‘Samsara’, the way it is

Like many Indians, I instinctively know and understand the Sanskrit word ‘Samsara’, or more colloquially Sansar, meaning the cycle of birth/creation, death/destruction, rebirth/regeneration.

This cycle unfolds around us all the time even as we remain an intrinsic part of it. It is one of those paradoxes where one is an integral part of something larger and yet one can stand apart and experience it as if from outside. One grew up hearing this philosophical explanation to anything and everything happening in life: “Sansar chhe. Chalya karey.” (It is Sansar. It goes on).

However, it is for the first time that there is perhaps the most effective representation of Samsara/Sansar, not to mention the most visually enchanting one,that I have seen yet. Although I have not seen director and photographer Ron Fricke’s visual feast ‘Samsara’, its trailers are enough to gauge how powerfully it captures the intensely saturated play of life and death and life again on Earth.

As the promo of the film explains, ‘Samsara’ was shot in 25 countries over a period of five years. The 102-minute film is entirely non-verbal and is narrated, if one can call it that, by its background score. It was shot in 70 MM using a Panavision camera. It is only appropriate that the film was shot in 70 MM cinemascope to capture the grandeur of this cycle.

I don’t know why I thought of the Dalai Lama when I first watched the trailers. Perhaps it is because, strictly going by the two trailers, the film seems to look at Samsara with the philosophical detachment of a Buddhist master.

It does not seem to try to control or influence or redirect this cycle but merely moves around within it. There is a Sanskrit expression which goes “Yatha Bhutam” (The way it is) that fits the images perfectly. It is strange that I should think of the same expression while watching the trailers because I conclude my biography of the Dalai Lama (Man, Monk, Mystic) on a similar note.

The concluding paragraph of the biography reads: “The journey from Tengster to Lhasa to the rest of the world has been an epic one. When twenty-four-year-old Tenzin Gyatso shed his robes and dressed up as a soldier to flee to India, little did he know that he would emerge as the world’s conscience keeper. At seventy-one he looks back on his life, divided between enormous personal growth and virtually lost battle for his homeland, there could not be a more apt conclusion than the Sanskrit maxim yatha bhutam, or “the way it is.””

I look forward to watching ‘Samsara’ even though I know that after a while the sheer richness of the images would be somewhat exhausting, quite like Samsara I suppose.


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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