December 2, 2019
I grew up in a family where my father was very close to art, especially to opera and singing, as he was a dramatic tenor, so from early childhood, even before I started to speak, I heard the voices of the greatest singers in the world. When I was a child my father encouraged me to put my attention in the subtle differences in voices, but my passion was physics, science and psychology, but science more. I dreamed about the cosmos, astrophysics, and I read a lot of fantasy books.
I entered the best Russian institute in the field of science called the Moscow Physical Technological Institute. It’s the Russian version of MIT in the US and it offered the best level of education in the field of science. I entered the Department of Cosmology, but after one year I was disappointed, both in cosmology and in science, and I realized my passion was psychology. I was intoxicated by Dostoevsky and I also read the great works of the philosopher Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, etc., and so philosophy and human nature became my biggest passion.
I was lucky to meet like minded people and also a teacher in philosophy, but the only official philosophy at this time was Marxist/Leninist philosophy. My teacher was teaching his close students underground; Russian philosophy, world philosophy, and he was very creative and a skillful master of philosophy. We would have private, secret classes and we were only two close students. It was six years of education and I graduated with high honors. I changed my department to bio physics, which was more close to human nature, but my passion was still philosophy.
I was also into playing guitar, playing folk music, reading novels, and I was a member of the underground ‘Bart’ movement, which was an anti soviet governmental state of affairs movement. I met leaders of this movement, so this became my passion at that time as well as philosophy, songs and guitar.
I graduated and I entered into post graduate studies at the Institute of Philosophy at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. I saw this as the only possibility for me to go further. So in 1980 I entered this study and in this same year I met people from the underground transpersonal circles in Moscow. They translated books by Stan Grof John Lilly, etc., so I read my first book by Stan Grof, and I was excited; I had finally found some new dimensions and secrets of human beings and so I became a member of the underground transpersonal movement.
I helped in underground book translation and the leader of our underground transpersonal circle asked me to edit a translation by Longchenpa: How samsara and nirvana are fabricated from the ground of being. It was the Herbert Guenther translation for the Crystal Mirror. I also read books by Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism and The Myth of Freedom, and Gesture of Balance by Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche. I also read the Evans Wentz translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead…anything that was available at this time. This was our gateway to Tibetan Buddhism.
Longchenpa really struck me, I did not realize at the time why, of course, but it was a revelation for me. I remember one quotation: “Those living beings who know their own nature, manifest as Buddhas, as enlightened beings and those who do not realize their true nature have cycles of rebirth.” Then I realized how important it is to know your true nature. I started to search for where is the real nature…and I also remember that the word had a very special connection to me, the word Dzogchen, I had no idea of what it meant really but the word resonated in me.
In 1982 my friend, who was the director of the transpersonal movement, and I decided to go to Buryatia. In all the Soviet Union, Buryatia was the only place where there were people with real knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism. We decided we needed a kind of practical introduction and so our special aim was to get introduction to Vajrasattva practice which was the gateway to the Bidia Dandaron Community and the teachings. Dandaron was the only teacher at this time who transmitted this teaching to “white” people, people from Estonia, Lithuania, etc. Dandaron was teaching underground.
During the Stalin period Dandaron spent twenty-five years in labor camps together with German professors and this is why he knew Western philosophy, Western sciences, several languages, and later he started to transmit the teaching. He was the first person in the Soviet Union who translated several texts of Longchenpa, but the access to these books was only possible through his students if you were accepted by them as part of the Dandaron community and that’s why we understood that the best students of Tibetan Buddhism in the Soviet Union were part of Dandaron’s community and that is why we moved to Buryatia. We visited Victor Pupyshev, one of the greatest experts in Tibetan medicine in Russia at this time, but also a very good translator, and he gave us some books by Dandaron and he informed us that at exactly this time His Holiness the Dalai Lama would give teachings in Buryatia. So this was a great coincidence.
His Holiness gave teachings for three days: Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Green Tara. There was a huge crowd at a Buddhist Temple 30 kilometers from Ulan Ude. We were thinking that 5,000 were Buryatian old men and women and the other 5,000 were KGB. So we received this precious teaching.
We also got some initiations from an old Buryatian lama, who was a successor to Dandaron, and we received teachings and got access to Dandaron’s translation of Longchenpa, and also to Dandaron’s students, so when I went back to Moscow and established connections with Dandaron’s students in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Buryatia. So it was a big community and the next phase of my underground Buddhist life.
