Through the Eastern Gate


Doors open @ 6:30 pm - Video Starts Promptly at 7 pm


WHAT moves young, educated people to give up their lives in material security for a spiritual quest that is characterized by uncertainty?
Through the Eastern Gate is a documentary film about the aspirations, practices and ways of life of three young Westerners who follow three different eastern spiritual traditions.

Filmed in the gorgeous countryside and ancient cities of India and Turkey, this compelling documentary follows the journeys of three young people who have turned their backs on the material comforts and distractions of the West to find meaning in the spiritual philosophies of the East.

Sister Yeshe Chodron’s journey leads her from Australia to the foothills of the Himalayas and life as a Buddhist nun. On a riverbank in southern India, Ronela Vainio, a native of Finland, immerses herself in tantric yoga. Lastly, Californian Aziz Abbatiello discovers his calling as a Sufi dervish in Turkey, where he prays, sings, and spins himself into spiritual ecstasy.

The idyllic settings in which these young people practice their disciplines sharply contrast the cramped landscape of the West and the often aimless lifestyle of their peers. The lives of the three spiritual novices, however, are not without challenges. They must leave their family behind and make material sacrifices. Ronela admits, “My family still wonders why I wanted to go so far away, why I don’t live like a normal human being.” In addition, attaining true spirituality requires tremendous effort and the patience to delve deep beneath the surface and not be distracted by the trappings of this world. “It’s easy to go around in circles”, says Aziz, “but to empty yourself of yourself, that’s a struggle”.

His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin was born in Tsedong, Tibet, in 1945. He is the supreme head of the Sakya School, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness belongs to the ancient and distinguished royal family of Khön, whose history dates back to the early days of Tibet, even before the arrival of Buddhism there. From the age of 3 he began to receive all the major initiations and teachings of the Sakya tradition, including those in the most advanced esoteric doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1951, at the age of 6, he formally received the title of Sakya Trizin (the Throne-holder of Sakya) from the Dalai Lama - thus becoming the 41st holder of this position. In 1959, he was forced to leave his royal palace behind and flee to India following the Chinese invasion
of Tibet. Besides working ceaselessly for the preservation and successful reconstitution of Sakya's rich and profound Dharma heritage, His Holiness s given numerous initiations, written a large number of texts, and in particular has bestowed the vast Lam Dre teachings on no fewer than 11 occasions. He travels regularly to teach in many parts of the world.

Swami Vivekananda Saraswati, a university-educated engineer born in 1962, has been teaching Yoga for nearly 25 years. A member of Mensa who speaks five languages, he first explored parapsychology and the science of the mind at age 16, before beginning an intense and extensive education in Yoga three years later. In 1990, he left his native Romania for Copenhagen to found NATHA, now Denmark’s largest Yoga school. Eight years later, he journeyed to India to take the Swami order oaths and in Rishikesh opened Agama Yoga, which has since grown into an international school, with branches in Thailand, Rishikesh, Israel, and Greece. Swami Vivekananda’s expertise ranges from chiropractic and alternative healing to the teachings of esoteric Christianity and the Kaula Tantra tradition. He also specialises in the authentic, transcendent, and practical Kashmir Shaivism, a nearly lost study within Yoga.

Venerable Tenzin Palmo was raised in London and, while in her teens, became a Buddhist. In 1964, at the age of 20, she decided to go to India to pursue her spiritual path. There she met her Tibetan guru, His Eminence the eighth Khamtrul Rinpoche and became one of the first Westerners to be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She remained with Khamtrul Rinpoche and his community in Himachal Pradesh, northern India, for six years. He then sent her to the Himalayan valley of Lahoul in order to undertake more intensive practice. For another six years Tenzin Palmo practised in a small monastery and remained
in retreat during the long and snowy winter months which last for half of the year. Seeking more isolation and better conditions for further intense practice, she found a nearby cave where she lived for another 12 years, most spent in strict retreat. She left the cave in 1988 and soon after opened a nunnery in Tashi Jong, northern India.


Thought Exchange is a non-profit group dedicated to the expansion of consciousness.  All media used is for educational purposes only.


Afterwards, there will be a discussion and food session where we discuss the benefits and lessons of this subject in relation to ourselves and others. Bring a dish to pass, not required, but encouraged.






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  • Cynthia B.

    Fine movie. Great discussion. As always, I learned some something last night.

    August 10, 2014

11 went

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