The 12 Best Documentaries About Buddhism

Aug 3, 2023 | Best Of, History, Religion

Are you looking for a way to learn more about Buddhism in an engaging and enlightening way? Look no further! With the help of these 12 amazing documentaries, you can explore the history, philosophy, and practices of Buddhism from all around the world. From ancient India to modern Japan, each documentary provides unique insight into this fascinating religion—allowing viewers to deepen their understanding of Buddhist teachings while also being entertained. So grab some popcorn and settle in – it’s time to explore Buddhism through film!

1. Eternal smiles Discover the beauty of China’s Buddhist sculptures

Discover the beauty of China’s Buddhist sculptures and explore their serenity and peace. These magnificent works of art are often overlooked, yet they capture a certain tranquility that is unique to ancient Chinese statuary. From Discobolus to Michelangelo’s Moses and Laocoon and his Sons, these famous sculptures show off dramatic facial expressions or body movements at gripping moments – but when you look at the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you can feel their eternal smiles radiating peace. Watch this video as we uncover the hidden beauty of China’s Buddhist sculptures!


2. Hidden Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

Are you ready to explore a region that has been lost in time? Join two travelers on their journey into the Zanskar valley, a place they hadn’t visited for 30 years. Discover centuries-old monasteries built into rock faces and caves. This documentary looks at how Tibetan Buddhist culture is changing due to road construction and modernization of the once isolated valley. Come along as we uncover this hidden Tibetan Buddhist monastery!


3. Samsara

Samsara is a nonverbal, guided meditation that takes you on an exploration of the human experience. From the mundane to the miraculous, it shows how energy is ever-changing and explores our spirituality and humanity as we move through life’s ups and downs. It may look like a documentary but it’s more of a cinematic adaptation of a children’s novel, released in 2001 – this isn’t your average movie! Watch Samsara for an unfathomable journey into yourself and beyond.


4. Tulku

Tulku, a 2009 documentary, explores the unique story of five Tulkus or reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist teachers born in the western world following Tibet’s Buddhist diaspora. The director Gesar Mukpo was himself crowned as a Tulku at three after another monk identified him as one of his father’s prior instructors. Through this film we look into the complexities and potential flaws within the tülku system, and examine how these individuals grapple with their newfound identities.


5. A Buddhist Monk Documentary

This powerful documentary tells the story of Nain and Aruna, a couple whose lives were permanently changed when Nain was employed by the British to take Sacred Scriptures from Tibet’s Potala Palace. Disguised as a Buddhist monk, he infiltrates the palace and takes the scrolls before escaping with palace guards on his tail. The consequences of his actions are far-reaching for those who assisted him in this mission. Follow along as we explore how one man’s loyalty to his nation and love for his wife led him down an unexpected path during India’s fight for independence from Britain in 1940s. This inspiring documentary is sure to leave you moved!


6. The Buddha : Genius Of The Ancient World

Travel with historian Bettany Hughes and explore the genius of ancient philosophy in India. From Buddha’s revolutionary ideas to the overlooked significance of the 5th century BC, delve into this fascinating world and its influence on modern thought. Follow Bettany as she embarks on an expedition to uncover the secrets of these great minds who physically travelled great distances philosophizing as they went. Find out how their journeys shaped our current understanding of Buddhism and gain insight into this incredible ancient culture.


7. How an abuse scandal devastated the Buddhist faith community

In 2017, a shocking scandal rocked the Buddhist faith community. Lama Sogyal Rinpoche was accused of sexually abusing students over many years, leaving followers around the world devastated and shaken. This documentary examines how this abuse scandal has affected the Dalai Lama’s followers and explores the implications for Buddhism as a whole. It seeks to uncover what happened in August 2017 and its long-term effects on believers all over the world.


8. The Buddha A Documentary Story Of The Buddha s Life

This documentary is about the life of The Buddha, one of the most influential figures in human history. Discover his story through this unique and captivating visual journey that takes us to ancient India. Learn about how his teachings have shaped our world today and why understanding The Buddha’s life is important for personal growth and spiritual development.


9. Prajna Earth – Journey Into Buddhism

Join us on an inner journey to explore the lost civilization of Angkor in Cambodia, the magnificent Angkor Wat temple and Bali’s sacred landscapes. Narrated by Sharon Stone, this documentary will take you through trance dancers in the jungles of Java and Borobudur’s gigantic seven level mandala mountain. Discover a world steeped in spirituality as you experience PRAJNA EARTH – Journey into Buddhism!


10. Nepal: Little Buddha, the return

Take a journey to Nepal, five hours from Katmandou. Thousands of people of all castes make a pilgrimage every day on foot or by cart. In the middle of the forest they come to meditate and pray in front of an extraordinary 16 year old boy who sits in the hollow of a tree for 24 hours a day in full meditation. He does not move, eat or drink, yet believers regard him as the reincarnation of Buddha! Follow us as we explore this mysterious phenomenon – “Little Bouddha” – and uncover what is truly happening here!


11. The Secret Teachings Of Vajrayāna Buddhism

Do you want to discover the secrets of Vajrayāna Buddhism? This video will take you on a journey through the ancient teachings of Tantric Buddhism, which originated in India and spread throughout China, Tibet and Nepal. Learn about the history and philosophy behind this unique religion as well as its many practices that have been kept hidden for centuries. Explore how Vajrayana Buddhism can help bring peace, balance and enlightenment into your life.


12. Seven Wonders Of The Buddhist World

Journey with us as we explore the seven wonders of the Buddhist world. Hosted by Bettany Hughes, this documentary will take you to some of the most famous ancient and modern sites associated with Buddhism, from Bodh Gaya in India to Wat Pho Temple in Thailand and Hsi Lai Temple in Los Angeles, California. Along the way you’ll meet Buddhists who explain core concepts that form Buddhist belief, giving insight into Buddhism’s long and rich history. Join us for an immersive look at one of the oldest religious systems still practised today!


Read On – Our Latest Top Documentaries Lists

David B