Samsara [sanskrit]: the ever turning wheel of life, from birth, to death, to rebirth…
…or the documentary film that completely blew my mind today while sheltering myself in a dark and cool movie theater from the blistering 45 deg C Sydney weather. From the creators of Baraka, Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, the documentary was filmed over five years in 25 countries. From the film’s website:
“…SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.”
It all started out with grandiose and majestic scenery of nature, and you just start thinking that the film is all about pretty scenery. And then they bring us to the Tibetan monks, calling out through their horn-like instrument to awaken the village. The monks gather around in the makings of a sand mandala (the word mandala meaning “circle” as well), using delicate tools, vibrant colors of sand, and extreme patience. I saw this as the opening of the film–the beginning.
We are then transported to the cities, where technology, entertainment, and the hustle-bustle thrive. People go about their routine lives, going to work in a factory repeating mundane jobs or kept inside cubicles. The luxurious and materialistic city life is contrasted by scenes of the impoverished. Of shacks that just seemed to stack one on top of each other, where there are no obvious lines between living quarters and garbage dumps. Stories of various African villages where people still live without electricity, gas, or running water, show just how much our lives can be different from one another. And yet we all experience the same cycle of birth and death. Farm animals, as well, experience the cycle of birth and death, despite the fact that they have no control over their deaths.
Gradually, it made me become aware that how we are all trapped in this endless cycle, regardless of what we are, who we are, and what religion we believe in.
Towards the end of the film we are once again back with the Tibetan monks. They took one last look at the mandala art they had spent countless hours creating, and with swipes with their hands, the beautiful art vanished into a blur of colored sands in mere seconds. This practice of non-attachment to worldly possessions or the fruits of our work is one of the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Yoga philosophy. The wheel turns on, and so must we.
It’s a piece of artwork that must be seen in the theaters to truly appreciate the profound landscapes of nature and man-made worlds.