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The Yogis of Tibet
The Yogis of Tibet
Genres: Documentary
UR     2003     1hr 17min


Movie Details

Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: Documentary
Studio: Tapeworm
Format: DVD
DVD Release Date: 09/02/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 17min
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

Movie Reviews

Best movie on Tibet!
Nigel J. Yorwerth | Bozeman, MT USA | 01/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This breathtaking film details the history of Buddhism in Tibet going back to Padma Sambhava. It has an awesome soundtrack with flute music by Nawang Khechog. The yogis that appear on this film were once sworn to absolute secrecy but have agreed to these rare interviews and demonstrations of their practices to record their vanishing culture for posterity. This is quite simply the best and most profoundly moving film on Tibetan culture and Tibetan buddhist practices available today. Om mani padme hum."
Serviceable intro to Tibetan Buddhism but little revelatory
ShriDurga | 10/23/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The producers of this film claim to reveal for the first time on film secrets of Tibetan mind masters, the titular "yogis" that spend years in solitary retreat practicing meditation and physical exercises. Unfortunately, there is very little revelatory in this film for anyone but a complete beginner to Tibetan Buddhism.

Nearly every introduction to the topic contains at least passing mention of yogis able to levitate, to communicate psychically, to see past lives, to peer into the future, or to control the death process. No such abilities have ever been documented by standards of modern science and there are no such feats documented in this film.

There are the usual uncorroborated second and third person reports (none from disinterested, non-Buddhist, non-partisan sources) of yogis exhibiting some of the powers mentioned above. One segment pretends to document the ability to generate extreme body heat, a power practiced by one of Tibetan mythology's great yogis, a man who was said to be able generate enough heat to cause steam to rise off his clothing after it and the yogi had been dipped into nearly freezing water. What the director shows us is a 5-second shot of a thermal scan of a mediator. There is no explanation of what is being shown. No wet clothing. No steam.

Perhaps the most interesting segment is a young monk practicing an acrobatic breathing exercise, one that he says took him two years to master and that he practices two hours daily. From a seated full-lotus position, the young practitioner extends his legs and launches himself into the air, rising about a meter off the ground. He quickly refolds in mid-air to the full-lotus, landing as he started. There's nothing at all paranormal or supernormal about his practice as captured on film, but as you watch him you can image where claims of levitation might have once - ahem - arisen.

A question addressed in the film is to what degree these yogis are following the Buddha's "middle way." Having nearly starved himself to death in the search for enlightenment, the Buddha denounced as pernicious the practice of austerities, in which he saw the counterpart to the pursuit of sensual pleasure. It was shortly after again consuming food and returning to a "normal" state of health that the Buddha attained enlightenment and promulgated the "middle way" as the ideal method for living and for attaining enlightenment. In what way are the yogis discussed in the film - men who for three years live in caves, sit in boxes to keep them upright, deprive themselves of sleep and eat only a subsistence diet - in what way are they practicing a "middle" way? If their way is not extreme, what is? Perhaps the answer is in how you define your terms. Unfortunately, the topic is not discussed, nor the question raised in interviews with the yogis.

If you know nothing or very little about Tibetan Buddhism, The Yogis of Tibet might serve as a useful introduction. You get a 20 minute recap of Tibetan history and its brand of Buddhism, you get some great shots of the Himalayas, you meet some of the great living religious leaders from the Tibetan tradition, and you learn that not all their claims are verifiable to outsiders. Not surprisingly, the American producers of the film (Phil and Jo Borack) are Buddhists practicing in the Tibetan tradition.

Good film about esoteric Tibetan practices
Jason Mierek | Urbana, IL | 02/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I purchased this DVD as a teaching resource for my undergraduate Asian religion and philosophy course, and it was a good choice overall.

The film begins with the stock introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, praising the Tibetan people for their culture of peace and compassion and protesting their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government. It leaves the usual storyline behind, though, when it explores the teachings and practices of the yogis, those rare individuals whose commitment to awakening is so strong that they live in caves, charnel grounds, or in other forms of "extreme retreat" for years or even decades. The viewer is given a look at some of those practices that have been hidden (for good reason---some of the energies worked with can be dangerous without the guidance of someone who's been there and done that) and gets to meet some interesting characters.

My only complaint about the film is that the producers of the DVD failed to take advantage of the digital technology to create chapters. The viewer must fast-forward through the movie to get to a particular scene. Other than this drawback, though, the DVD is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the esoteric side of Tibetan Buddhism."