Unmistaken Child: A Monk's Search for His Reincarnated Master
This captivating documentary gives us a look into a culture where reincarnation is accepted as undeniably real.
Buddhist monk Tenzin Zopa served revered high lama Geshe Lama Konchog from the time he was 7 years old. The old monk was living in solitary meditation in the hills above Zopa's village, and young Zopa felt drawn to him and decided to serve him, even against the wishes of his family. They were together for over 20 years.
When the old lama dies at age 84, Zopa is left without a purpose. But after a time, because of his close relationship with the lama, the Dalai Lama assigns Zopa the enormous task of locating his master's reincarnation. An astrologer is consulted for information about where to look for the reborn lama, and they use clues from the funeral pyre (which direction did the smoke go?) to tell them where he might be found.
The young monk is utterly charming and talks openly about how much he loved his teacher, the life they spent together, and how happy he will be to see him again. He is very modest, and the task of finding the child overwhelms him: Is he the right person to look for him? How will he know if he finds the right child?
Zopa travels around the rugged and remote Tsum Valley between Nepal and Tibet, an area seemingly barely touched by the last century, inquiring about special children in the right age group. He carries prayer beads and other objects that belonged to his master—with the idea that the reincarnated lama will be able to recognize the things from his previous life.
The entire movie is from the outlook of the young monk—there is no outside commentary, history, or Buddhist theology lessons. The disciple's quest is completely engaging, but it brings up questions about the heartbreak of giving up a young child to a religious life for the greater good. It is also a fascinating look at a remote part of the world and the Tibetan Buddhism that survives there.