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Streaming Video Guides

Use this guide to find streaming alternatives to Media Services DVDs.

Eastern Philosophies and Religions

Titles Available as of July 2022

This is a selective list of streaming video holdings in the American University Library. Streaming guides are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the library catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible. For complete up-to-date streaming holdings, please refer to our streaming catalog.

Altar of Fire

Documentary film about a twelve-day ancient Vedic ritual performed by Mambudiri Brahmins in Kerala, southwest India, in April 1975. 

Angry Monk: Reflections on Tibet

Examines the life of Gendun Choepel, a Tibetan monk who left the monastery to become a fierce critic of Tibet's religious conservatism, cultural isolationism and reactionary government. This criticism led to his imprisonment for three years as a political subversive. 

Animals as Divinities

Prehistoric art often renders animals in spiritual, even divine, form-but primitive beast images can also reflect a degree of humanity. This program sifts through the complexity of the animal-god concept, identifying the place of the lion, the giraffe, the wolf, the elephant, and many other creatures in a wide range of myths and religions. With detailed observations of sculpture, carvings, and statuary-including Native American totem poles, European gargoyles and grotesques, and Egyptian mummies honoring the cat-headed goddess Ubasti-the video demonstrates an age-old interconnection between our reverence for nature and our need to determine our status in it. 

Asian Temples, Humans, Nature, and Gods

In Asia, the horizontal lines of temples and sanctuaries represent a geographic proximity to nature and to living things. Complex and geometric, these structures are insired by the cosmos, natural elements, and even the human body. They are mythical bridges that connect the human with the divine. 

Awake: The Life of Yogananda

An unconventional biography about the Hindu swami who brought yoga and meditation to the West in the 1920's.

Becoming Nobody

Becoming Nobody is the quintessential portal to Ram Dass' life and teachings. His ability to entertain and his sense of humor are abundantly evident in a conversation that brings us around to address the vast question of ultimate freedom. Becoming Nobody represents the core arc of Ram Dass' teachings and life: whether as Dr. Richard Alpert, the eminent Harvard psychologist, or as Ram Dass who serves as a bridge between Eastern and Western philosophies, he has defined a generation of inner explorers and seekers of truth and wisdom. 

Between Two Worlds: The Hmong Shaman

The Hmong Shaman in America powerfully exposes the struggle of Hmong refugees in America. This classic documentary traces the lives of three Hmong families displaced thousands of miles from their villages in Northern Laos and alienated in American cities.

Brainwave: Vimalakirti Sutra 

Actress Kate Valk, dancer Michael Schumacher, and stage director Peter Sellars explore the dramatization of the earliest narrative sutra in the Buddhist canon. 

Breaking the Wall of Religious Public Opinion: How the Study of Interfaith Cross-Pollination in the Islamicate World Can Uncover Common Ground

In a world characterized by borders between religions, can academia transcend them to find common ground? This 2010 Falling Walls lecture video explores the question in a Middle Eastern context. Sabine Schmidtke argues that an open mind in research can significantly contribute to shaping a less biased and more refined public opinion. Schmidtke, a leading scholar in Islamic studies and sectional editor of theology and philosophy for the Encyclopedia of Islam, aims to trace a cultural and intellectual commonality between Muslims, Jews, and Christians in one of the most conflict-prone regions in the world. She is a recipient of the World Prize for the Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2002 and the European Research Council Advanced Grant in 2008. 

Buddha in the Land of the Kami: 7th-12th Centuries

The history of Japan past and present is the story of the kami, the supernatural, not quite godlike spirits who underlie the Japanese-ness of Japan-who created the Japanese islands at the beginning of time and remain today the ones responsible for health and luck, for success in childbirth and business, for the proper functioning of silicon chips and the uniqueness and unity of the Japanese. This program begins with the creation myth of Japan and explains the origin and scope of the kami concept; explains the arrival of Buddhism and how Buddhism and the kami were assimilated; discusses the role of Chinese culture, style, and writing in Japanese culture; and demonstrates how the Japanese garden epitomizes the Japanese view of the relationship between humankind and nature, space, time, and reality. 

