On Thursday March 9, the Tibet Himalaya Initiative/CAS held a film screening of Donagh Coleman’s new film, Tukdam: Between Worlds, in the Chancellor’s auditorium. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Rene Crown Wellness Institute, was very successful, with roughly 150 people in attendance. The audience included not only CU undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff from a variety of departments (anthropology, CMCI – critical media practices, geography, religious studies, psychology & neuroscience, theater & dance) and centers, but also members of the Tibetan community, Naropa University, and the broader Boulder community. Following the reception and the 91-minute film screening, Donagh held a Q&A with the audience for about 40 minutes.
The documentary (2022, Journeyman Pictures) explores the phenomenon of tukdam, in which advanced Tibetan Buddhist meditators display unusual characteristics, such as remaining upright in a meditative posture, warmth around the heart area, and not showing signs of decomposition, after clinical death. According to the Tibetan understanding the practitioner’s consciousness remains in a state of awareness in deep meditation. The documentary explores both Tibetan analyses of tukdam and follows the work of a team of neuroscientists trying to measure and understand it from a scientific perspective.
The film screening was part of a two day visit to CU Boulder by Donagh Coleman, who has also directed several other documentaries about the Tibetan cultural world, including A Gesar Bard’s Tale (2013), shot in Jyekundo, about the story of a young nomad who became a bard able to recite the Epic of Gesar, the world’s longest and last living epic, and Stone Pastures (2008), about nomads living in the Changthang of Ladakh, India, who rear pashmina goats. In addition to the screening, Donagh also participated in the Rene Crown Wellness Institute’s Mindful Campus speaker series on the topic of “a good death,” met with Tibet & Himalaya Initiative graduate students, and visited a graduate documentary lab.