Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche Chokyi Gyatso
From "The Cup" webpage.

Bhutanese filmmaker Khyentse Norbu is one of the most important incarnate lamas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition today. Known more widely by his ecclesiastical title, H.E. Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, he was born in 1961 and recognised at the age of seven as the incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-1892), a great religious reformer and saint who played a pivotal role in the revitalisation and preservation of Buddhism in Tibet in the 19th-Century.

Until the age of twelve, Khyentse Norbu pursued his studies at the Palace Monastery of Gangtok, Sikkim, under the patronage of the Maharaja. He then continued his education in Bhutan, and later in India, studying Buddhist philosophy until the age of 23. In keeping with the non-sectarian spirit of the Khyentse lineage, Khyentse Norbu also counts among his root-teachers holders of the four main lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, including H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama.

In addition to his training in philosophy, Khyentse Norbu has also received empowerments of all major Tantras from the most accomplished masters of the last half-century. He has completed several solitary retreats of profound Buddhist practices, and continues to maintain the discipline of his tradition as a way of life, spending several months each year in strict meditation retreat.

As the living heir to the Khyentse lineage, Khyentse Norbu exemplifies the non-sectarian spirit. His rigorous training in the Buddhist classical tradition, mixed with a deep interest in the film medium, makes him one of the most provocative interpreters of Tibetan Buddhism today. In keeping with his lineage, he has sought in his mixed background to bridge both old and new, and east and west.

Khyentse Norbu's interest in film began with his first experience of television, at the age of thirteen. He was to discover the joys of video-watching much later however, at the age of nineteen. From that time on, he became fascinated with the power of cinematic art and the emotional influence of storytelling through sound and moving pictures.

Although Khyentse Norbu has never formally attended film school, he acquired his first film apprenticeship under Bernardo Bertolucci, in the making of the Little Buddha. Since then, his cinematic education has been derived from watching films, with his main heroes being Ozu, Andrei Tarkovsky and Satyajit Ray. Phorpa (The Cup) is his first feature film.

"I think it's better to understand the power of this influence, than to be its victim," says Khyentse Norbu smiling. "Film has so much power because we're conditioned primarily by what we see, and what we hear. Making a good film, I suppose, is a bit like doing good Buddhist practice. It all begins with an awareness of how we're conditioned."

"I would like my stories to be moment-to-moment dramas," he explains, "Life is filled with so many dramas, but we tend to lose out the tastes and textures in our quest for speed and purpose."

As the third incarnation of the Khyentse lineage, and grandson of the late H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche - one of the most revered Buddhist visionaries of the 20th Century - Khyentse Norbu's spiritual legacy has generated some resistance to his interest in film making. Tibetan society still views the film industry as a hotbed of sex and money, preoccupations antithetical to his ecclesiastical status and family line of Buddhist masters and poets. The thirty-seven year old lama grins "Tibetans are always a bit disturbed when I tell them making a movie may actually touch more people than their traditional obsession with building a monastery."

Nevertheless, in his more traditional roles, Khyentse Norbu continues to serve as throne-holder of the Dzongsar Monastery in Derge, eastern Tibet, and as spiritual director of two meditation centres, in East Bhutan and in Sikkim; and two Buddhist philosophy colleges, in India and in East Bhutan. In recent years with the increase of his teaching activities, Khyentse Norbu has set up several Buddhist centres around the world, including retreat centres in Canada and in Australia, and in numerous practice communities in Southeast Asia and Europe.