'The indisputable masterpiece of a Manzheeva film' is how renowned scholar Professor Robert AF Thurman, founder of Tibet House US, describes the new documentary Geshe Wangyal: With the Blessing of the Three Jewels in a letter dated April 2023. Professor Thurman's letter, along with thanks from Jeffrey Hopkins, Founder and President of WBU's Institute of Tibetan Studies, and Tenzin N. Tethong, former representative of Sa Holiness the Dalai Lama, were shared with BDG by Ella Manzheeva, director and producer of the film.
On the day of the film's premiere on November 16, 2022, BDG had the privilege of interviewing Manzheeva to discuss the film's inspiration, how it was shot, as well as gain insight into the dharmic contributions of wide-ranging by Geshe Wangyal.* Following that successful showing at the World Asian Film Festival in Los Angeles, the documentary, which highlights the life of one of the foremost Tibetan Buddhist teachers in the early stages of American Buddhism, Geshe Wangyal has been screened several times in India and the United States, arousing much interest and inspiration among the audience.
The film was screened at the Seven Inn Hotel in Bodh Gaya, India on December 31, 2022, for Buddhist pilgrims from Kalmykia, Tuva and beyond, who had gathered to witness the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama . It was then presented in person and online by Tibet House US on February 4 this year, with a live-streamed introduction by Professor Thurman and Ella Manzheeva. During the screening, Manzheeva addressed the Kalmyk audience and especially newcomers to the United States, saying, "I want to dedicate this show to all the Kalmyks who have just arrived in the United States and are starting their journey. May things work out for you and as Geshe-la said: pure thoughts open all doors! Have a good trip! »
The Kalmyk diaspora in New Jersey was also able to see the film on May 13. A few days later, on May 21, it was screened at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael, California, with the cooperation of the Buddhist Film Foundation, the world's leading resource for film-themed and d Buddhist inspiration. The screening included a live-streamed introduction by Professor Thurman and a discussion with Manzheeva.
In her letter of appreciation, Professor Thurman writes that Manzheeva has done a great service to the world by directing and producing the first-ever comprehensive, informative and moving documentary on the life of Venerable Geshe Ngawang Wangyal. Professor Thurman also shares his personal experience as a close student of Geshe-la, who “saved his life in many ways,” and acknowledges his accomplishments:
It is in Manzheeva's skillful blending of Geshe-la's "religious" life with her "political" contributions to the future spread of Tibetan Buddhism in her adopted country that we can most closely compare her achievements, especially assisting the work of the Dalai Lamas for sentient beings, along with that of his illustrious mentor and guru, Lama Dorjiev. In this way, and many others too long to recount for our purposes, I naturally think people should know what a great and eminent man he was, a real tzadicka hidden saint and sage, or in Zen parlance, "a real man without rank", perhaps one of the most important individuals of the 20th century.**
Jeffrey Hopkins writes an impressive letter of congratulations, providing a historical analysis of the details of Geshe Wangyal's life and diving deep into the times when his life intertwined with that of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Hopkins summarizes Geshe's accomplishments, featured in the documentary:
Ella Manzheeva's film poignantly depicts the remarkable life journey of Geshe Wangyal who, among other notable accomplishments, helped His Holiness the Dalai Lama escape from Tibet; inspired and advised a successful behind-the-scenes political campaign to bring the Dalai Lama to America; and, posthumously, brought the Dalai Lama to Geshe Wangyal's birthplace to help instantly revive Buddhism where it had been decimated during his 70-year absence.***
In his own laudatory thoughts, Tenzin Tethong provided valuable historical information about Geshe Wangyal and his relationship with the Dalai Lama, and highlighted the exceptional qualities of the documentary:
Ella Manzheeva has produced a wonderful and important film about the very productive life of Geshe Wangyal. In the final act of this seminal work, Manzheeva illustrates how Geshe Wangyal posthumously reconnects his native Kalmykia to the Tibet of the Mongol Khans and, in a mysterious and roundabout way, recounts how his introduction of Tibetan Buddhism to America finally resurrected in his own homeland, by his "friend" the Dalai Lama. Geshe Wangyal not only advanced a completely decimated spiritual tradition in his homeland, but also resurrected a consistent Mongolian-Tibetan relationship that has stood the test of time, political persecution, and attempts at ethnic cleansing. I urge all my friends to view this excellent cinematic portrayal of one of His Holiness's earliest friends in America whose relationship traces its origins back eight centuries to semi-enlightened XNUMXth century Mongol khans. ****
Undoubtedly, Manzheeva's incredible film sheds new light on the dramatic story of Buddhist monk and scholar Geshe Wangyal, who became a central figure in spreading Tibetan Buddhism to the West and building a bridge spiritual spanning Tibet, India, Russia, America and the world.
* An interview with Ella Manzheeva, director of the new documentary Geshe Wangyal: With Blessing of the Three Jewels (BDG)