The documentary My Reincarnation looks at a father-son relationship over a 20-year span. The father, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, is a famous Buddhist master who was recognized as an important reincarnate and taken from his family at age 5 to be raised in a Tibetan monastery. He left Tibet during the Chinese occupation, when many Tibetans were killed or imprisoned, and made his home in Italy, where he became a Buddhist teacher, got married, and had a family. His son, Yeshi, while half-Tibetan, grew up in Italy. The father feels a huge responsibility to pass on the Dzogchen teachings and his Tibetan cultural heritage; the son feels neglected by a father who is in high demand and has little understanding of family relationships. Yeshi is the reincarnation of his father’s uncle, Khyentse Rinpoche Chökyi Wangchug, a revered spiritual teacher in Tibet. Yeshi must decide whether to ignore or accept this role and the responsibilities it brings.
The film considers some of the philosophical questions around reincarnation. Yeshi contemplates the significance of being the reincarnation of his great-uncle; he is now his father’s son, but before he was one of his father’s teachers. Yeshi believes you have to live as the person you are now, not just looking at who you were in the past. And while he accepts the truth of his being the reincarnation of his father’s uncle, he is afraid of the expectations it confers on him. He wonders if he rejects this role, is he just a person who doesn’t want to be what he really is? It’s a fascinating story of Tibetan Buddhism in the modern age.