When the Iron Bird Flies: Tibetan Buddhism in the West

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In 1959, the Chinese invasion of Tibet threw open the doors to the mysterious realm of Tibetan Buddhism and suddenly this rich, ancient tradition was propelled into the modern world. Half a century later, Padmasambhava’s prophecy has come true and the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism are found in every corner of the earth.

WHEN THE IRON BIRD FLIES takes us on an up-close and personal journey following the astounding path of one of the world’s great spiritual traditions from the caves of Tibet to the mainstream of Western culture. Along the way, the film tackles the provocative exchanges between Buddhist practitioners and scholars and Western scientists, psychologists, and educators now at the heart of the emergence of a genuine Western tradition of Buddhism.

And the film investigates the question:
“In these increasingly challenging times, can these age-old teachings help us find genuine happiness and create a saner, more compassionate 21st century world?”

Through candid interviews with contemporary teachers and practitioners, rare archival footage, and striking images of modern life that illuminate and make accessible the Buddha’s core teachings, the film creates a vivid and entertaining portrait of the world of Tibetan Buddhism, as it is manifesting in America and the West.


Runtime: 96 mins

Color: Color

Release Date: October 2012


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