Jeff Weston - PHL 160 - 4th Hour Web Site

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What I Did

Tibetan Buddhism was my focus for this 4th hour report. For this report I watched Seven Years in Tibet, one of the suggested 4th hour report movies from the syllabus. The movie was viewed on 12-7-98.

The Movie


Seven Years in Tibet is an incredible true story of an Australian mountain climber, Heinrich Harrer. Harrer was mountain climbing in the Himalayas when World War II broke out. From there he was captured by the British. With a fellow climber Harrer makes a daring escape to Tibet, and eventually sneaks into Lhasa. There Harrer makes friends with the young Dalai Lama. As Harrer begins to appreciate the peaceful life of Tibet, their peaceful way of life is threatened by the invasion of the Chinese army. Harrer leaves Tibet to be reunited with his son in Austria that he has never met.

My Analysis

Seven Years in Tibet presents a view of Tibetan Buddhism. It clearly points out one of the main differences between Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama. Tibetan Buddhists believe that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of Buddha. As Fisher indicates, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhists. This is portrayed in the movie when the young Dalai Lama is inducted into his position as spiritual leader.

Tibetan Buddhists have a very interesting view of reincarnation, as portrayed in Seven Years in Tibet. While Harrer was building the movie theatre, the Tibetan Buddhists were very careful to not harm any of the worms. They believe that every creature was their mother in a past life. While some religions have beliefs that prevent their followers from harming animals, this is a unique view.

The film permits the audience to be immersed in the Tibetan culture. From the very beginning of the film we see the offerings being made to the young Dalai Lama backed by the low hums of Tibetan instruments. When Harrer makes his first visit to the Dalai Lama we see the tradition of what to do in his presence, such as sitting lower than him, not looking him in the eye, and not touching him. When the Chinese general visits we see additional rituals, such as the creation of the sand artwork, and the embracing of their stronger neighbors.

Tibet is portrayed as a peaceful nation. When their way of life is threatened by a stronger force, they have no way to protect themselves. The Chinese take advantage of Tibet and essentially run them over with their army. Seven Years in Tibet presents a glimpse of what Tibet may have been like before it was overrun. The Dalai Lama at one point in the movie asks Harrer if he thinks that one day someone will make a movie about Tibet so they will be remembered in the future. The movie fulfills that desire.