In this film celebrating the life of the well-known Tibetan Buddhist master Sogyal Rinpoche, we are offered glimpses of Rinpoche's background and introduced to his unique yet authentic presentation of the teachings of the Buddha, including excerpts from Rinpoche's book, "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying".
After Rinpoche's master Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö and his closest students and attendants, and Rinpoche's family, left Tibet in the mid-50s, they settled in the Kingdom of Sikkim in the Himalayas where Sogyal Rinpoche spent a large part of his childhood. Sogyal Rinpoche returns to Sikkim every year, and in 2006 we were fortunate enough to be able to join Rinpoche in Gangtok and see where Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö spent his last years. We were also able to speak with members of Sogyal Rinpoche's family and friends, including one of Rinpoche's closest friends Lodi Gyari Rinpoche, Special Envoy to His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington, who was also visiting Sikkim at the time.
Later that year we travelled to Lerab Ling, probably the largest Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Europe, in the mountains above Montpellier in the South of France. This is Sogyal Rinpoche's home and the spiritual centre for his activities where hundreds of his students from all over the world gather to receive teachings. We met some of them and learned how the teachings of the Buddha have changed their outlook and their lives.
While we were in Lerab Ling, the English actor and comedian John Cleese joined the annual summer gathering for a few days and spoke with great candour and wit about what he's learned of Tibetan Buddhist.
We also met the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche, a highly respected master and scholar, who explained how all sentient beings, whoever they are, want to be happy, that developing love and compassion is central to the Buddhist path, and about the inevitability of death.
Death and Dying—one of the last taboos in the modern world—is a subject that Sogyal Rinpoche has returned to many, many times throughout his teaching life, and perhaps more than any other master, he has been instrumental in encouraging modern people to finally acknowledge the inevitability of death and the importance of preparing for it well in advance. Since many of Rinpoche's students sought him out specifically to learn about the Tibetan Buddhist view of and approach to death, it is major theme in our film.