Buddha Realms

Buddhism, a religion that started in India, has shown a remarkable ability to adapt across race, language and cultural barriers. What became the dominant spiritual tradition of the East has now taken root and is flourishing in the West. Buddha Realms captures this contemporary spiritual phenomenon which sometimes manifests itself in massive edifices and gargantuan crowds of worshippers. The film suggests that Buddhism's universal appeal lies in the astonishing plurality of philosophies and practices that have evolved from its ancient traditions. Yet despite these permutations, the Buddha himself remains the ultimate ideal. Whether as a simple ascetic, or the compassionate Buddha, or the "Cosmic Light," devotees believe the Buddha is the symbol of all that is great and good in this world and beyond. 

A Confucian Life in America: Tu Wei-ming

Whether lecturing at Beijing University or in his classroom at Harvard University, Tu Wei-ming personifies the meeting of East and West. A student of modern thought and very much a modern man himself, his roots run back to Confucius, the philosopher of ancient China. To anyone who thinks Confucianism quaint or irrelevant, Tu Wei-ming argues that the humanism of the old sage can help us sort out some contemporary ethical problems. In his view, the ways in which the humanistic philosophy of the East meshes with Western technology and democratic values tell us much about the future of China and industrial East Asia, and about our survival on an endangered planet. He returns to China regularly to lecture on Confucian thought. In this program with Bill Moyers, Tu Wei-ming discusses the relevance of Confucian philosophy to our times. 


Born in China of missionary parents, Huston Smith learned about Chinese language, culture, and religion while growing up near Shanghai. Smith explains how the intertwining of opposites is key to understanding the great religions of China-Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Smith shows that Eastern religions provide "an emphasis on direct experience and a method for attaining that. He introduces yoga, which he has been practicing for 50 years, as one such method.  


In part three of Genius of the Ancient World, Bettany investigates the game-changing ideas of Confucius. Confucius is considered the first Chinese thinker to take a systematic, philosophical approach to the social, political and moral challenges of his world. Born in a chaotic, violent age, he believed that harmony could be restored through the example of the sage rulers of history. A great innovator, he commandeered rituals and traditions of the past, to form a compelling philosophical vision. A pioneer in education, he attracted a loyal band of students, and tried to instill his principles of moral excellence and self-cultivation in China's rulers. He died without seeing his goal achieved. But eventually his philosophy became the bedrock of Chinese culture. Drawing on archaeology and expert opinion, Bettany investigates this inspiring figure.   

Dancing Through Death

This is the story of Thavro Phim, who came of age under the Pol Pot regime and lost his father, brother, and grandfather to the blood thirsty Khmer Rouge. What kept him whole after the ordeal was his Buddhist faith and his dedication to Cambodian classical dance where he performs the role of Hanuman, the magical white monkey. Now a Philadelphia-area resident, Thavro travels to the Kingdom of Cambodia, a country still in turmoil, We witness his bittersweet reunion with his remaining family and teachers. The film takes us back to the years 1975-79 when 90 percent of the dancers were executed or died of starvation or disease. Their story leads to Cambodia's Killing Fields, the refugee camps, and to Yale University's Cambodian Genocide Project which helps families access information about their loved ones. The film shows how Khmer children, whose parents survived Cambodia's darkest hour, are being taught in Cambodia and America to carry on their traditions for the sake of cultural survival. 

The Dhamma Brothers

Inmates serving long sentences at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, participate in a Vipassana meditation program.

The Gods Come Home: China's Traditional Faiths Persevere 

After decades of Communist oppression and neglect, Buddhist temples are now thriving across China. But are Buddhism and Taoism even relevant in a country that has thoroughly embraced materialism? How does government bureaucracy affect those religions? And can far older spiritual traditions survive in such a rapidly evolving society? This program addresses those questions as it visits monasteries and temples in Shanghai and in rural, economically disadvantaged areas. Following the daily practices of a frugal and soft-spoken monk, the film also features wealthy, high-profile Buddhist officials and interviews China's Minister of Religious Affairs, who encourages Buddhism but frowns on folk religions. 

Essentials of Faith: Hinduism

It is not a religion in itself-rather, Hinduism is more of a family of faiths that focus on God in different ways. Nevertheless, the majority of Hindu traditions share the same colorful festivals, reverence for sacred animals, and scriptural use of Sanskrit. This program sifts through perspectives from four practitioners of the Hindu faith who discuss both unified and divergent ways in which their spiritual energy is expressed. The interview subjects are Dr. V. P. Narayon Rao of the Balaji Temple, Girish Patel of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in the London neighborhood of Neasden, Shaunaka Rishi Das of the Oxford Center for Hindu Studies, and Kripamoya Das of Bhaktivedanta Manor. 

