Wheel of Time
Deer Park Monastery, 1981
The Kalachakra, or Wheel of Time, initiation is generally regarded as the most famous of all Tibetan Buddhist Tantric empowerments. It contains awe-inspiring art, an intricately colorful sand mandala, deity costuming, and entrancing music that inspire the imaginal practices required to achieve enlightened wisdom and compassion to end suffering and to create peace in the world.
It is believed to have been taught 2500 years ago by the Buddha to the king of Shambhala and was finally returned to India and Tibet in the 11th Century CE. Now, a thousand years later, its hidden meaning will be revealed to a global television audience.
In July of 1981, history was made as the Dalai Lama presented the 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 majestic ceremony imbued Western participants with the transcendent practices that could lead them to perfect enlightenment. This event was to become one of thirty-four Kalachakra initiations bestowed on over a million people throughout the world.
This film will tell the story of a journey of discovery of the meaning and purpose of the Wheel of Time, why it was first bestowed by the Dalai Lama at Deer Park Monastery, its impact on the initiates, the challenges overcome by the organizers and its seminal role in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to America and the world.
In 1981, film director Dr. Ed Bastian, working closely with coproducer Sharpa Tulku, Geshe Sopa and the Monks of Namgyal Monastery, assembled a film team to document this event, including the extensive preparations in India and the US, the construction of the first Kalachakra Temple in America, and the initiation itself. The footage includes interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Geshe Lhundup Sopa (the US host and organizer), as well as American initiates, many of whom would later become significant Buddhist teachers. Additional footage shot in 2016 and 2022-3 includes interviews with world-renowned experts and participants who attended the event in 1981, and a first-ever animation of the majestic three-dimensional mandala to be imagined by initiates in the seven-step initiation. Our film will document the historic merger of ancient mystical Buddhist practices into Western culture and its impact on millions of people.
The narrative structure will weave together the original documentary footage and our journey to discover the Kalachakra’s hidden meaning and practices. We will reveal the town council opposition and then gradual welcoming by local neighbors whose suspicion of Buddhism nearly stopped the event. We will witness the completion of America’s first Kalachakra temple constructed by volunteers in the weeks leading up to the event. We will hear participants sharing their motivations for embracing Buddhism, for engaging in the Kalachakra, and its impact on their personal and professional lives. We will hear world renowned Tibetan and Western experts reveal how this seven-stage initiation is designed to purify the causes of suffering and usher in an era of global peace.
The original footage was shot in 1981. But, unable to immediately complete the film, Ed Bastian deposited the twenty-five hours of 16 mm color film in the Smithsonian Institution Film Archives for its preservation. Happily, the content and the quality are extremely well preserved, and we have now assembled an excellent production and editing team to complete the project. The film has been digitized, and we are now conducting interviews with original participants and world-renowned experts who will bring this story to life.
Four Interwoven Content Elements
1. Historical and Cultural Context
2. Tibetan Buddhism Comes to America
3. The Kalachakra Initiation & Empowerment
(4) The Impact on Participants and on American Culture
For more information, please contact:
Ed Bastian, PhD
© All rights reserved 2021, Ed Bastian