About the Film

The Documentary

For the first time, WAKING BUDDHA, a non-fiction feature length film tells the story of the meditation movement and Buddhism’s relationship to today’s new consciously engaged culture and advocacy for a sustainable future.

The film spans the past three decades of Tibetan Buddhism’s contribution to the West, the evolution of a spiritual intelligence and motivation beyond self, toward an altruistic engagement with others, the world, and our environment.

Featuring rare, in-depth interviews with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Dzongzar Rinpoche, Bernardo Bertolucci, Philip Glass, Melissa Mathison, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and others, reveal the spiritual and cultural roots of this emerging, social paradigm. Moving into the first two decades of the 21st Century, Dr. Mark Epstein, Gyeltrul Jigme Rinpoche, Dr. Joseph Loizzo, Matthieu Ricard, Phd., Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Phd.
PLUS: James Cameron, Richard Gere, Yoko Ono, and others further explore this altruistic engagement, related science, research, activism and art as it evolves today.

Beautifully filmed in India, Nepal, Tibet, Switzerland, France, Canada and the U.S.A. over the past 25 years.

Producer/Director: John Dileva Halpern
Producers: Julia Miller – Jim Miller – Post FactoryNY
Executive Producer: MDS Productions
TRT: 80 minutes

©Waking Buddha, LLC – MDS Productions, 2013

Mission Statement

Given that we live in an age of ruthless self absorption, in a “me at all costs” mentality despite obvious exploitation and damage to our surroundings, the environment, etc., we have little chance to reflect, meditate and analyze the sources of our behavior and their effects on the world.

By making this film I hope to give pause for greater reflection, if only for a few seconds during or after the 80 minutes of the film.

This is a story about the meditation movement and Buddhism’s relationship to today’s new consciously engaged culture and advocacy for a sustainable future.

Within our “consume at all cost” commodity culture, there is an identifiable new consciousness and accountability growing in our society, contributed to by Buddhism and Eastern cultures, in part. This is a powerful core concern, motivation and demand for a universe of knowledge and awareness beyond, yet including a nuanced reality of “self” and interconnection with the world, beings and all things.

This “awake” trend evolves as well from the “self-help” 1970’s and “self-improvement” 1980’s, as an aware, altruistic, globally concerned, discernible and distinct wide-spread, cross-generational responsible community movement and paradigm.

I want to highlight this collective consciousness, identify it as a filmmaker and contribute to it’s force and longevity by using film, WAKING BUDDHA, as a tool to strongly advocate for it.

A Social Evolution
Over 50% of all Americans are concerned with global warming and the environment. 21% of Americans consider themselves spiritual but are unaffiliated with any organized religions. The majority of that 21% are under 30.

WAKING BUDDHA intends to communicate with these audiences through entertaining engaging stories, art, teachings and an evocative journey that connects Eastern wisdom, yoga, meditation, etc., to an awakened socially engaged movement and advocacy for the future.

Compelling storytelling, culture and the shared concerns with our characters, integrated with poignant history of Tibetan Buddhism and Westerners seeking wisdom in Asian culture in the 20th/21st centuries should create strong interest and empathy for our characters, their life pursuits, journey and activities.

The film also provides instructional information about meditation and related brain research, evoking insight and compassion toward the human mind, to further activate in the target audience a sensitive, conscious and aware advocacy for the future. It’s my wish that these deeper insights catalyze an understanding of the impact we have on our surroundings.

The intention is that WAKING BUDDHA help motivate further examination of our deeper inner minds and altruistic intention for all that we do in life, and to transform our visions of ourselves, our purposes and activities in the day-to-day world that we all share.

It’s my goal that through the knowledge and experiences shown about meditation, culture and advocacy in the film, perhaps we the audience can become a little more conscious and accountable toward creating more meaningful, creative and intentional relationships with our companions, our families, our communities, society and the environment, activating, fostering and inspiring greater care through the illumination of our natural, kind, inner nature and the radiance and force of living beings on this very abundant, although fragile and burdened planet, now and for the future.

Director, John Halpern


The Interactive Film Experience

This is the first high-definition digital film to expand the documentary film field by giving viewers a personalized film experience in which they interact with the contents of the film. This is truly a 1:1 experience in which viewers can “see” and “experience” a unique version of the film by selecting what matters most to them. This technology innovation literally allows for unlimited personalized viewing experiences so that any person watching and interacting with the film, on any digital device, can have their very own Waking Buddha movie experience. The multiscreen experience works on any digital display device, such as a smart phone, iPad, Kindle, TV, PC or other for a fully immersive and personalized experience.