Forest of Bliss

A film without voiceover commentary, involves the viewer in an intense encounter with daily life in Benares, India's most holy city, from one sunrise to the next.


Hinduism, a spiritual way of life for hundreds of millions of people living in India, is little practiced throughout the rest of the world. In this program, Hans Kung traces the diversity of traditions and convictions making up that venerable religion. Rarely mentioned in the interreligious dialogue because it has neither an ecclesiastical organization nor overall binding doctrines, the planet's third-largest religion nonetheless has much to offer a world in need of wisdom from every quarter. 

Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism

In 1991, Buddhist expert and art historian Benoy K Behl photographed the Ajanta paintings in India, an experience that inspired him to explore the spread of Buddhism throughout Asia. In this film, he focuses on Tibetan Buddhist ideas and practices that were developed in the University of Nalanda. Study at medieval monastic universities in Eastern India was based not upon faith but on logic and pursuit of truth and knowledge through intellectual thought, discussion and debate. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other experts speak about the Indian roots of Tibetan Buddhism and culture, including developing a Tibetan written language to facilitate the transfer of knowledge in the 7th century. The documentary includes a discussion of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist art.  

The Jew in the Lotus

In 1990, eight Jewish delegates traveled to Dharamsala, India, to meet with the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet and share 'the secret of Jewish sprititual survival in exile. When writer Rodger Kamenetz was invited to go along to chronicle the event, unexpectedly, his whole life changed. Kamenetz begins an intense personal journey that leads him back to his Jewish roots. As he discovers, sometimes you have to go far away to find your way home. Inspired by Kamenetz's best selling book, award winning filmmaker Laurel Chiten's (Twitch and Shout) new documentary fills in what the book left out. Focusing on the authors' particular odyssey of suffering and the role of spirituality as a universal theme, this film touches audiences on deep emotional levels. It does not put itself forth as a definitive look at Judiasm or Buddhism but is a complete portrait of a man who is still in the process of formation. 

Life on the Ganges

Varanasi, India is one of the holiest cities, located in the northeastern part of the country. People from all over India, even the world, travel to Varanasi to bathe in the Ganges River to wash away their sins and purify their souls. Along the river embankment are boatmen who row tourists up and down the Ganges during Dev Diwali, a festival celebrated 15 days after the national holiday of Diwali. The boat rides are part of the spiritual experience on this holy day, and the film introduces the audience to the river, this auspicious event, and one particular boatman, whose main source of strength and survival comes from the Ganges. 

Life of Pi

Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, is a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zookeeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi is found adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

The Mystical Spirit of the East: Masters and Disciples

Filmed on location in India, Japan, and elsewhere, this program provides insights into Hinduism; Mahayana, Hinayana, Tantric, and Zen Buddhism; and Shintoism. Religious leaders including 112-year-old Sri Swami Shivananda, deputy director of the Divine Life Society; Master Thich Nhat Hanh, founder of the Plum Village Zen community; His Holiness the Dalai Lama; and The Venerable Mr. Hatakake, head abbot of the Ise Shinto shrine, elaborate on the principles of their timeless religions. 

One Mind

One Mind is a rare cinematic portrait of life inside one of China’s most austere and revered Zen communities. The monks at Zhenru Chan Monastery continue to uphold a strict monastic code established over 1,400 years ago by the founding patriarchs of Zen in China. In harmony with the land that sustains them, the monks operate an organic farm, grow tea, and harvest bamboo to fuel their kitchen fires. At the heart of this community, a group of cloistered meditators sit in silence for 8 hours every day. Suggesting a Zen version of the critically acclaimed film Into Great Silence, One Mind offers an intimate glimpse into a thriving Buddhist monastery in modern China.

One Precept: Zen Buddhism in America

Shot primarily at the Rinzai-Ji temple in Los Angeles, One Precept documents traditional Zen Buddhism in America today. In a personal, often poetic portrayal, the story introduces a Zen priest named Seiju, who discusses the principles of the practice, the growing popularity of Zen and his seventeen years as a disciple of one of its oldest living masters, Kyozan Joshu Sasaki.

Planet Yoga

Yoga is the fastest-growing spiritual practice around the world. This documentary explores the dynamic encounter between Western seekers and the Eastern philosophy born centuries ago, transforming both yoga and practitioners. Traveling across three continents, the film examines a collective inward journey during a materialistic era. 

