For someone interested in Buddha’s life, there are numerous books ranging from the ordinary (Deepak Chopra’s Buddha) to the brilliant (Thich Nhat Hanh’s Old Path White Clouds). When it comes to movies or documentaries, I have seen more on the Dalai Lama (Seven Years in Tibet, Kundun) than the Buddha himself; Siddhartha is summarized quickly in programs like Michael Wood’s The Story of India.
In this new PBS documentary, he gets two full hours — highly insufficient to understand his work in detail, but just sufficient to piqué your interest. The documentary combines video, cartoons, and Buddhist art to narrate Siddhartha’s biography.The miracles and the super natural elements are not left out; you get the traditional story. The documentary also finds some time to briefly discuss meditation and mindfulness and why it is effective. It is combined with commentary by Dalai Lama, Buddhist monks, Prof. Robert Thurman, a bunch of American Buddhists I have never heard of.