Locations in the Film

The Rubin Museum of Art

Mission and Values
The Rubin Museum of Art is a dynamic environment that stimulates learning, promotes understanding, and inspires personal connections to the ideas, cultures, and art of Himalayan Asia. The museum values the following:

ACCESS – Visitors are at our core. We share with all communities our collection and broadly conceived exhibitions as a catalyst for dialogues about art and culture.

ENGAGEMENT – We believe in taking an open and active approach to engaging learners at all levels and helping them to understand our world. We do this by encouraging deep connections and transformational experiences in a welcoming, enjoyable, and beautiful environment.

CREATIVITY – We encourage creativity, innovation, and risk-taking, as well as excellence, transparency, and collegiality in all that we do.

SCHOLARSHIP – As stewards of an increasingly significant collection of art from Himalayan Asia, we are dedicated to its preservation, display, and study and to advance this field of art and cultural understanding.

The Rubin Museum of Art

The Rubin Museum of Art is home to a comprehensive collection of art from the Himalayas and surrounding regions. The artistic heritage of this vast and culturally varied area of the world remains relatively obscure. Through changing exhibitions and an array of engaging public programs, the museum offers opportunities to explore the artistic legacy of the Himalayan region and to appreciate its place in the context of world cultures.

The museum’s collection consists of paintings, sculptures, and textiles. Although works of art range in date over two millennia, most reflect major periods and schools of Himalayan art from the twelfth century onward.

The exhibitions are organized with particular care to assist viewers who are new to Himalayan art. Wall texts and interpretive panels supply aesthetic, social, and historical perspectives to both scholars and casual viewers. The Explore Art Galleries on the third and fifth floors (with a video alcove on the sixth floor) take the viewer behind the scenes, answering questions about why and for whom the art was made. Books, paintings, photographs, artifacts, and computer terminals accessing the museum’s website and affiliated sites offer other examples of Himalayan and related art.

The Rubin Museum of Art is dedicated to the collection, display, and preservation of the art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions, especially Tibetan art. It is located at 150 West 17th Street between the Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) and Seventh Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.


The museum originated from a private collection of Himalayan art which Donald and Shelley Rubin had been assembling since 1974. In 1998, the Rubins paid $22 million for the building that had been occupied by Barneys New York, a designer fashion department store that had filed for bankruptcy. The building was remodeled as a museum by preservation architects Beyer Blinder Belle. The original six-story spiral staircase was left intact to become the center of the 25,000 square feet (2,300 square meters) of exhibition space.

The museum opened in October 2004, and displays more than 1,000 objects including paintings, sculpture, textiles, as well as ritual objects from the second to the twentieth centuries. The new facade on 17th Street and the five floors of galleries were influenced by Tibetan art, and were conceived by the New York-based museum architects, Celia Imrey and Tim Culbert. The graphic identity was conceived by graphic designer Milton Glaser.

Besides exhibitions based on the museum’s permanent collection, it also serves as a venue for national and international traveling exhibitions. The museum is affiliated with the Himalayan Art website to advance the study of Himalayan arts and culture.

The 70,000-square-foot museum occupies what was formerly a portion of the Barneys department store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. It was acquired in 1998 and renovated extensively from 2000-2004. The renovation and new design elements were the results of a collaboration headed by the architectural firm of Beyer Blinder Belle and including Atelier Imrey Culbert (associate museum designers) and Milton Glaser Incorporated. Many of the most important details within the building have been retained from its previous life, most notably Andree Putman’s steel-and-marble staircase that spirals dramatically through the seven-story gallery tower. In addition to spacious yet intimate galleries for featured exhibitions, the museum includes space for contemporary and historical photography, an art-making studio, a state-of-the-art theater for multimedia events and performances, a café, and a gift shop. In September 2011, the museum opened a new 5,000 square-foot Education Center adjacent to the main museum building. The new space provides greatly expanded spaces to better facilitate lifelong learning and serve more visitors in deeper, more substantial ways. The Education Center was designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership.

