There are two roads in the woods.
You can only take one of them,
and wonder about the other for the rest of your life.
Longwu is a temple of no more than 20 monks. When 17-year-old Jigme became a junior monk there, he had no idea whether it was better to renounce or to join the secular world. The temple sits quietly within the depths of a mountain. It is far away from the bustles and hustles of about a dozen surrounding villages. But, on all occasions related to people’s births and deaths, the monks are invited by villagers to hold solemn chanting sessions to help the souls of their loved ones enter or leave this world. For a young monk like him, frequent visits to the villages make it much harder to practice Buddhism and live in solitude. It could even have been easier to practice it in a fully secular environment. In fact, since Jigme has joined the temple, half of the monks have already left for various reasons and have each found a spot for themselves in the secular world. Hence, from time to time, Jigme wonders, “Must I chant sutras day after day? Or is there a more meaningful way of life?”
During the rainy season of a year, all things grow, and all Buddhist monks stay in their temples to practice Buddhism. This year, with only eleven monks left, there are not enough junior monks to officially receive the precepts during the summer recluse. The temple seniors decide to have three young monks to do this.
Jigme is fully aware what this means to him – He has read the 253 precepts. He used to think that monks had the right to take off their Buddhist garments and return to their secular homes, but now, he realizes that once a monk receives his precepts, unless being expelled by his temples, he has an overbearing obligation to stay.Conflicted, he doesn’t know which path is better. Once he makes a step, there is no return. Realizing this, he patiently waits for an answer to dawn on him. During the dark of night, Jigme takes out the long roll of sutra that he reads every day, and cleans it carefully by a flickering lamp.
This summer, Jigme has come to the crossroads of life. Of the two roads out there, he can only choose one.
About the Director
Liu Cuilan is a documentary director and a scholar. She graduated from the Department of South Asian Studies at Harvard University in 2014. She has been making documentaries since 2010. While studying Tibetan Buddhist music in Amdo, Tibet, she met the monks of Longwu Temple where she learned the ancient “mani” musical tones inherited from their predecessors. Young Jigme , her first feature documentary, is sponsored by the Harvard University’s Film Study Center, Fairbank Center, and CNEX 2011 “Youth & Citizenship” (Short Documentary Category). Cuilan attended The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar 2012 in New York as a fellow member.
From the Director
Most of the 17-year-olds I know seem to either aspire for the cities more than the countryside or are forced to move to cities from various places, taking on all kinds of identities. In the summer of 2009, while I conducted a field study in the pastoral area of Amdo, Tibet, I bumped into this young boy named Jigme. Jigme was a special one. When I first met him, he had just dropped out of school to become a monk at the Longwu Temple. What could happen to this young boy on the path he decidedly took? How long will he persist? I have always imagined what my life would have been if I had shaved my head and become a nun. I’ve never gone through with the idea to see it come true. Since I met this 17-year-old, I’ve started filming his life at Longwu, hoping to find answers to my questions. Through the camera lens, I witnessed all kinds of challenges he faced, and I realized that he was not alone. A few junior monks of his age faced similar circumstances. However, I didn’t expect that when I returned to the temple the following summer, half the monks had already left – all of various reasons. Soon, Jigme began to wonder whether he should stay in the temple anymore. This documentary takes us to see the joy, the challenges and the losses of a young monk living a temple life.