Day 55: A Dharmic Diaspora

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February 24, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

I’m not big on organized religion.  It’s never worked for me, and I have a difficult time ascribing to any particular dogma.  And that’s all I have to say about that.  Mostly.  What I do respect, though, is an appreciation for the intangible elements that comprise our universe.  There is so much we don’t know – there is so much that perhaps we will never know – and to reflect on that understanding is in itself a profound act.  Of the many religions and spiritualities I’ve studied (and I’ve studied a few), Buddhism continues to stand out amongst them as one worth paying attention to.

Long ago (too long ago, really), I attempted meditation in the Buddhist style and found it less than rewarding, but I realize that I was never really able to step to the right of my left brain and fully let go of my individual being.  Lately, though, I’ve been re-inspired to make that attempt by one Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight.  As neuroscientist who suffered a devastating stroke at age 37, her perspective on the extraordinary insights that can be achieved through a departure from one’s day-to-day cognitive routines got me interested again in the notion of exploring what’s generally unseen, unheard and unexperienced.  Today’s project focuses on the journey taken by those who seek enlightenment in one form or another, cast out from their homeland, now spreading their teachings across the globe.

When the Iron Bird Flies is a documentary following the travels of Tibetan Buddhists as they explore the Western world, from the U.K., to Mexico, the U.S. and elsewhere, discovering the effects their culture has had around the world, as well as the effects the world has had on their culture.

WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES: Tibetan Buddhism Arrives in the West is the first feature length documentary to take a comprehensive look at the impact Tibetan Buddhism is having on Western culture. The film creates a vivid portrait of the world of Tibetan Buddhism as it is manifesting in the West–from the personal experiences and insights of teachers and practitioners to the wide-ranging dialogues taking place between Buddhist teachings and the worlds of science, psychology, and the arts.

Religion isn’t my cup of tea, but there’s no denying some of the wisdom shared by Buddhist teachings.  Even Einstein had a little Buddha in him…

“Only if outward and inner freedom are constantly and consciously pursued is there a possibility of spiritual development and perfection and thus of improving man’s outward and inner life.” – Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years

So take the hint from Albert and I, and consider helping this film debut at this year’s SXSW festival.  A pledge on Kickstarter before March 17 will make you a part of this project forever, but you might even get an invite to BuddhaFest, or a trip to Bali, if you’re seeking a departure from the ordinary.  That sort of departure, I think, is what it takes to grow, so I hope you’ll join me in backing this film and helping this story be told.


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