Touch and Go
Chögyam Trungpa's Epic Journey to the West
A video documentary by Grant MacLean
Read reports from the premiere showing in Halifax
Touch and Go:
This video documentary of Trungpa Rinpoche's escape from Tibet is now available as a DVD for a $30 donation to the Born In Tibet project.
A Chronicles of CTR production
directed by Grant MacLean
Fifty years ago, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche led hundreds of Tibetans as they attempted to flee their homeland. They trekked for nine months through some of the world's most beautiful and brutal terrain, sometimes in near-Arctic conditions, and towards the end, were forced to eat their leather belts to survive. Touch and Go traces the escape route with the help of Google Earth and Microsoft's Flight Simulator, showing the terrain that was crossedits extraordinary beauty and its monumental challenges.
Chogyam Trungpa's Diary
During the last five weeks of his escape from Tibet (December 15, 1959 - January 24, 1960), Trungpa Rinpoche made almost daily entries in his diary. Here, reprinted from Born in Tibet, are those entries. Excerpt: "As I walked up and down the bank talking to the three groups who had arrived, I suddenly heard gunfire. At first I thought it must have come from one of our party; then a second shot was fired and I could hear shrill shouts from Chinese voices. The firing became continuous and bullets came whizzing above us." -Continue
January 24, 1960: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche arrives in India
By Carolyn Rose Gimian
Posted January 24, 2010
Fifty years ago, January 24, 1960: Chogyam Trungpa was on an airplane, his first ever, carrying him from the edges of the Himalayas into the heart of India. His escape from Tibet was complete. His journey to the West was just beginning.
Fifty years ago, January 24, 1960: Where were we, his many heart disciples? Some of us were yet to be born. Most of us were children. Few of us had ever heard of Tibet. His journey was going to change our lives, but we were totally unaware of that. -Continue
Download the annotated map as a PDF
Finding the Escape Route
Grant MacLean: Like many others, on re-reading Born in Tibet, I found that there were spiritual and inspirational layers I'd missed before. But it only slowly dawned on me that the final third of the book, the escape journey, held one of the richest sources of teaching of all. The challenges confronting the travelers on the escape to India seemed hard to avoid, but I sometimes wondered whether I was really getting it, whether I wasn't missing something. Maybe I could get a deeper sense of the journey if I could see what they faced, especially the terrain and weather. It occurred to me that Microsoft's Flight Simulator (FS), with its accurate modeling of world scenery and weather, could help. Continue.
Dispatches from the escape route
During the fiftieth anniversary of the escape (April 23, 2009-January 24, 2010) our intrepid reporter, Grant MacLean, travelled fifty years back in time to post updates on the party's progress. Here, along with maps and satellite imagery, are his dispatches from the escape route.
They now knew where they were, but there seemed no end in sight. For eight months they'd been travelling through some of the world's harshest terrain and weather. For eight weeks they'd lived on what supplies they could carry and were now eating their belts and bags.
What's next for Touch and Go?
Trungpa Rinpoche's account of his escape from Tibet is a treasure of a teaching, hidden in broad
For students it's a source of unending spiritual insight and inspiration, for the world it offers a
remarkable story of human adventure, resilience, courage and humour. It is a parable for our
times, an inspirational story for walking our own paths through harsh terrain in bleak times. And
t offers a potent vehicle for bringing our teacher's qualities to the attention of a larger audience.
Time is running out to gather together the details of the treasure and offer it to our world: the
survivors of the escape are in their seventies while Trungpa Rinpoche's students are aging
The Born in Tibet project has three phases. Phase I, just completed, has consisted of tracking
the route of the escape and making the Touch and Go movie. Expenditure on Phase I so farfor software/hardware, for researching the route, researching images and music, writing the
narrative, shooting footage, editing visuals, script and sound to complete the movie and finally
developing publicity materialsis approximately $67,000.
Phase II, planned to commence as soon as we have sufficient funds and the necessary
arrangements have been made. This will involve interviewing escape survivorsAkong
Rinpoche, Yeshe Dorje at Samye Ling and a Tibetan peasant who journeyed with the party now
in Portland, ORand then, including that material making a professional trailer. Through the
interviews we want to verify what we know about the route, seek further insights not covered
in the book about the human journey and gather important everyday detail– how did they cook,
keep warm, sleep, etc? When completed the material will be organized and donated to the
Archives. Our budget for Phase II is approximately $19,000.
In Phase III we will seek professional producers, funding from movie companies, etc. with the
aim of making and distributing a full-length documentary or feature movie on the escape.
Please make a donation online
Or send a check or postal/money order
1. Checks should be made payable to the "Chogyam Trungpa Legacy Project". Unfortunately, checks made to any other organization cannot be cashed, and we will have to ask you for another check.
