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The title of this Werner Herzog documentary refers to the Kalachakra Mandala, the intricate sand painting meant to help the faithful visualize the interior plane. It is at the heart of the Buddhist initiation ceremony in Bodh Gaya, India, which Herzog reverently records here. The spiritual realm is virtually impossible to capture on film, but Herzog has managed to do just that, creating a lyrical, mystical visual poem. He interweaves footage of pilgrims traveling to the ceremony in prostration, a pilgrimage to the holy Mount Kailash, and numerous monks participating in the rituals. One young monk buys a small bird only to let it fly away, symbolizing the freedom of all beings. Everywhere, monks and laypeople are deeply meditating, chanting, and praying. The Dalai Lama makes an appearance in a fascinating and humorous interview with Herzog, and also performs rituals and leads the faithful in prayer. The final part of the film takes place in Austria, where the Dalai Lama conducts the same rituals in a markedly contrasting environment. Much of the film becomes a hypnotic sea of faces as Herzog's camera makes its way through the crowds. The multiplicity of individuals seen only briefly reinforces the symbolic nature of the Mandala itself: when the ceremony is complete, the painting is destroyed and its sand granules are scattered, representing the ephemeral nature of life.