The Dalai Lama: Scientist 2020 ****

We like to pigeonhole people. There is one thing we know them for, one thing at a time. There are a few celebrated exceptions. But The Dalai Lama: Scientist is a title that’s intended to melt our little brains. I’m a big fan of the Dalai Lama on-screen, and there’s already any number of documentaries capturing his genial presence. Something about his appearance, his Eric Morecambe glasses, his genuinely self-effacing, humble attitude, makes him a something of balm to watch. But, he’s a spiritual leader, surely, not a scientist?

One takeaway from this film from the PeaceJam Foundation is that you don’t need an MIT scholarship to be a scientist. The Dalia Lama is something of a people person, and he seems to attract all the best ones. Writer/director Dawn Engle’s film carefully knits together footage of his Holiness at a number of press conferences and explorations he’s organised of the scientific world, with some truly great minds in attendance, including  David Bohm and Carl von Weizsacker.

Remember all the interesting stuff you came across in your exploratory teenage reading from Gurdjieff/ Robert Anton Wilson/Rupert Sheldrake and others? Quantum physics and the like? Schrödinger’s Cat? Well, that’s the kind of exciting terrain we’re off to here, and in commendable detail; you’re probably heard about his cat, but have you actually seen Schrödinger’s house? Would it surprise you to know that his house was full of cats? Like the reveal in Chris Nolan’s The Prestige, when it’s revealed that the experiments conducted by Nikolai Tesla (David Bowie) are leaving behind a overflow-pile of rabbits and top hats, such tiny details will fill the inquiring mind with delight.

We love to learn, but something vain inside of us wants to put a lid on that learning and show off what we’ve got as the finished article. Yet The Dalai Lama isn’t trying to one-up anyone which his passion for science, just illuminate, and this highly enjoyable documentary captures his worldly yet inspiring outlook in all its imitable glory, as well as showcasing some fresh thinking from others. The Alexa-style voice-over grates a little on the ears, but otherwise, The Dalai Lama; Scientist is a welcome break for the mundane, and a much-needed spring-board for the practical, enquiring mind we all have within us.

The Dalai Lama: Scientist is launched on streaming worldwide from May 19th 2020.

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