Compassion Now

In his new book The Last Dalai Lama?, Mickey Lemle shows why the message of the spiritual leader is needed more than ever.
To protest Chinese oppression, the Dalai Lama won’t reincarnate, making his message more urgent than ever. Photograph ©2018 Clive Arrowsmith,

By Nancy Bilyeau

Filmmaker Mickey Lemle, who has known the 14th Dalai Lama for 35 years, noticed a difference in him about two years ago, a new sense of urgency. The messages that the spiritual leader of Tibet, now 83 years old, very much wanted to convey to the world are captured in Lemle’s 2017 documentary, The Last Dalai Lama?

On October 31, a companion book, also titled The Last Dalai Lama?, by Lemle with Laurie Dolphin, will be published, along with an accompanying DVD of the documentary. The film is now available on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play and Amazon Prime.

In a recent interview, Lemle says, “Some people, after seeing the film, said, ‘I met the Dalai Lama once and this is just what it’s like to sit with him.’ Or ‘I’ve never met him but now I know what it’s like to sit in his presence for an hour and a half.’ The film is like a transmission of his wisdom. You really get a sense of his wonderful humor and compassion and heart and presence, as well as all of the things that most concern him now.”

One reason for the Dalai Lama’s urgency in sharing his message is that he has announced he will not reincarnate after his death. His decision is due to the Chinese government’s announcement that, despite its being officially atheist, China will control the selection of the next spiritual leader of Tibet. According to The New York Times, more than 140 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009 in protest of Chinese oppression and to try to bring their tragedy’s attention to the world.

“I compare it to the rainforest,” says Lemle. The wisdom of the Dalai Lama “belongs to the world—and yet it’s being destroyed as quickly as the rainforest is.”

It was Compassion in Exile, Lemle’s 1993 documentary, that first brought the Dalai Lama and his plight to the attention of some in America. It revealed his struggles after the Chinese invaded Tibet and he was forced into exile in 1959.

In his new film, Lemle also explores the scientific nature of the Dalai Lama’s wisdom. In one segment of The Last Dalai Lama?, the spiritual leader introduces the “Atlas of Emotions,” the work he did with Paul and Eve Ekman, who used behavioral science to map human feelings.

“Twenty-five years ago, the Dalai Lama challenged a group of cutting-edge neuroscientists,” Lemle says. “He said, ‘We Tibetans have held the knowledge of how to overcome negative, afflictive emotions such as anger, grief, jealousy and hatred for 1,000 years. It’s time to share this with the world. It belongs to the world.’”