Winter 2010 Documentary series
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Nati Baratz
Screenplay by Nati Baratz
Starring Tenzin Zopa, Dalai Lama
Rated PG ·
Israel, Germany and France
English, Tibetan, Hindi, Nepali
The Buddhist concept of reincarnation, while both mysterious and enchanting, is hard for most westerners to grasp. Unmistaken Child follows the four-year search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master who passed away in 2001 at age 84. The Dalai Lama charges the deceased monk’s devoted disciple, Tenzin Zopa (who had been in his service since the age of seven), to search for his master’s reincarnation.
Tenzin sets off on this unforgettable quest on foot, mule and even helicopter, through breathtaking landscapes and remote traditional Tibetan villages. Along the way, Tenzin listens to stories about young children with special characteristics, and performs rarely seen ritualistic tests designed to determine the likelihood of reincarnation. He eventually presents the child he believes to be his reincarnated master to the Dalai Lama so that he can make the final decision.
Stunningly shot, Unmistaken Child is a beguiling, surprising, touching, even humorous experience.
Tenzin Zopa was designated from a young age to be special and his childhood was similar to that of reincarnated masters. He was not allowed to play with monks his own age and was always in classes or with Geshe Lama Konchog (GLK) and the rest of the monastery heads.
The connection between GLK and Tenzin was formed even before Tenzin was born. When Tenzin’s mother was in labor, GLK came down from his cave to attend to the delivery. GLK actually turned Tenzin inside his mother’s womb to prevent him from being born in a potentially hazardous breach position. Ever since, the locals say, Tenzin wanted to be with GLK. At the age of 7, after long struggles with his father, Tenzin joined GLK and stayed with him until his death.
Tenzin escorted GLK in all of his worldwide teachings and activities and learned English by serving as GLK’s translator. Tenzin completed most of his studies on the road, with GLK as his teacher. He went to the university in southern India only for exams, and was always ranked among the top five students out of more than 5000 monks.
Tenzin is one of the youngest Geshes (equivalent to PhD in Buddhist philosophy) in Tibetan Buddhism. He skipped four school years when he was young, and two years ago the Dalai Lama asked the monastery to schedule his final exams four years ahead of time. Today Tenzin is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) Center in Malaysia and has thousands of students around the world who consider him the successor of Geshe Lama Konchog.