the impact of Tibet’s myths and practices on Americans seeking direction in an increasingly complex world.
These are Gelek Rimpoche’s father’s photographs from old Tibet.