DESCRIPTIONS OF ALL EVENTS
(See Daily Festival Schedule Here)
Spectrum Theatre Buy Tickets
Opening Night film. Director Jeremy Frindel introduces the screening.
Kirtan artist and Krishna Das friend Gaura Vani performs live after the film.
"I think of Krishna Das as someone who can convey emotion and belief and spirit with his voice...and that makes it very powerful." Rick Rubin
"Most singers are singing to the audience. He wants to sing only to Maharaji, and the audience listens in to this tremendous love affair. " Ram Dass
In 1970, Jeffrey Kagel walked away from the American dream of rock 'n' roll stardom, turning down the chance to record as lead singer for the band soon-to-be the Blue Oyster Cult. Instead, he sold all his possessions and moved from the suburbs of Long Island to the foothills of the Himalayas in search of happiness, and a little-known saint named Neem Karoli Baba, otherwise known as Maharaji.
ONE TRACK HEART: THE STORY OF KRISHNA DAS follows his journey to India and back, witnessing his struggles with depression and drug abuse, to his eventual emergence as Krishna Das, world-renowned spiritual teacher and Grammy nominated chant master. Featuring interviews with Ram Dass (LSD icon Richard Alpert), Rick Rubin (Grammy Award winning producer), Sharon Salzberg (NY Times bestselling author), Daniel Goleman (two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee), and many others.
"The Highest Pass is within us. This journey is to realize that."
- Anand Mehrotra, Sattva Yoga guru
Soon after Adam Schomer meets a modern yogi and guru, Anand Mehrotra, they plan an expedition through the highest passes of the Himalayas in Northern India. These are some of the most dangerous roads in the world, yet they manage to assemble a team of seven motorcycle riders to share in what will become the journey of a lifetime. These riders and Adam, who learned to ride two weeks before the trip, are guided by the inspiring teachings of Anand, who bears the burden of a Vedic prophecy that predicts he will die in his late twenties in an accident. He is that age now, yet leads with a fearlessness and wisdom that reminds us that, "Only the one who dies, truly lives."
But wisdom in words and wisdom in practice can be very different indeed, especially when riding along the sheer icy edges of Himalayan cliffs. The bikers ride on that edge, navigating dirt, gravel, snow, ice, and the onslaught of loaded trucks, known as "road killers", as they journey for 21 days towards the highest driveable road on earth. It is a pass open only three months a year, and at a height 18,000 feet, is on par with Everest base camp. Low oxygen, altitude sickness, river flooded roads, and a constrictive fear all live along this one lane road.
Yet they choose this path to seek Ladakh, the land known as the Little Tibet. Why this path? Because it's a road that leads to incredibly isolated mountain lakes, ancient monasteries, inside the knowing eyes of a mystic oracle, and ultimately deeper into themselves... It's amazing that their guide himself is battling a prophecy and yet is determined to ride one of the hardest roads in the world. It is both haunting and inspiring. It brings up our worst fears and our deepest courage. Adam must ask if the possibility of a spiritual breakthrough is worth the risk of serious injury or death. Will it help us all understand what it means to live our lives?
This adventure cracks the foundations we think we stand on. And in this case, the foundation is a one lane road winding through the Himalayas. The Highest Pass brings ancient wisdom to a modern world.
DIGITAL DHARMA: ONE MAN'S MISSION TO SAVE A CULTURE
Director Dafna Yachin and Greg Beier of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in Cambridge, MA take questions from the audience after the screening
Digital Dharma uncovers E. Gene Smith's 50-year journey with renowned scholars, lamas and laypeople, as they struggle to find, preserve and digitize more than 20,000 volumes of ancient Tibetan text. This is an epic story of a cultural rescue, revealing how one man's mission became the catalyst for an international movement to provide free access to the story of a people.
In 1959, Tibetan villages were attacked and hundreds of monasteries were destroyed, causing irreplaceable ancient Sanskrit and Tibetan writings to disappear. This tumultuous time put the history of the entire Tibetan culture in peril - and called a man from Ogden, Utah to his destiny.
E. Gene Smith became the unlikely leader in an effort to rescue, preserve and share the riches of a 1,500-year-old seemingly lost Tibetan literary culture. Smith's mission crossed geographical, political and philosophical borders to rescue this chronicle of mankind's advancements - from the medical to the mystical.