The Rubin Museum of Art

Among the museum’s inaugural exhibitions were “Methods of Transcendence” and “Portraits of Transmission” (both October 2004-January 2005) and “The Demonic Divine in Himalayan Art” (October 2004-March 2006). In 2006, a three-part exhibition called “Holy Madness” spotlighted siddhas with “Portraits of Tantric Siddhas,” “Mahasiddhas at Gyantse,” and “Mahasiddhas at Alchi.” Not limited in its focus to Buddhist and Hindu religious objects, “I See No Stranger: Early Sikh Art and Devotion” (September 2006-January 2007), “Bon: The Magic Word” (November 2007-February 2008), and “Victorious Ones: Jain Images of Perfection” (September 2009-February 2010) exhibited works related to each of those faiths.

In 2010, the “Gateway to Himalayan Art” exhibition opened on the museum’s second floor. Presenting the fundamentals of Himalayan art, it explains the symbolism, iconography, and ritual implements in the artworks as well as the materials from which they are made. The exhibit was to remain on view until 2014, with yearly rotations of specific objects. A two-year exhibit on the third floor, “Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection” (March 2011-January 2013), highlights the stylistic diversity of the museum’s holdings and the connections between Himalayan and neighboring artistic traditions.

Menla Mountain Retreat

Find yourself surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms at Menla Mountain Retreat. Menla Mountain Retreat & Conference Center is set on 320 acres in the historic Catskill Mountains of New York State. Surrounded by a national forest preserve, the retreat center offers complete privacy in a tranquil setting. The modern and comfortable facilities are an ideal setting for retreats, conferences and workshops convened by Tibet House and like-minded institutions.


Nalanda Conference Center
The various meeting spaces and eco-friendly accommodations are designed to meet the highest standards of comfort. With a gracious 4,050 square foot main hall seating 300 persons, several break-out rooms, and personalized service and care, Menla is the perfect environment for board and staff retreats, national and international conferences, and as a meeting place for healthcare professionals, teachers of Western and Eastern philosophies and similar groups. It is also ideal for yoga retreats and teacher trainings, literary gatherings, artists’ workshops and seminars, family reunions and meetings of all types.

Throughout the four seasons, visitors enjoy the fresh mountain air and savor the natural beauty of the valley’s exquisite landscape and abundant wildlife and take advantage of tennis courts, hiking trails, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center and wellness services. A spiritually designed Spa Fitness Complex features the unique far-infrared saunas, steam, hot tub, exercise room and a host of wellness services offered by talented practitioners. Menla is conveniently located near New York City and Boston, with numerous outdoor and cultural activities in the immediate area.

Dharamshala, India

Dharamshala is a city in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley and is surrounded by dense coniferous forest consisting mainly of stately Deodars. The suburbs include McLeodGanj, Bhagsunath, Dharamkot, Naddi, ForsythGanj, Kotwali Bazaar (the main market), Kaccheri Adda (government offices such as the court, police, post, etc.), Dari, Ramnagar, Sidhpur and Sidhbari (where the Karmapa is based).

The village of McLeodGanj lying in the upper reaches is known worldwide for the presence of the Dalai Lama. On April 29, 1959, the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) established the Tibetan exile administration in the north Indian hill station of Mussoorie. In May 1960, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was moved to Dharamshala.

Dharamshala is the center of the Tibetan exile world in India. Following the 1959 Tibetan uprising, there was an influx of Tibetan refugees who followed the 14th Dalai Lama. His presence and the Tibetan population has made Dharamshala a popular destination for Indian and foreign tourists, including students studying Tibet.

One of the main attractions of Dharamshala is Triund hill. Jewel of Dharamshala, Triund is a one day trek at the upper reaches of McLeodGanj, about 9 km from McLeodGanj.


Dharamshala (Devanagari: ????????; ITRANS: Dharmashaalaa; IAST: Dharma??l?) is a Hindi word (derived from Sanskrit) that is a compound of dharma (????) and sh?l? (????). A loose translation into English would be ‘spiritual dwelling’ or, more loosely, ‘sanctuary.’ Rendering a precise literal translation into English is problematic due to the vast and conceptually rich semantic field of the word dharma, and the cultural aspect of India.

In common Hindi usage, the word dharamshala refers to a shelter or rest house for spiritual pilgrims. Traditionally, such dharamshalas (pilgrims’ rest houses) were commonly constructed near pilgrimage destinations (which were often located in remote areas) to give visitors a place to sleep for the night.

