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The Buddha is a two-hour PBS documentary weaving animation, interviews, and historical texts to tell the story of the life of the Buddha. It is narrated by Richard Gere, a follower of Tibetan Buddhism, who also co-produced the film. The film opens with an animation of a young Buddha sitting underneath a tree and meditating. The narrator speculates on the early beginnings of the founder of one of the world's largest and most vibrant religious traditions.

Buddha was born into a well-to-do family. His father provided him with everything he desired and he engaged in hedonistic practices and indulged the sensual side of life. One of the interviews tells the story of the Buddha with his lover. One day, while having sex on the roof of the Buddha's gated estate, the couple rolled off the roof and into a bed of flowers. The Buddha's life was shielded from suffering until he ventured beyond the gates and met a suffering man, a sick man, and a dying man.

Then the Buddha decided to leave his wife, young son, and father and go into the wilderness. He first followed the tenets of asceticism, eating only one grain of rice and wearing painfully rough loincloths. Unsatisfied, he decided to abandon asceticism and attempted to study under several gurus, but felt their attention to ritual, needlessly pain-inducing activities, and prayers did not answer his questions.

Finally, the Buddha decides to meditate under a tree for forty days and he achieves enlightenment. A maid with a bucket of milk approaches him and offers him food. He eats some food and vows to return home after an eight-year spiritual journey. He then becomes a great teacher, imparting to his followers the idea that craving causes suffering and reducing needless craving allows for personal, spiritual liberation.

The documentary includes prolonged interviews with the Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks, scholars of Buddhism, and contemporary practitioners of Buddhism. The film discusses Buddhism's impact on humanity.

1 Season, 1 Episode
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The Buddha Full Episode Guide

  • Filmmaker David Grubin presents the story of the Buddha's life and teachings.

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The Buddha is available to watch and stream on PBS. You can also buy, rent The Buddha on demand at Amazon Prime, Amazon online.