Winter 1992


Best known for Last Tango in Paris and more recently The Last Emperor, director Bernardo Bertolucci has chosen Shakyamuni Buddha as the subject of his latest film. Little Buddha, co-authored by Rudy Wurlitzer and Mark Peploe, follows an incarnate lama, discovered in Seattle, returning to his home monastery in Bhutan. Here, his education begins with the story of Siddhartha.

The first day's shooting near Kathmandu was briefly disrupted when a group of Tibetans protested the fact that Little Buddha's guru was played by a Chinese. Order was quickly restored when it was explained that Bertolucci had received the Dalai Lama's approval for the script, as well as the casting of the Chinese actor. In Nepal, rumors persisted that Chinese communists had deliberately circulated misleading accounts of the script in order to suppress a movie that may increase sympathies in the West for a Free Tibet. The Tibetan community was further assured by the respected Dzongar Kyentse Rinpoche who explained, "The making of this movie is more important than the building of a hundred monasteries." Seasoned scriptwriter Rudy Wurlitzer offers a more cautionary optimism. Wurlitzer makes a distinction between "religious" films such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments and a much smaller category of "spiritual" films such as Passolini's The Passion According to St. Matthew. But even here, Wurlitzer says, "Such ambitious projects are often reductive and inevitably point to the lowest common denominator." Yet speaking of Little Buddha, he adds, "Perhaps this one will prove to be an exception."


The reincarnation of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche has been discovered in Kathmandu. Dudjom Rinpoche, who died in 1983 was considered the supreme head of the Nyingma tradition and one of the greatest masters of dzogchen—the teachings that emphasize the inherent and immutable purity of the human heart and mind.

The new Dudjom Rinpoche

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