Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Digital Dharma Kickstarter

Staff for the documentary, Digital Dharma, contacted me the other day about their upcoming film. Coincidentally, a day later, Kickstarter let me know about this film because it also has an ongoing kickstarter drive going to raise money to finish the film. Between the two of these, I thought it especially timely to talk to people about Digital Dharma, in order to help see the film fully realized.

I was told:

The film chronicles the life of the mormon from Utah who sparked a global mission to save Tibetan Buddhist culture. E. Gene Smith was the founder of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, currently located in New York City under the roof of the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.

I’ve heard of Gene Smith on more than a few occasions. He was held up as an example of a man who had dedicated his life to the Dharma through his unending support of Tibetan culture, its Buddhism, and especially the preservation of the Tibetan Canon of texts.

Most people are aware of at least some of the reality of the last 50 years of Tibet and how many of its people, and most of its leadership, fled to India for refuge after the Chinese took over Tibet at gunpoint. What many people don’t realize is that these Tibetans often fled with only what they could carry on their backs. Tibet has a rich culture, especially a textual tradition. Imagine if the Vatican had to flee Italy with only what its people could carry and any other texts from a more than thousand year long history might just be lost forever (during the Cultural Revolution is what not uncommon for texts to be burned by the Chinese). Gene Smith’s work (and that of many others as well) has been to try to digitize and preserve texts that have made it out of Tibet in an effort for the Tibetans to not lose their cultural and spiritual history. Often only a single copy of a given text has made it.

As their kickstarter page states:

With the Buddhist thought at its core, his goal was to digitize the more than 20,000 volumes he rescued in order to provide free access to the story of a people. With technological advancement speeding forward, Gene’s vision was to make these texts accessible to everyone, even in the most remote monasteries and villages, and preserve the knowledge they contain for humanity.

This is the official trailer, which says things much better than I could ever hope to do:

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The filming is done for this documentary and they are raising funds for final production work for color correction and audio production with this footage. Please consider donating to it right now on the kickstarter page.

You can find more information at http://digitaldharma.com and they have a facebook page also.

I want to close with one clip from the film. This is His Holiness, Menri Trizin Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, who is the abbot of Menri Monastery. For those that don’t know, HH is the head of Bon, which is usually thought of as the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. The actual truth is more complex as Bon is a mixture of Vajrayana Buddhism with native pre-Buddhist, shamanistic beliefs. It is now recognized to be the fifth branch of Tibetan religion but has undergone challenges for recognition because of historical factors. I include this clip because it shows the inclusive nature of this documentary and because, little known to most of my readers, I actually took refuge with a Bon teacher years ago and feel ties to the tradition.

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I encourage people to contribute to this project at the kickstarter page. I also encourage people to visit the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center. This is the project for the preservation and digitization of the texts and they could really use your donations as well.