28 July 2003 | lora_traykova
India is not Tibet
I have read all the comments on this film here and I was surprised one more time to see how differently people react to one and the same film. What struck me also was that some of the viewers clearly mistake Tibet for India, because apparently they don't know that there are Buddhists in India as well.
Buddhism has its origins in Hinduism itself as it is believed that Buddha is a reincarnation of lord Vishnu The Preserver, one of the three main Hindu gods. But through the centuries Buddhism slowly developed as an independent religion. The film was shot in Ladakh which is in the Indian Himalayas, not in Tibet and two of the characters go to the town of Leh which is the capital of Ladakh and hence it is also in India. I thought that it is important to clarify these details as I don't think that one should mistake Tibet for India. India is not just Bollywood and as a country living under the phrase "unity in diversity" it surely has lots of different religious communities and lots of different cultures.
As for the film itself - I loved it, not only because it has been so beautifully shot (by the Bulgarian D.P. Rali Ralchev) and not only because it meets us with a part of the world we barely know, but mostly because I could identify with the characters and their desires, anguish, pain, joy, dreams. "Samsara" (the Hindu concept of reincarnation) asks some philosophic questions in a very earthly manner, I think. The ideas of Buddhism, the detachment from earthly life in order to reach enlightenment, the conquering of ourselves, our ego, our earthly desires (to love, to have family, to enjoy the simple but earthly life of a farmer, to possess objects and to command love from the others) are ideas or rather dilemmas that many of us face from time to time. Buddha has said that the middle way is the right way to follow, but how can this way be found? Is it through experiencing the earthly life, then renouncing it and then devoting oneself to the life a monk, choosing the spiritual life in search of the almighty truth and the great soul? This was the way Buddha has chosen - being a prince himself, having a family, and then renouncing it and devoting himself to the life of a recluse, but of a recluse who has reached the enlightenment and a recluse willing to share the truth with the others.
Everyone chooses one's own way. Tashi is a person who asks himself questions and he's a person who searches for his own right path. To say that he is only an egoist who leaves his wife when he gets fed up the life of a family man and a farmer is quite simplistic, I think. I believe he has been very honest from the beginning to the end and that is why he left the monastery at first and came back to it in the end. The important idea that I have discovered was that no matter what kind of path one will choose there will always be an anguish along the way. Maybe it is because of the eternal question unanswered - what to choose - to satisfy all desires or to conquer the one and only? No matter what we choose we will always doubt from time to time that maybe we should have chosen the opposite.
What I really liked about this film also is the fact that it presented us with the female point of view in the final monologue of Tashi's wife Pema. She was given no choice from him when he decided to go back to the monastery. She had to stay behind and take care of their son. She was shown to us as the keeper of the traditions (not allowing her son to play with the modern toy his father bought him from Leh) but at the same time she had that free spirit to make love to the unknown Lama and afterward to even marry him. I liked the sensitivity of the writer / director who cared not only to show us the pain of Pema when realizing she's losing his husband, but also to make her an intelligent woman who thinks and who turns out be as wise and devoted as her Lama husband.