I tried to study and practice but after several years I realized there were no obvious results that I had hoped for, some great achievements. So we tried to get some other teachings and there were only a couple of other famous Buddhist teachers visiting the Soviet Union at that time and one of them was Bakula Rinpoche, the head lama of Lhadak living in India.
In 1987 some guy from the underground circles gave me the green book, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, Talks from Conway, Rinpoche’s teachings transcribed by Jim Valby. I started to read and I was not able to stop. I don’t know how this book came to this guy, it was a miracle. I read through the whole night and only stopped reading the next morning. I was a new being in the morning. I started to understand finally, Dandaron, Longchenpa, His Holiness’s teaching, Buddhism, everything was kind of a new vision. So I made five or six photocopies of this book and I sent these books to Luthuania, Lativa, St Petersburg, Buryatia and my friend Vitaly in Moscow. So a new era started and we began to dream about miraculous Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.
The first time I visited a foreign country was in 1989. I visited some transpersonal leaders in London and one of them was Rupert Sheldrake. We talked about his work and he introduced me to his wife, Jill Purce, and within five minutes we realized she was a student of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. She had invited Rinpoche to the UK and she gave me the contact information for Italy and I immediately wrote a letter to Rinpoche and he replied inviting me to a retreat at Merigar. This was in 1989. Unfortunately I did not receive this letter until six days after the retreat was over. All mail at this time was checked by the KGB.
Rinpoche replied to me,”Don’t worry”, he connected me to the Conway Dzogchen Community and told me they would send me the books. We received the books and we started a new activity. Also Rinpoche invited us to a retreat at Tsegyalgar. So we started to prepare for this retreat and I had a good opportunity since in 1990 I had a two- month visa to the US for my transpersonal psychology and holotropic breathwork study with Stanislov Grof, who I had met in Russia. My schedule was flexible enough that I was able to change it to go also to Conway for the retreat with Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. Four other Russians came with me.
Rinpoche was young, very active, entertaining and joking at this time, and I remember the excitement from this first day. After I went to him to arrange a kind of private meeting and he was very interested, and I invited him to the Soviet Union. He replied that next year he would have a personal retreat and the next place he would visit after his personal retreat would be the Soviet Union.
In the spring of 1992 I received a phone call from Fabio and he said, “Vladimir, if you are standing up please sit down, take a sheet of paper and a pen and write this down. Rinpoche will come to Vilnius at this time, Riga at this time, St Petersburg at this time, Moscow at this time and Ulan Ude at this time. So prepare.” So I immediately contacted all places with information about how to prepare for Rinpoche’s visit. This was the beginning of the Russian Dzogchen Community.
I continued my work as a transpersonal psychologist and published books that I translated, classics by Stan Grof, Ken Wilber, Arny Mindell, I made personal connections with all of them and with many other leaders. Transpersonal psychology was a kind of public gateway to something more real than official psychology.
I continued my studies with Stan and Christina Grof, graduated from Grof’s school of transpersonal psychology and people ask me to give seminars in holotropic breath work and other methods of transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy; I became kind of a leader of this movement in Russia and I initiated the Russian Association of Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy together with other leaders. I am still president of this association organizing international conferences. I am the chair of Transpersonal Psychology Department at the Moscow University’s Department of Psychoanalysis and this is the biggest psychological and psychotherapeutic institute in Russia. Now I am transforming more of my activity on line so as to be more flexible.
My film making career happened kind of miraculously. I never thought about filmmaking. Never. But around fifteen years ago, Eduardo Sagalaev, one of the leaders of Russian television, was having a spiritual crisis, got interested in spiritual teachings. He read my book on transpersonal psychology and found me and quickly we became friends. He suggested we make a series of films about my field. He asked for my help. This was around 2006.
It happened that this same year I was going to Ireland to see Stan Grof and negotiate with him about bringing the Grof transpersonal training to Russia. When I told him about this, Sagalaev asked me to ask Grof if he could bring a film crew to film Grof and holotropic breathwork, and so we started to film everything and also my seminars. I became a member of the TV team and so the personal advisor and scientific consultant to Sagalaev and his team. We made six films with Sagalaev, so this was my film university. I was excited about the presentation of my field on Russian TV but I was disappointed in how it was presented, so I decided to make the next film by myself.
