Kalachakra Film
A Brief Overview


In 1981, history was made as the Dalai Lama presented the first Wheel of Time (Kalachakra) Initiation in the US at Deer Park Monastery near Madison, Wisconsin.  It was the first time it had been presented outside Tibet or India.  This colorful Wheel of Time initiation taught participants the ancient esoteric and imaginal practices designed to imbue them with the wisdom and compassion to end suffering and to achieve Enlightenment.

This film will chronicle the journey of discovery about the meaning and purpose of the Kalachakra Empowerment, why it was first bestowed by the Dalai Lama at Deer Park Monastery in Wisconsin and its seminal role in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to America and throughout the world.  It was the first of over thirty Wheel of Time empowerments bestowed by the Dalai Lama throughout the world to more than a million people over the next thirty-five years.

 Film producer Dr. Ed Bastian, working closely with Sharpa Tulku, assembled a film team to document the event, including the preparations in India and the US, the construction of the first Kalachakra Temple, and the initiation itself. The footage includes interviews with His Holiness, Geshe Lhundup Sopa (the US organizer), as well as American initiates who later became significant Buddhist teachers.  New footage will include Kalachakra temple art in Dharamsala, India, interviews with the Dalai Lama and world-renowned experts, retrospectives by notable participants who attended the event in 1981 and animation sequences of the 3-D mandala.

 Because funding was not found to complete the film, Ed deposited it (nearly twenty-five hours) in the Smithsonian Institution Film Archives for its preservation. Recently, he (and his colleague Catherine Wyler) had the reference videotape copies digitized to assess their quality. Happily, the content and the quality are very good and an award-winning team of documentary filmmakers will direct the filming and editing.  They are Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson.

The compelling storyline of the film will cover four major themes, each based on authentic Tibetan Buddhist wisdom and scholarship.   The narrative structure will gradually imbue in the viewer both the wisdom and the enchantment of the Kalachakra through colorful rituals, mysterious music, esoteric practices, empowerments bestowed by deities and the efforts of young Americans to be empowered with enlightened compassion for liberating themselves and all beings from suffering and bring peace in the world.

(1) Historical and Cultural Context

·       The Wheel of Time and Buddhism in Tibet.

  • ·       The Chinese takeover and destruction of Buddhist monasteries and religious freedom.
  • ·       Tibetan refugees in India and the Dalai Lama’s efforts to preserve their religious culture.
  • ·       The diaspora Tibetans throughout Europe and America.
  • ·       Historic interviews with the Dalai Lama in India (1981).

(2) Tibetan Buddhism Comes to America

  • ·       Young Americans studying with Tibetan teachers in India and bringing them back home.
  • ·       Building the Kalachakra Temple at Deer Park Monastery near Madison, WI.
  • ·       County Board attempts to stop the event, and their eventual meeting with the Dalai Lama.
  • ·       Numerous funding, political and logistical obstacles were overcome to achieve success.
  • ·       Interviews with Geshe Lhundup Sopa and young Americans who organized the event.
  • ·       The Dalai Lama, Tibetan monks arrive with dozens of trunks of religious objects and costumes.                     

(3) The Wheel of Time Initiation

  • ·       Construction of the sand mandala.
  • ·       Esoteric deity dances, music and rituals by Tibetan Monks. 
  • ·       American practitioners don deity garb and engage in the three-day initiation rituals. 
  • ·       Dalai Lama personally interacts with many of the 1,200 people in attendance. 
  • ·      Animation sequences of a 3-dimensional mandala detailing the imaginal journey for each stage of the initiation.  (Intercut with initiation scenes and the Dalai Lama’s explanation as translated by Dr. Jeffrey Hopkins and expert interview clips.)

 (4) The Impact of the Wheel of Time on Participants and on American Culture

  • · Interviews with scholars and participants on the impacts on their lives and society at large.
  • ·      The “miraculous” death experience of Geshe Lhundup Sopa whose body remained in a meditative state for 6 days after it had “died” helping to validate the efficacy and power of Tantric practice.
  • ·      The Dalai Lama and noted experts surmise how these ancient imaginal Kalachakra Tantric practices, might bring about the compassionate transformation of individuals and society leading to world peace.

A full budget and expanded description are available upon request.

For more information, please contact: 

Dr. Ed Bastian

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