A Separate Peace: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism 

This program examines the structure and major tenets of these four eastern religious philosophies. The role of the spiritual master in Hinduism is defined, and the belief in transcendental power and a multitude of deities is explained. The history of Buddhism is traced from the 6th century BC. Reincarnation and nonviolence are discussed as major beliefs. Chinese Taoism, especially its stress on the equilibrium of forces, is examined. Shintoism, a Japanese religion, is presented as a form of animism in which nature is composed of a multitude of deities: the kami. Shintoism's coexistence in Japan with Buddhism is explained as follows: "Shintoism is in charge of birth and marriage; Buddhism is in charge of death. 

Shinto and Daoism

Religions of the Tao examines the traditions of Taoism that include Shinto, Confucianism, and Chinese folk religion, which focus on the Tao, the origin and law of all things in the universe. History and meaning is explored via the sites of Mount Tai and the Temple of Confucius, Qufu in the Shandong province of China; Ise Jingu in Mie, Japan; Yongle Palace in Shanxi, China; the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan; the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China; and the Itsukushima Shrine near Hiroshima, Japan, with its iconic ‘floating’ Torri gate. These religions and philosophies are less well known in the West in comparison to Buddhism and Hinduism and by exploring these places of worship, Religions of the Tao teases the similarities and differences, going so far as to explore the very boundaries of what a religion actually is. 

Shortcut to Nirvana 

SHORT CUT TO NIRVANA takes a voyage of discovery through this vivid and vibrant world, accompanied by an irrepressible young Hindu monk, Swami Krishnanand, and several Westerners, each on their own spiritual quest. We encounter some of the Kumbh Mela's wisest and most fascinating characters, including an ascetic sadhu who has held his arm in the air for over 20 years, another who sits on a throne of nails, a Japanese devotee who is buried in a pit for three days, and a guru who proposes that Americans would do well to start meditating for three hours each day. We also spend moments in the company of an honored guest, the Dalai Lama, as senior leaders of Hinduism and Buddhism join together in an historic moment of unity. 

Spiritual India: Guide to Jainism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism

In India, religious observances weave countless golden threads into the homespun fabric of daily life. This program provides an overview of four of India's prominent religions: Jainism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Stunning footage from all around the subcontinent displays these jewels of India's religious heritage-along with their monuments, shrines, temples, festivals, and sacred rituals-against the backdrop of the nation's intricate history, diverse geography, and rich variety of cultures and languages. 

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama

Why do the poor often seem happier than the rich? Must a society lose its traditions in order to move into the future? How does one reconcile a commitment to nonviolence when faced with violence? These are some of the questions posed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by filmmaker and explorer Rick Ray. Ray examines some of the fundamental questions of our time by weaving together observations from his own journeys throughout India and the Middle East, and the wisdom of an extraordinary spiritual leader.

True Believers: Religion in Today’s China

China is on the rise economically, but the post-Mao era has also seen an increasing hunger for something beyond material prosperity. From the novice Daoist monk honing tai chi skills atop a sacred mountain to the uncountable worshippers of the underground house church movement, this program reports on modern China's emboldened-yet still cautious-religious population. In the city of Wenzhou, evangelical pastor Zheng Datong agrees to be interviewed, despite secret police looking on. Pastor Samuel Lamb, another lightening rod for security surveillance, insists that "oppression simply leads to more believers," while Pastor Joseph Gu, leader of a mainstream Three-Self Patriotic Movement church, describes the rapid growth of his congregation. For a much different yet equally spiritual perspective, the film turns to Daoist kung-fu master Zhong Yunlong at the Wudong Mountain monastery, where a sacred shrine still attracts pupils and travelers.   

Unmistaken Child

The Buddhist concept of reincarnation, while both mysterious and enchanting, is hard for most westerners to grasp. UNMISTAKEN CHILD follows the 4-year search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master who passed away in 2001 at age 84. 

Vajra Sky Over Tibet: Journey into Buddhism

Vajra is the Sanskrit word signifying the thunderbolt of illumination, and yatra is the word for pilgrimage or spiritual journey. This enthralling third documentary offers a cinematic pilgrimage to central Tibet, bearing witness to the indomitable faith of its endangered Buddhist community and the imminent threat to its very survival. 

The World Before Her

A documentary examining opposing cultural movements in India (tradition vs. modernism), contrasting the experiences and attitudes of contestants in the Miss India beauty contest with those of participants at a Hindu fundamentalist camp for young girls.