Over five decades, he made it his business to put Tibetan literature back together. He did it more or less single-handedly, fired by his love of the language and the culture, and aided by a brain that rapidly became an encyclopedia of lineages, sutras, lives of lamas, and the history and ownership of every book he came across.
E. Gene Smith's inspiring and undaunting efforts have become a gift to the world.
Director Elizabeth Thompson is joined for a discussion after the screening by Lou Leonard, Director of the Climate Change Program at the World Wildlife Fund.
"This Dewdrop World is a beautiful, courageous, intimate film about love and loss. It may also be the deepest meditation on climate change that I've ever seen." - Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
We believe Buddhist teacher and environmental activist Joanna Macy has given the single best description of the film that we have seen:
“This precious jewel of a film opens us to inner resources of accepting and responding to the inevitability of climate change. It accomplishes this with heart-wrenching beauty, by interweaving two stories: that of the filmmaker’s mother facing her death by ALS, and that of our planet’s people facing the realities of climate chaos.
"Each story brings exquisite teachings about how to tolerate impermanence and find grace in uncertainty. Each guides us to a dual capacity: how to see clearly what we cannot change and how to yet love and act for the sake of life. I want everyone I know and do not know to be refreshed, nourished and emboldened by This Dewdrop World.”
“We are being brought up in a culture that is saying, ‘You’re selfish, and that’s human nature.’ If humanity does not look inward and feel their basic goodness, then the future is very bleak indeed.”
Those are the words of Mipham Rinpoche, a Tibetan spiritual king in the Shambhala tradition who seeks to end aggression in the world. He is a Sakyong, or an “Earth Protector,” part of an ancient lineage of wisdom holders. Although raised in a Tibetan refugee camp in India, he came of age in North America, just as Buddhism was taking root in the 1970’s. His father, renowned Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, trained him to follow in his footsteps. His father was charismatic, controversial and widely respected. Not an easy act to follow.
After his father passed away, Mipham Rinpoche was empowered as Sakyong in a formal ceremony that committed him to the path of a spiritual king. His father laid the ground by introducing the Shambhala teachings in the West, now it is up to the new Sakyong to further explain these teachings and carry on the work.
Shot over 17 years in Tibet, India, China, Europe and North America, An Uncommon King follows the life of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche as he endeavors to shift our culture towards feeling its humanity, and towards validating feelings of compassion, kindness and goodness.
This is our Closing Night film, and as always, we've saved one of the very best for last. Rev. Marilyn Sewell from the film introduces the screening. Afterwards, she shares insights from a remarkable two-year spiritual journey, during which she questioned her future, her difficult past, her God, and most importantly, her ability to love. We know you will be deeply moved by this courageous spiritual warrior who is as insightful with herself as she is with others. This is going to be an inspiring evening.
BuddhaFest then closes with a dedication of the many images, voices, sounds and creative energies celebrated throughout this unique festival of the heart. This joyful ending of song, chant and music features the Rev. Marilyn Sewell, singer Ambika Cooper, and drummer Jeremy Frindel, director of the opening-night film, One Track Heart: The Story of Krishna Das.
"Marilyn Sewell is a person who is able to communicate directly to people's hearts. She is fearless where she stands. It is an honor to know someone of her courage and compassion." - Yangsi Rinpoche
Raw Faith is an intimate and revealing documentary that follows two years in the private life of Marilyn Sewell, an outspoken and socially progressive Unitarian Universalist minister who re-energized her Portland, Oregon community.
While serving a community that relies on her for wisdom and advice on both personal and ethical issues, Marilyn struggles quietly with decisions about her own future. As she seeks to reconcile the commitments of her profession with a longing for intimacy and love, childhood memories of mental illness and alcoholism come back to the surface - and must be dealt with before she can move forward.
Her questions about her life are our questions. They take time. They’re not answered quickly, and they’re not absorbed easily. While watching her, we examine ourselves.
As Marilyn's life unfolds in front of the camera (in real time), she shares her journey with remarkable candor, humor, and increasing wisdom, ultimately leading her to an unexpected revelation of faith and love in all of its guises.
The soundtrack features an original song written and performed by Sheryl Crow.
"...it's refreshing to see a documentary about a normal grown-up who is struggling with problems of life and love, just as so many invisible others do." - The New York Times
Venerable Pannavati Bhikkhuni and Ruth King
What could be better than sitting with a teacher you love -- how about sitting with two of them? Ruth King was a favorite with the BuddhaFest audience in 2011. Last year, the Ven. Pannavati Bhikkhuni was electrifying. Both women teach with a delightful sense of humor, grace and power. We've asked them to join forces and give us a joint teaching that aligns with the energy and message of THE HIGHEST PASS, the film that follows their talk.
