Beliefs Culture

Buddhist father-son struggle gives life to “My Reincarnation” documentary

Imagine that thousands of people – including your father – recognized you as the reincarnation of a great Buddhist master. But you wanted no part of it.

Yeshi Norbu is the son of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche (a Tibetan Buddhist term for teacher that means “precious one”). Yeshi was born in Italy, where his father fled after the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959.

At a young age, Yeshi is told that he is the reincarnation of  his great-uncle, a famed Buddhist master who died in a Chinese-run jail. But Yeshi is more interested in becoming a Western businessman than a spiritual leader.

Seeing Tibetan culture fray under communist China’s grip, Namkhai pressures his son to preserve what is left by studying and teaching Buddhism – and embracing his role as a recincarnated master.

Veteran documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox, who also worked as Namhkai’s private secretary, captures the father-son struggle over the course of 20 years in the POV film “My Reincarnation.” It will be broadast June 21 on PBS. (See here for local listings.) It will stream on www.pbs.org/pov/myreincarnation from June 22-Sept. 20.

“For all that is so interesting about Tibetan Buddhism in today’s world, I was always drawn to the universal father-son struggle,” Fox said. “What is extraordinary for Yeshi is that questions of personal identity become entagled in the fate of a 2,500 spiritual tradition.”

Above is a clip of “My Reincarnation,” and happy Father’s Day, friends.

About the author

Daniel Burke

Daniel Burke worked for Religion News Service from 2006-2013. He now co-edits CNN's Belief Blog.

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  • hie how are you iam sunday school incharge myfarher pastor samueliftikar i work in church of pakistan in lahore my faith is god

    thank you!

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