Transcription and Pronunciation

Due to a lack of uniform observance of transliteration and transcription conventions for Hindi (and the Devanagari script in which Hindi is written), the name of the town has been transcribed into English (and other languages using Romanic scripts) variously as Dharamshala, Dharamsala and, less frequently, Dharmshala and Dharmsala. These four permutations result from two variables: the transcription of the word ???? (dharma)—particularly the second syllable (???)—and that of the third syllable (??).

A strict transliteration of ???? as written would be ‘dharma’ [?d??rma]. In the modern spoken Hindi of the region, however, there is a common metathesis in which the vowel and consonant sounds in the second syllable of certain words (including ????) are transposed, which changes ‘dharma’ to ‘dharam’ (pronounced somewhere between [?d??r?m] and [?d??rm], depending on the speaker). Thus, if the goal of the transcription is phonetic accord with modern spoken Hindi, then ‘dharam’ and ‘dharm’ are both legitimate options.

Regarding the third syllable, the Devanagari ? corresponds to the English sh sound, [?]. Thus ???? is transcribed in English as ‘shala’.

Therefore, the most accurate phonetic transcription of the Hindi ???????? into Roman script for common (non-technical) English usage is either ‘Dharamshala’ or, less commonly, ‘Dharmshala’,[6] both of which render the sh (/?/) sound of ? in English as ‘sh’ to convey the correct native pronunciation, ‘Dharamshala’ [d??r?m??a?la?] or ‘Dharmshala’ [d??rm??a?la?]). Nonetheless, the alternate spelling ‘Dharamsala’ continues to be used in some cases despite its inaccuracy, and all four spelling permutations can be found in the English language materials of the local and state governments, in publications, and on the Internet.

Regardless of spelling variations, however, it is that the correct native pronunciation is with the sh sound (/?/). Therefore the spelling variant that is most common and most concordant with standards of transcription and native pronunciation is ‘Dharamshala’. The official Indian English spelling is ‘Dharamshala’.

Padma Samye Ling monastery and retreat center in Sidney Center, NY

Padma Samye Ling monastery and retreat center (Inconceivable Lotus Land) is located in upstate New York. Set near the top of a mountain in the western region of the Catskill mountains, the breathtaking facilities are contained within five hundred acres of forests, meadows, and natural springs.

Padma Samye Ling monastery and retreat center was founded in 1989 by Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche (1938-2010) and Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche to preserve in its entirety the authentic message of Buddha Shakyamuni and Guru Padmasambhava, and in particular to teach the traditions of the Nyingma school and Vajrayana Buddhism.


Padma Samye Ling (PSL) hosts group, personal, and volunteer work retreats throughout the year, as well as an annual philosophical Shedra, weekly Dharma Study groups and a long-term residency volunteer program. There is an evening group meditation practice in the Three Kaya temple, which is filled with traditionally painted Tibetan Buddhist murals and special ritual artifacts.

On the grounds of Padma Samye Ling is the Stupa Garden. Installed in November 2009, the Eight Great stupas represent the mind (dharmakaya) of the Buddha. Symbolically the stupa embodies a complex range of iconographic meanings, with each of its components representing a specific aspect of the path to enlightenment.

They can be found on the web at www.padmasambhava.org or emailed at jowozegyal@catskill.net

Ripa Foundation International Center in Bern, Switzerland

The Ripa Ladrang, The Ripa International Center and the Padma Lings of Europe are pleased to announce the opening of the first Ripa center in the West, located just outside of Bern, Switzerland. All Shambhalians are warmly invited to join the festivities. Opened on July 22 2013 the center has welcomedVIP guests such as well as Shambhala’s Sakyong Wangmo and Jetsunma, as well as, of course, the presence of the Ripa teachers: His Eminence Terton Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, The Venerable Gyetrul Jigme Norbu Rinpoche, The Venerable Lhuntrul Dechen Gyurme Rinpoche as well as other members of the Ripa family.

Annual Summer Retreats 2012 area the wonderful opportunity to receive the teachings and blessings of all three Ripa Masters, but at the same time we will celebrate the official and religious opening of the Ripa International Centre together with many guests from near and far. Important transmissions from the Ripa Lineage, the Three Roots including precious transmissions from the New Treasures, will be given by the supreme head of the Ripa Lineage, His Eminence Terton Namkha Drimed Rinpoche. Experienced practitioners as well as newcomers are welcomed to receive Dharma transmissions as well as important practice instructions.

This is a very special auspicious gathering that is repeated every year, where we expect the most auspicious presence of all the three Masters of the Ripa Lineage.