Fierce Compassion & Daring Hearts
Friday, June 21 7pm - 8:30pm
Spectrum Theatre Buy Tickets
Ruth will sign books after the talk
We admire those who are fearless. But, what does it take to be fearless, and how is fearlessness cultivated? What is it that enables one to walk through life as a free person, and what responsibility does this carry? Join Ven. Pannavati Bhikkhuni and Ruth King as they share their wisdom, wit, laughter and advice on how to live on the razor's edge.
Whether advocating for the disempowered, the divided, or the broken-hearted, these accomplished dharma teachers have devoted their lives to healing and humanity by serving in ways that require a fierce and daring heart. Experience your own journey as they share the cultural maps, surprise turns, stop signs, alternate routes, speed limits, and karmic tickets that led to a destination of presence, heart, and service.
Tap into the strength of these two accomplished Dharma sisters and find your own courage. Discover how any path can be a path of awakening and compassionate power if one is willing to face the dare.
Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg
The Buddha discovered that the path to happiness flowed out of understanding the reality of our lives, such as our interconnection with all other beings. From this state, love and compassion arise naturally. This is why Robert Thurman calls Buddhism "a joyous science of the heart."
Saturday, June 22 10am - 12pm
Spectrum Theatre Buy Tickets
Robert and Sharon will sign books after the talk
Meditation and respect for life are the foundations of Buddhist practice. "Kindness is compassion in action," says Sharon. To know your mind is to begin to transform your mind. To change your actions is to begin to transform the world.
Robert and Sharon will draw from Buddhist texts and traditions and from their personal insights and experiences to help us awaken from the daily trance of fear and anxiety. Through guided meditations, talks and discussions, we will learn specific techniques to cultivate lovingkindness, unveil inner wisdom, and turn compassion into action.
Khen Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan
In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves. Tonglen is a powerful and liberating practice where we breathe in the pain and suffering of others and breathe out relief and happiness. It is a method for overcoming our fear of the suffering that is all around us by connecting with it and purifying it. Ultimately, Tonglen is a method for awakening the compassion that is inherent in all of us.
Awakening Our Compassion: The Heart Practice of Tonglen
Saturday, June 22 1pm - 2pm
Spectrum Theatre Buy Tickets
Khen Rinpoche heads the monastery of the Panchen Lama, which has been reestablished in exile in India. Please join Rinpoche for a five-point teaching on Tonglen from the Nalanda tradition of Shantideva. Rinpoche will be accompanied by translator and scholar David Gardiner. The teaching will discuss:
- Cultivating Equanimity
- Recognizing the Faults of self-cherishing
- Understanding the Benefits of cherishing others
- Learning how to switch self and other
- Practicing Tonglen based on compassion and love: taking in others' pain, giving out peace and happiness.
The teaching will end with a Tonglen meditation.
"The times we are living in require a warrior consciousness. A warrior is not one who is violent, or ready to take up weapons. The only warrior worth calling a warrior is a being who has come to a deep state of nonviolence in his or her psyche -- a warrior of wisdom."
Warriors of Wisdom: Awakening to Authentic Power
Sunday, June 23 10am - 11am
Dome Theater at Artisphere Buy Tickets
To even arrive at that space requires a fierce presence, a deep commitment, because the temptations of inner violence and external violence are aplenty: defenses and escape mechanisms, misjudgments and stories, seeking and striving. To be a warrior is to cultivate a deep sense of detachment, and to know oneself without identifications or external definitions.
It is through this detachment that we realize we are not individuals separate from the whole, but that the whole cosmos is working through us. By tuning into this universal flow of energy, we arrive at authentic power. This deep connection yields limitless energy, immense passion, and the gateway to radical aliveness. Then life is not coming at us; we, with the whole cosmos, are coming to life.
Join Anand Mehrotra, founder and master teacher of Sattva Yoga, as he leads a meditation and explores living with fierce clarity as a warrior of wisdom.
Sharon Salzberg and Marianne Elliott
"Doing good, creating change and being well takes clarity, courage & compassion. We're all capable of great things when we find our own authentic and unique place in the world. We all have a role to play in bringing about a kinder, safer world."
