June 11, 2010

"Buddha's Lost Children" - DVD Review

The human emotion of compassion is a fascinating one to me. I struggle day in and day out with having compassion, especially driving amongst Buddha's lost drivers here in Seattle! So when a documentary such as "Buddha's Lost Children" drops into my life, I am quickly reminded why Buddhist's consider this existence as one of suffering; not because of the extreme poverty of the subjects, but rather due to the fact that I have a long, long way to go to leave the wheel of Samsara!
"Buddha's Lost Children" is the story of Muay Thai fighter turned monk, Abbot Phra Khru Bah Neua Chai Kositto and his Golden Horse Monastery in the remote northern province Chiang Rai in Thailand's infamous Golden Triangle. Tending to over 120 horses (mostly rescued from slaughter houses), Khru Bah has dedicated the past 15 years of his life (as of the filming in 2006) to adopting the regions orphans and castaways, giving them education, medicine, and a solid father figure in a land rife with drug addiction and poverty.

"Living is an art to be learned." - Shin Yatomi

Khru Bah lives by Yatomi's credo. The majority of kids in his tender do not even have the basic understanding of proper hygiene such as brushing their teeth, or washing their scalp to prevent sores. Aided by Buddhist nun Khun Ead, Khru Bah dishes out tough love on his children teaching lessons where they present themselves such as when a horse fell and nearly strangled itself in its reins. Khru Bah halted the caravan and made sure everyone had daily chores to help the ailing horse. Horses are a central character in the film as Khru Bah uses them not only for transportation, but also as a learning vehicle, "With child taking care of the horse, he learns in turn to take care of himself and others."

Nine months of the year Khru Bah travels the border towns visiting the hill tribes that are for the most part shut off from society. On a complete side note it was fascinating to me to observe the various cultures and ethnicity's he ran into while visiting towns bordering Burma, Vietnam, and Laos. Anthropologically speaking a fascinating study within this context of this film.

The majority of the documentary is filmed on a 100km trek to a remote village to rebuild the local Buddhist temple (Thailand is predominantly Buddhist). On this journey we are welcomed into the lives of several children at various stages of involvement with Khru Bah and his monastery, who is well known in the region!

Through work, travel, and play Khru Bah teaches life lessons, hard work, and dignity. He is accepting of all, but expects discipline and diligence in everything the kids do. What originally turned me on to this film is Khru Bah's use of Muay Thai as a part of the youths learning experience. Explaining that traveling in and out of the Golden Triangle is extremely dangerous even for monks, so Bah uses his Thai boxing expertise to teach his novices how to protect themselves as well as stay in shape. Some of those in his care grow up to become professional fighters, one of the few promising careers for the poor of Thailand.

"Buddha's Lost Children" is a wonderfully uplifting documentary that one cannot help but walk away feeling a little bit more hope for the lost souls of humanity. Khru Bah gives everyone a chance to make their lives better, regardless of their past. The viewer sees the importance of what Bah is doing when a mother of several children decides that her eldest son Yee has to join the monastery because she does not have enough food to feed him any longer, and the only hope for a education and positive life isvia Khru Bah.
Those of us in the west often get very
wrapped up in our luxuries quickly forgetting that the majority of the world is poverty stricken. I sometimes get down because I do not have health insurance, but then I think of Khru Bah and his novices who do not even understand the concept of health insurance! These lessons are important to keep in mind throughout our daily life, and documentaries such as "Buddha's Lost Children" serve as a beautiful vehicle for those lessons.


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