“The basis for realizing enlightenment is a human body. Male or female, there is no great difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment the woman’s body is better.”
“She displays whatever emanation form will tame
Any given person, just as, for example, the full moon in the sky
Emerges as various reflections in different water vessels.”
∼Ngawang Tenzin Dorje
About two years ago, I wrote a pair of Levekunst posts detailing our feature-length documentary about Guru Rinpoche: Precious Guru: Journey into the Wild Heart of the Second Buddha. I opened my first post with the following:
“As I wrote this personal reflection on the story of Guru Rinpoche, I continuously searched for the right moment to share my affection for his original and most trusted storyteller, Yeshe Tsogyal, Awareness Lake Queen. In truth, there is no such thing as a right moment. She is everywhere in this essay as she is in the story.
We know the Guru’s fierce and unflinching compassion because of the wisdom of Yeshe. She is the keeper of his secrets and the channel for his teachings. It is primarily their dialogues that we listen to when we enter a terma treasure. These exchanges between Guru and Consort unfold with affection, love, and inviolable trust. Whether we acknowledge this or not, when we bow to the Guru, we bow to Yeshe.”
At the time of that post, I was still uncertain how to include Yeshe Tsogyal’s unique vision and perspective in our film. The more we pondered this question, however, and explored the endless ways to share Guru Rinpoche’s story, we came to a clear and unambiguous decision: Yeshe Tsogyal should be the narrator of Precious Guru.
Integrating a story character as the narrator of a documentary presents unique challenges. First, it forsakes the customary distance that exists between narration and subject. It also asks the audience to willingly suspend their disbelief. For this film and this story, however, such challenges are outweighed by the ‘rightness’ of including Yeshe’s intimate presence. As one of the people we interviewed explained: “It is only through the feminine understanding of Guru Rinpoche that we can gain insight into who he was as a person, as an icon, and as a symbol.”
For all of these reasons, we have written Precious Guru’s narrator’s script in the voice of Yeshe Tsogyal. She serves as the guide to the Guru’s story, from his immaculate birth in Oddiyana, to his departure for the Land of the Rakshasa. Throughout it all, she also offers her own unique perspective as princess, consort, disciple, terton, and Buddha.
At present, Yeshe’s narration is recorded in my voice. Once we finish assembling the rough cut,
we will make final adjustments to the script and then recruit and record a Himalayan woman to embody Yeshe’s voice. I look forward to that moment!
To date, we have completed about 13 minutes of the Rough Cut, (6 minutes of which we share above). We are now raising funds for the Final Cut of the film, which we expect to run about 75-80 minutes. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the film, you can do so here: Fractured Atlas. If you are interested in making a larger contribution and becoming an underwriter of our film, please send me a note.
Precious Guru has been an epic journey with both obstacles and boons. When the initial idea first took shape, I had no idea where it would lead. Six years later and with the end in sight, I still feel a sense of unfolding and ripening. I also am convinced that Guru Rinpoche’ and Yeshe Tsogyal’s stories of transformation have never been more important to the world than now.
All photographs were taken by Triptych Journey photographer, Jon Schechner. Cinematography is by Triptych Journey filmmaker, Ronen Schechner.
You can follow our progress on our Facebook Page.
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