Cultivating Courage and Resilience for a Well-Lived Life
Sunday, June 23 11:15 am - 12:15 pm
Spectrum Theatre Buy Tickets
Sharon and Marianne will sign books after the talk
Renowned dharma teacher and New York Times bestselling author Sharon Salzberg talks with Marianne Elliott, writer, yoga teacher, UN peacekeeper and human rights advocate from New Zealand.
In 2006, Marianne was stationed with the United Nations in Herat, Afghanistan. Several months into her new role as head of the local UN office, an area tribal leader was assassinated. She was called upon to defuse the situation before it led to widespread bloodshed. This is just the beginning of her powerful story of living and working in one of the world's most notorious battlefields.
Marianne draws on her new book, Zen Under Fire: Finding Peace in the Midst of War, to tell the very personal story of the shattering effect that the high-stress environment had on her and her relationships. She and Sharon explore what it means to find our own authentic and unique place in the world, and they share Buddhist practices for cultivating courage and resilience for a well-lived life.
"This is an amazing book. Marianne’s story about diving into yoga, meditation, and compassionate action in the most war-torn parts of the world is touching, relatable, informative, and, to boot, fantastic storytelling. While falling in love with her, we learn about what stops us from putting it all out there in the name of peace -- and where true courage comes from."
- Susan Piver, New York Times best-selling author of
The Wisdom of a Broken Heart
PLEASE NOTE: Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. was originally scheduled to speak at this time. Due to unforeseen circumstances, he will not be able to join us. The Ruiz family has arranged to have HeatherAsh Amara speak in his place. HeatherAsh apprenticed with don Miguel Ruiz, Sr., and she has taught extensively with both Miguel and Miguel, Jr. She is a powerful teacher, and we're sure you will enjoy her talk on Toltec wisdom.
The more attached you are to something, the more your vision is obscured and narrowed, sometimes to the point where you are convinced that there is only one way to proceed. Your attachment to a belief cuts off your ability to see beyond that one possibility. As you let go of attachments, you increase your perspective, and you see possibilities that were there all along.
The Five Levels of Attachment: Toltec Wisdom for the Modern World
Sunday, June 23 3pm - 4pm
HeatherAsh will sign books after the talk
To transform your life into a living work of art, you start by becoming aware of your attachments and choosing to let go with awareness. But, before we can let go of our own attachments, we must first become aware to what level we have invested our sense of self in each one of our beliefs. By decoding the levels of attachment, we are able to find clarity, letting go of those beliefs and ideas that distort our reality.
The Toltec people were an ancient Native American group that occupied modern day Mexico prior to the Aztecs. The Toltecs were well known for their powerful teachings on personal transformation, and have sometimes been called "the Native American Buddhists." In modern times, the Toltec teachings have been encapsulated in don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements, one of the best-selling books of all time.
In her talk, "The Five Levels of Attachment," HeatherAsh discusses how to:
- Become aware of how you confuse what you know for who you are
- Gain awareness of how your attachments have created your reality
- Stop creating your identity based on the opinions and judgments of others around you
- Let go of the fear of what you are without your beliefs
- Take back your power
An Evening of Sacred Music:
The GuruGanesha Band in Concert
Saturday, June 22, 8 pm
Spectrum Theatre Buy Tickets
The GuruGanesha Band delivers a unique blend of kirtan, raga, rock and deeply meditative folk music. Their vocals are a group effort, with plenty of rich two and three part harmonies, plus knockout lead vocals by Paloma Devi, who will blow you away with her powerful voice and soulful presence. We've seen their shows twice now, and we just loved them.
The audience is fully encouraged to participate, whether singing along, dancing joyfully in the aisles, or simply sitting in meditative resonance with the music. Come share a magical evening that will transport you into higher realms. This is going to be a real treat!
Saturday, June 22, 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Artisphere Ballroom Buy Tickets
New at the festival this year is Tibet Fest. Come hang out with us and our Tibetan friends as we set up camp inside the ballroom at Artisphere. Tibet Fest is a family friendly event inspired by Tibetan Buddhist culture and the global concern for its survival inside Tibet.
Come share in the food, dance, music and spirit of Tibet. Experience and explore the rich traditions of Tibetan culture through an afternoon of activities for the whole family -- including making prayer flags, and creating birthday cards to send to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There will be special performances from the stage, as well as a Tibetan market so you can take home a piece of Tibetan culture.
Free admission for children 12 and under.
Presented in partnership with International Campaign for Tibet and Capital Area Tibetan Association.