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POV: My Reincarnation

Airs Sunday, June 24, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Chögyal Namkhai Norbu teaches while his son, Yeshi, looks on as Rinpoche gives teachings to thousands of local Kalmyks.

Filmed over 20 years by acclaimed documentarian Jennifer Fox, “My Reincarnation” chronicles the epic story of exiled Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his Western-born son, Yeshi.

As Norbu rises as a teacher in the West, Yeshi, recognized from birth as the reincarnation of a famed Buddhist master, breaks away to embrace the modern world. Can the father convince his son to keep the family’s spiritual legacy alive?

With intimate access to both the family and the Dalai Lama, Fox distills a decades-long drama into a universal story about love, transformation and destiny.

How much do you know about Buddhism?

Test your knowledge of Buddhism and we'll tell you who you might have been in a past life!

Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy that originated in India around the sixth century B.C.E. It derived largely from the teachings of Shakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama). Shakyamuni dedicated his life to finding the means to liberate people from the universal sufferings of life and develop spiritual strength. Read more about the basic teachings.

Giveaway: Win a DVD and Book by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

Enter our giveaway for a chance to win "My Reincarnation" prizes! Five lucky POV viewers will win the grand prize, a DVD of "My Reincarnation" and a copy of "The Crystal and the Way of Light" by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and five second prize winners will walk away with copies of "The Crystal and the Way of Light." This promotion runs June 22, 2012 at 8 a.m. (PT) and ends on Monday, July 2, 2012 at 2 p.m. (PT).

Watch On Demand

"My Reincarnation" is available for online viewing from June 22, 2012 to September 20, 2012.

And so a movie-within-the-movie unfolds, because the struggle to preserve Tibetan Buddhism — to pass it on as a living legacy — extends to Namkhai Norbu's family. Tibetan Buddhism depends greatly on unbroken lines of reincarnated lamas, who continue to teach and interpret the scriptures.

Namkhai Norbu is himself a reincarnate master, and Yeshi, his first-born son, was recognized from birth as the reincarnation of his great-uncle, another famous Buddhist master, who died imprisoned by the Chinese after their invasion of Tibet.

Various traditional proofs of reincarnation, particularly involving a child's familiarity with the late lama's objects, convinced not only Namkhai Norbu but also other Tibetans that Yeshi is a reincarnate master. The only one who isn't convinced is Yeshi himself.

Yeshi is first seen in "My Reincarnation" as an intense, intelligent 18-year-old (he ages to 39 and Namkhai Norbu ages from 49 to 70 in the film) listening to his father's teaching or helping with ceremonies, but hanging on the margins of events.

Later, he's an intense, intelligent young man on a fast-track to business success and all the things this can bring in Western society. Alternately amused and awe-struck by his Tibetan status, he can't quite shake the overwhelming implications of it. He's drawn along in his father's wake but resists all the way.

He doesn't want to take up Buddhist study or teaching or to go to Tibet, as his father urges. Yeshi is especially unnerved by the idea of visiting the very monastery where his great-uncle had been master and where students await Yeshi as their master's reincarnation.

One of the delights of "My Reincarnation" is sharing Yeshi's views of his father and thoughts about the spiritual legacy to which he is heir. Even more striking is witnessing Yeshi's spiritual evolution, the highlight of which is his visit to the Tibetan monastery of his great uncle, where the local monks and villagers greet him with ancient ceremony and respect as their reincarnate Master.

Such a profound demonstration of faith and spiritual continuity cannot help but have a great impact on Yeshi, and begins to awaken the heir to Namkhai Norbu's great mission.

POV is on Facebook, and you can follow @povdocs on Twitter.

Video

Trailer: POV: My Reincarnation

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Watch My Reincarnation - Trailer on PBS. See more from POV.

Above: Filmed over 20 years by acclaimed documentarian Jennifer Fox, “My Reincarnation” chronicles the epic story of exiled Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his Western-born son, Yeshi. As Norbu rises as a teacher in the West, Yeshi, recognized from birth as the reincarnation of a famed Buddhist master, breaks away to embrace the modern world. Can the father convince his son to keep the family’s spiritual legacy alive? ith intimate access to both the family and the Dalai Lama, Fox distills a decades-long drama into a universal story about love, transformation and destiny.

Video

My Son is a Reincarnation of My Uncle

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Watch My Reincarnation: My Son is the Reincarnation of My Uncle on PBS. See more from POV.

Above: While Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche believes that his son Yeshi is a reincarnation of his uncle, Yeshi tries to dismiss the belief and live his life in modern society.

Video

Video Excerpt: My Reincarnation: Yeshi Visits Tibet

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Watch My Reincarnation: Yeshi Visits Tibet on PBS. See more from POV.

Above: In this clip from "My Reincarnation," Yeshi Namkhai visits Tibet and the monastery of his previous reincarnation, learning more about his culture and his past life.

Video

Additional Video: What Does Mandala Mean?

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Watch My Reincarnation: What Does Mandala Mean? (Deleted Scene) on PBS. See more from POV.

Above: Chögyal Namkhai Norbu explores the library at the University of Naples, where he teaches. He uncovers an old Buddhist text and explains the meaning of the world mandala in Tibetan Buddhism.

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