In 2010 I organized a big international conference on transpersonal psychology in Moscow and I invited many leaders in the field, spiritual masters, great artists, and also Yeshi Silvano Namkhai participated in this conference and gave a talk called “What is Enlightenment?” I was able to arrange to film nine interviews from this group. This was the beginning of my film making.
For the next several years I continued to make interviews and I started to edit and make films from these interviews. It took a lot of time for me because I was self taught. So I am a filmmaker without special education, but I was lucky to have connected with great professionals in the Sagalaev team, to learn on the fly, so to speak.
I went through two film teams and finally I found the third team of co-workers and this is my team. After two months the film was ready. This film is called The Dance of Infinity and the first release was in 2015. Later, after finishing two new films in 2019, I re-edited the Dance of Infinity to make it more friendly.
I finished the film and it had very good reception in Russia and in some other countries like the US, Great Britain, Germany and ex Soviet countries. It has been translated into six languages; also Chinese. I was exhausted. I thought I will never do this again. To be an independent filmmaker is not an easy job, there is no money and you have to try and get grants and I was lucky to get some grants and in any case it is a very tiring process. I decided to stop and not make any more films. So I was able to transmit in the film Dance of Infinity the message of great Masters, spiritual traditions, great art and science.
It was amazing that the main message of all these great masters was that our main problem is that we are limiting ourselves; the key is to renew and become connected to unlimited sources and this was the message of the Dance of Infinity. It was not my discovery. Through me the message of these great masters could be delivered.
So after a year, in 2016, I started to feel something inside like passion. So I realized I had to do three new films simultaneously. It was a kind of solution since it was tiring to make one film over a long period of time, so to make two films at the same time, and one was a continuation of the Dance of Infinity and this film would be about evolution; evolutionary vision from the point of view of normal science, normal art, not a spiritual vision, but what is available in the normal human world, how human evolution is understood. So the film the Tools for Evolution is kind of based on the vision of great experts, really very good experts, twenty-one experts, and I discovered I also needed to be among them to give guidelines – a thread.
At the same time I started to film the Secret of Carlos Castaneda. First of all, because I was lucky to know people personally who knew Castaneda and I was also lucky to be connected to his direct close students. So for the next three years, from 2016-2019, I was working on these three films and it was even more torture and I had even less resources, after the financial crisis and more sanctions the Russian economy was going down, and I calculated that 70% of my time I spent looking for resources. So then I started to dream about a producer.
The film of Castaneda was shown in fifteen cinemas in thirty of the biggest cities in Russia, also private screenings in different countries, in the US of course, and now I am looking for ways to expand the audiences. I am sure what is being shown about Castaneda in this film might be important for teachers from different spiritual traditions, because I am trying to show the moving force for all his life, going beyond gossip and different problems which are natural for any human being.
I realized after following the teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu for a long time, that I found my own way in my artistic life and I found that my aim is to present the evolution revision, these ideas, in the language that is accessible and understandable for many people. To present the kind of human mission and all the great possibilities we have in our time. And I realized that the first two films are the films of an evolutionary trilogy. And I need to complete the trilogy by making a third film where I will tell the complete story; to present evolutionary tool kits for lay people, to normal human beings who are not so lucky to be connected to great spiritual teachers. So the third film of the trilogy, Heroes Journeys: New Horizons, is in the making.
In the third film, Heroes Journeys: New Horizons, I’ll present the new multidimensional vision for classical Joseph Campbell ’s “Hero’s Journey”, where instead of one (mythological dimension) there will be eight dimensions with eight main heroic journeys (each with its unique meaning, base, path, structure and result). Together they are the best “evolutionary tracks” discovered by humanity, divided into three realms:
1. Classical or Mythological journey
2. Personal or Existential journey
3. Transpersonal or Spiritual journey
Personal, or Existential Journey is subdivided into:
1. Growing Up journey (Path of Champion)
2. Showing Up journey (Path of Artist)
3. Cleaning Up journey (Path of Healer)
4. Relating to Others journey (Path of Good Human Being)
5. Caring of the World journey (Path of World Activist)
6. Great Balance journey (Universal Middle Way)
I like to do two films simultaneously and so Orvidas is another film I’m working on at the same time as Heroes Journeys: New Horizons. This film Orvidas,The Garden of the Human Soul is about Orvidas, who was a Lithuanian sculptor. He lived for only forty years. He was a sculptor of statues for graves in a traditional Lithuanian style. As it happened, a great force and vision broke through in his life and he began to make sculptures from all religions, from shamanism, paganism, from all cultures. He had a private place for his sculptures. Much of his art was destroyed by the Soviets, but what are left are great pieces of art. More than a thousand different sculptures arranged in the most beautiful way, melted into landscape, into nature, and everything. I see him as not only a great artist but as an extremely available example of how every human being can be liberated through art and creativity. Every human being. So I want to tell the story of his life to all people.
