a film by Edward A. Burger
filmed in The Kingdom of Cambodia
Feature-length documentary / English and Khmer with English subtitles
Currently in production
Weaving a cinematic tapestry of nature documentary, ethnographic portrait and a poetic searching for deepened relationship with Nature, River Dhamma tells a story of transformation, empowerment and hope for a healthy Earth.
Along the banks of northern Cambodia's Mekong River, an unlikely partnership has been forged between Khmer Buddhist monks and WWF conservation scientists working to save a dwindling population of critically endangered river dolphins.
These characters find themselves swimming against the current of crippled social structure, damaged spiritual lineage and vast cultural differences. Director Edward Burger thought he was making a quiet film on Buddhism and ecology, but found himself on a journey into the complexities of human nature, and the effects of trauma on society, and ultimately, on Nature.
River Dhamma offers a fresh perspective, inspiring and strengthening global conservation efforts through an exploration of ecology and species protection as urgent, spiritual issues of our time.
Socially Engaged Buddhism is not a new concept. Since the time of the Buddha, some 2600 years ago, Buddhist monastics have played a variety of roles in guiding the development and growth of the civic environments they live amongst. It is common to think of a monastery as a cloistered, isolated space. But in fact we find monasteries are often vital, lively centers of community activity. Active engagement with social and environmental issues can not only serve as part of a monk’s lifestyle, they can be integral elements in a path toward spiritual liberation and the creation of a healthy, compassionate society.
Deep Ecology is an environmental philosophy that calls for a transformation of our internal landscape toward a healthy harmony with our natural world. River Dhamma is a poetic exploration of the role human consciousness plays in our world ecosystem.
Dhamma is a Buddhist term that means, “teachings.” River Dhamma explores the wisdom of nature deeply engraved in the teachings of Gautama Buddha that are the core and thread of an ancient system of thought and spiritual life we call Buddhism. The “spiritual technologies” of wisdom traditions like Buddhism have gained unparalleled attention in recent years, as Western systems of science and psychology are rediscovering what has long been intuited by early thinkers. River Dhamma will take us inside WWF’s laboratories and inside Khmer Buddhist communities where we find the deep parallels now being discovered by progressive ecologists.
A Tool for Social Change
River Dhamma is more than a document of a current issue. This story reveals a fresh perspective on conservation issues facing every nation and people on earth today by asking some big questions about humanity, consciousness and the role we play in the ecology of this earth that sustains us.
River Dhamma is a platform to encourage discussions between religious and scientific communities to expand the scope of our understanding into a more inclusive whole - a world where science and spirit inform one-another in collaborative efforts toward resolving urgent issues in society.