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What does it take to keep ancient knowledge alive? Tibetan culture has deep roots, but the turmoil of the 20th century has left its vast text tradition in jeopardy.

This is a story of a historic act of cultural preservation, chronicling one refugee lama's lifelong efforts to preserve, print, and return to his people, the sacred books that are their precious heritage.

His work unfolds against the backdrop of a centuries-long tranmission, acorss continents and generations, upholding a legacy of transformative knowledge that dates back to the time of the Buddha.

Subject Areas

Art / Printmaking... Asia / International / South Asian / Tibet Studies

Buddhism / Religion Studies... Film + Media Studies... History

Librarianship / Publishing Studies... Translation Studies

Academic Praise

"This educational video will be of great interest to anyone interested in a historical transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet and in the ways in which Tibetan Buddhists have preserved the Indian heritage of Buddhism to this day. The video is insightful, visually beautiful, and ideal for classroom purposes."

Vesna A. Wallace, Professor of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

"A vivid and compelling account of the heroic struggles of Tibetans to save their Buddhist culture, an ancient wisdom tradition that has much to offer us today. As an economics professor, I think massive free distribution of sacred texts - 4.25 million to over 3,000 Tibetan centers of learning in exile - provides an essential tool for preserving and transmitting Tibetan Buddhism. The unprecedented scale of the free distribution of essential texts provides an outstanding example of Buddhist altruism writ large in the 21st century. The film is a powerful testament to how Tibet's endangered culture can be supported through visionary actions utilizing the technological resources, volunteer spirit and above all, religious freedom in America."

Clair Brown, Professor of Economics, Director of Center for Work, Technology and Society, University of California, Berkeley

"A wonderful overview of Buddhism in India, its dissemination in Tibet, its flourishing among exile Tibetans, and the role that Tarthang Tulku and his disciples have played in the preservation of Tibetan religious literature. The Great Transmission is an inspiring and cinematographically beautiful film that gives us glimpses of Buddhism at some of its most important historical moments."

José Ignacio Cabezón, XIVth Dalai Lama Professor of Tibetan Buddhism and Cultural Studies, University of California Santa Barbara

"A visually stunning and informative account of Buddhist history and the ongoing life and lives of Buddhist transmission."

Douglas Duckworth, Assistant Professor of Religion, Temple University

"The Great Transmission is a visually stunning journey through historical sites in India where the Buddha’s teachings were first transmitted and underscores the importance of continuing the transmission for new generations of Tibetan Buddhists in Asia and the West. The film highlights the important work of Tarthang Tulku in publishing new editions of Tibetan Buddhist texts and distributing them to western academic libraries and Buddhist institutions. Most importantly, the film’s footage of masters teaching students, students studying texts and engaging in debate succeeds in showing how the preservation of texts is integral to preserving Tibetan culture."

Karen C. Lang, Professor Emerita of Buddhist Studies and Indian Religions,
Director of the Center for South Asian Studies, University of Virginia

"The Great Transmission deservedly draws attention to Tarthang Tulku's unique and by now legendary engagement with Dharma texts. The sheer scale and scope of his collecting, printing, publication and distribution of Dharma texts is, as far as I know, unprecedented in modern times.Yet such activity is also very much an age-old Buddhist tradition, and we even see evidence amongst the Dunhuang texts of the ancient Tibetan Emperors engaging in similar activities, for example, in their commissioning of numerous copies of the Perfection of Wisdom and Amitayus sutras."

Rob Mayer, Research Lecturer in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, University of Oxford, Oriental Institute

"This beautifully shot and animated documentary introduces the literary heritage of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the tireless efforts of the Tibetan master Tarthang Tulku and his organization to preserve this heritage and disseminate its texts to Tibetan Buddhist communities across Asia. In the unlikely location of the Central Asian plateau with its forbidding climate, the Tibetans produced a vast corpus of literature—including precise translations of practically the entire body of Indian Buddhist literature that was circulating in and after the eighth century. By its sheer scale, sophistication, and philosophical depth, this literature must be reckoned as one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind.

The documentary portrays the material production of Tibetan Buddhist texts, a history which stretches from traditional manuscript scribing and illuminating, to woodblock printing, and continues into in the 21st century with modern state-of-the-art printing technologies. Supported by interviews with experts, the film also introduces key tenets of Buddhism and its history. But the central theme of this moving film is Tarthang Tulku's vision that texts are at the core of Buddhism and its transmission, and that their preservation and distribution is critical for the survival of Buddhism in the modern world."

Alexander von Rospatt, Professor of Buddhist & South Asian Studies,
Director of the Group in Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley

"A wonderful film about the central importance of books to the practice and survival of Tibetan Buddhism. Combining stunning footage with inspiring animation, the film's narrative traces the movement of Buddhism and its books from their original transmission into Tibet in the 8th century, through the 'later dispensation' that followed Tibet’s so-called Dark Age in the 11th century, to the modern transmission of Buddhism out of Tibet and into the western world. The remarkable efforts of Tarthang Tulku and his followers are particularly highlighted as projects that have adhered closely to the precedents of Tibetan history even as they have made use of new, modern publishing technologies."

Jake Dalton, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

"The script, archival photos, the 3-D historical constructions, the music and the message were extraordinary. Bravo to the whole team!"

Steven Goodman, Associate Professor and Concentration Chair of Asian Philosophies and Cultures, Research and Program Director for Asian and Comparative Studies, California Institute of Integral Studies

"A terrific introduction to Tibetan book culture and to the centrality of Buddhist literature in monastic life. The tales of transmission of Buddhist texts past and present deserve to be told to a broader audience. The beautiful cinematography and clever graphics bring these important stories to life in a lively, accessible manner."

Kevin Vose, Associate Professor and Chair of the Religious Studies Department, College of William and Mary

"With its beautiful photography, sensitive editing, and gentle pace, it is a kind of meditation. Thoughtful and inspiring."

David Grubin, Ten-time Emmy Award winning director of PBS documentary, The Buddha

Museum Screenings

Animation Breakdown

Our main story challenge was to give depth to the history and tradition of sharing knowledge in the Buddhist world, while creating a vital context for the preservation activity taking place today.

Thai animator Phanuthep Sutthithepthamrong joined the Guna team in early 2014. His skill and drive opened up an entirely new set of storytelling possibilities for The Great Transmission, allowing us to produce sophisticated and affecting 3D visuals of key moments in Buddhist history.


The Great Transmission DVD for College & Universities


This DVD contains the 55-minute documentary, as well as subtitles in English, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish, in addition, Close Captioning is included. See important Terms and Conditions below.

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We accept payment via PayPal/credit card or check. For international orders we require PayPal/credit card. California customers are subject to state sales tax. Please note that most tax exempt organizations are still subject to sales tax in California. Expect delivery of DVDs within 2 weeks in the U.S., and within 3 weeks in other countries.

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