So now I am working on two films, the third film of Evolution Trilogy called Heroes Journeys: New Horizons and Orvidas. I work one month on one film and one month on the other. For the trilogy I have five or six interviews already. I want to present a kind of modern vision of what evolution is using modern language. We have five main dimensions of evolutionary development. One is growing up from lower levels to upper levels; from underworld to higher world. There was quite a good study of this in Western psychological development; spiral dynamics, Ken Wilber, etc. But what’s important for the last twenty years is that Western psychology found there are ten main lines growing up: mathematical intelligence, emotional intelligence, musical intelligence, movement intelligence, different kinds of intelligence and different lines of development. Also men and women have different modalities of growing up. All this is important for the development of the human being.
But the second aspect of human development is waking up; becoming more and more non- dual – the uniqueness of everything. This is the Eastern path which is best described and researched in the non-dual tradition like Dzogchen, Taoism, Adanta Vedanta, a kind of non-dual spiritual growth. Also for modern people there is another evolutionary dimension connected with our lives, for example there are ten main stages of life, childbirth, birth trauma, early childhood and traumas there, then six years of school, teenage years, personality crisis, middle life, old age and death. We have different problems with each stage. What is very important is to clear ourselves from these obstacles and the most widespread Western tool is psychotherapy. So we can grow in this dimension, clearing, clearing, clearing, and preventing obstacles. From my spiritual view, from some spiritual teachers, some of these great experts, I found that many of them use intensive psychotherapy, for example, Gurudjieff, he demanded his students be a good person; not having problems before coming to him, not having problems with relatives, with fathers and mothers, they should solve all these issues or they will not be able to do this work.
The fourth dimension of our development is creativity and expressing ourselves. We have a limited body dimension, but through our voice and our art we can express ourselves. If we don’t express ourselves no one will know what is inside us. So we all have this mission to be artists, to create a more multi dimensional community. Every artist knows it is not easy to be an artist. The fifth dimension of human growth is relationship. Even if you’re enlightened there are seven billion other versions of enlightenment, of life; you have personal enlightenment but when you are inseparable from another enlightened human being, you are more real.
And so we have relationships. And relationships have four main modalities. Parenting, human child, love, co-working and co-creativity, and universal human friendship. And in each fundamental human dimension there is evolution. There are obstacles in every dimension for being good human being, for being good co worker, etc. So the film will be about this kind of evolution.
If people want to see my films, I am distributing films from different companies. I hope to find a distributor in the US for English language. In France we have signed with a distributor; I would like to find distributors in other countries. I also need producers. I still have more plans for films.
My vision I want to share is mainly related to Dzogchen Teachings and the teachings have helped to generate all these resources in my life. And I see there are multiple ways to be a Dzogchen practitioner in our life and I am very excited that Dzogchen is for normal people in ordinary life. No kind of isolation, or uniqueness, so what I like to hear and read in Rinpoche’s teachings is when he explains Dzogchen in every day life and how everything in your life can be practice. So for me now filmmaking is also part of my practice.
1. The Dance of Infinity (2015, 2019)
2. Tools for Evolution (2019)
3. Heroes Journeys: New Horizons (2020, in progress)
1. The Secret of Carlos Castaneda (2019)
2. Orvidas: The Garden of World Soul (2020?, in progress)
The Secret of Carlos Castaneda trailer – https://youtu.be/3ZB1huXBMng
Tools for Evolution trailer – https://youtu.be/-OSY17rBcG8
The Dance of Infinity trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHeQu-aJ4DA
Orvidas: the Garden of the Human Soul trailer of film in progress – https://youtu.be/SjFzjuhIItU
Email of Vladimir: firstname.lastname@example.org