The spiritual opening ceremonies will take place on Monday, July 23rd, on Chokhur Duchen. Following that there will be a month long retreat including several program offerings (in order): an opening Yeshe Tsogyal Drubchen, a cycle on Buddhist teachings, a Gesar Drubchen and an Enriching Gesar wealth puja, a Tsa Lung retreat (restricted to those who have finished the Ripa Ngondro), and a Nyunge retreat. Immediately following the month long retreat there will be a weekend Medicine Buddha empowerment and teachings. All are welcome to join!

To find out more and to register, please visit the Ripa International website at ripa-international.org


The board of Waking Buddha consists of the Director/Producer John Halpern, Attorney Gerard Dunne and Producer Julia Miller.

Additional Editor – John Martin-Alexander

John Martin-Alexander is a graduate of Buffalo State College and the Edit Center.

Although he started as an intern at a documentary production company when he was 15, he later took a detour into special education. Since his return to his main love of documentary editing, he has been a Co-Editor on The Making of Playing For Time: A Thirty Year Retrospective (working title), Additional Editor of Solarize This, Assistant Editor of Design Your Life, and Post Production Assistant on King’s Park: Stories from an American Mental Institution.

He’s a native New Yorker and is fascinated by public transportation and plays board games in his free time.

Board Member – Gerard Dunne

Gerard “Jerry” Dunne graduated Manhattan College in 1969 with a Bachelor of Engineering degree, and from the University of Baltimore Law School with a JD degree in 1974. Beginning in the early 1980s, Jerry has been “first chair” primarily responsible for litigation of patent, trademark, copyright and related matters in Federal courts across the country.

Jerry volunteers on several boards for non-profits, including the National Board for the American Canoe Association, and several local non-profits. He volunteers as the pole vault coach at a local high school and still competes at the National level in masters sports.

Mayacamas Ranch

The Rubin Museum of Art

Mayacamas Ranch, a Generocity Resort, is Northern California’s premier exclusive-use group retreat center for companies, non-profit groups, weddings, and families. Set on a hilltop ridgeline above the town of Calistoga in Napa, CA, and surrounded by spectacular 360-degree views, Mayacamas Ranch provides an awe-inspiring, natural setting for a variety of group gatherings and workshops—including corporate and non-profit retreats, and family celebrations—making it an ideal place to renew, reflect, and connect.

With its secluded and expansive grounds, comfortable guestrooms, distinctive cuisine and multiple meeting spaces, Mayacamas Ranch can accommodate overnight or multi-day events. Group retreat customers include Apple, Google, Bank of America, Craig’s List, Genentech, Comcast, and the Sierra Club.

Mayacamas provides a peaceful setting for ongoing yoga retreats, workshops, meditation groups, and sacred unions. A spectacular destination, Mayacamas Ranch is a stunning, secluded hideaway that inspires both quiet contemplation and enthusiastic celebration. Mayacamas Ranch offers families a unique getaway filled with natural beauty and a wide variety of activities.

They can be reached at 707-942-5127 or email: info@mayacamasranch.com
Website: www.mayacamasranch.com


DigiPowers, Inc. is a versatile, digital experience company. Its dynamic platform provides clients with easy to deploy solutions as DigiPowers recognizes that each client has a distinct set of objectives and a mission to reach their individual company’s goals.

DigiPowers’ web technology platform, which includes the patent pending technology used in Waking Buddha, enables clients to quickly develop fully interactive, mobile and responsive solutions to create individualized interactive consumer experiences. The platform also allows clients to utilize flexible data and asset management, and facilitate digital ecommerce delivery. The unique interactive experiences incorporate engagement, ecommerce transactions and automatic tracking to optimize ongoing activation and consumer engagement.

Website: www.digipowers.com

Post FactoryNY

Alex Halpern founded Post FactoryNY in 1996 with one Avid in a friend’s borrowed apartment. By day, he rented the Avid to other filmmakers, and by night he edited his documentary Nine Good Teeth. The response was overwhelming, and Alex realized that New York’s film community needed a new kind of post-production company—one with the flexibility and technology to serve the needs of all filmmakers, from the smallest indies, to TV, to commercials, to the biggest studio movies. In the years since, Post FactoryNY has expanded to include color correction, conform, mixing, digital delivery, and a state-of-the-art screening room. Post FactoryNY also continues to fiercely protect and promote the New York film industry through its work as a founding member of the Post New York Alliance and its devotion to its clients.

Website: www.postfactoryny.com