2. Please be sure to write on the check that this is a donation for the "BIT Project", (ie. the Born In Tibet Project). Without this note the donation will go to the general account and will not reach the movie fund.
In the United States, please send checks to:
Chogyam Trungpa Legacy Project
c/o Ashoka Credit Union
525 Canyon Boulevard
Boulder, Colorado 80302
In Canada & Europe (they can be from a European bank) please send your checks to:
Chögyam Trungpa Legacy project
C/O Halifax Shambhala Center
1084 Tower Road
Halifax, NS B3H-2Y
Reviews and Readers' Comments
Please send comments and questions to
"... a beautiful job of tracing Rinpoche's escape from Tibet. This is a story of historical importance that needs to be remembered ... in years to come."
-Lady Diana Mukpo
"... riveting from beginning to end. Skillfully produced and executed. I've never experienced a documentary like it." -Rudy Wurlitzer (writer, Little Buddha, Wind, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, ...)
" ... one of the greatest of the great escape stories ever told, Touch and Go will stop
your mind and open your heart. Watch this wonderful video." -Kent Martin (eminent Canadian producer of over 100 movies)
"Turn off all the lights ... and let Grant MacLean take you over the Himalayas ... the courage, danger and icy beauty all come through ... as Trungpa Rinpoche miraculously survives to bring Buddhism to the west." -Johanna Demetrakas (director, Crazy Wisdom; Celebration at Big Sur)
"The entire video is masterful! I cried my way through the whole journey in awe of the perseverance. And through it all for Rinpoche to write that beautiful song about pristine awareness, the magnificent goddess. When the jet propeller roared the lion's roar so the tears poured from my hearts' eyes. Yes, dramatic but this, Trungpa's story was and still is as spoken so beautifully in the film a dramatic change for the whole world." -Hildy Maze
"What an amazing job you are doing! The hardships come through in the photos, soundtrack, narration and quotes. I felt chilled watching it! And in suspense, too. Some of the shots you have captured are truly beautiful." -Nancy Natilson, Tampa, FLA
"... really loved it. Draws you right in and makes you forget it is google earth or flight sim ... totally pro. I can't wait to see part 3 ..." -Lennart Krogoll, St. Margaret's Bay, NS
"Wonderful, full of suspense. Am looking forward to Part 3 more than I looked forward to the last Harry Potter book." -Hedy Bookin-Weiner, Norfolk, VA
"Bravo, once again." -JF
Just viewed part two of Touch and Go. Marvellous, nail-biting experience. Seeing the mountains and passes up close and hearing the narrative made it seem so real and so truly amazing. To hear of our teacher's wisdom and courage and his profound protector activity over and over was truly inspiring. Thank you and please continue! -Sally Walker, Halifax
This documentary that Grant MacLean has produced is so deeply touching, particularly having read Born in Tibet 3-4 times. It always has been very difficult to truly imagine this extraordinary and forbidding terrain, to say nothing of surviving eight months in it. To have a glimpse of Trungpa Rinpoche's journey (through the marvelous technology of Google Earth) brings my guru even closer to my heart. Profound thanks to Mr. MacLean and the Chronicles and all of the donors who are helping to make this project possible. -Judith Smith, Halifax, Nova Scotia
"Splendid, powerful, captivating ..." -Sally Walker
"I had no real idea from the book what they went through ... those peaks, 18,000' high, every day! An evocative, beautifully made movie ..." -Hal Richman, Tantallon, Nova Scotia.
" ...like - totally cool journey!!" -Prof. Julia Sagebien, Puerto Rico & Nova Scotia.
"The video raises an even stronger appetite than I already had to get my boots into the deep snow and follow the tracks of my Guru" -Eric Rugani, Avignon, France.
" ... utterly awesome! ... so skillfully and artistically recreates the Vidyadhara's escape from Tibet in modern technology. I wish he was still alive to see it." -Christine Keyser, Boulder, Colorado.
" ... beautiful and moving and brings to light what Rinpoche actually accomplished. I am ashamed to say I have not yet read Born in Tibet. After your movie I am inspired to read it ... I loved Rinpoche's drawings of maps interspersed with the aerial photos from Google Earth. Rinpoche was an amazing artist on top of everything else" -Dana Marshall, Bussum, Holland.
"Wonderful... poetic script, great narration and you managed to make a video simulator not just useful but near beautiful. Good show! When's Part II? -A CTR Fan
" ... wonderful and I look forward to the next one. Good work!" -Kerstin Gilkerson, Martins River, Nova Scotia.
"Loved it. Great job!" -George Marshall, Tatamagouche Nova Scotia.
"Yo! awesome! Dude ... " -Don Winchell
"Sergeant MacLean's documentaries are profoundly moving. jolly good show and thank you for your labour of love." -An admirer
"This is an excellent documentary style film. By no means "flashy" but this film in particular brought be to fall in love with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. His arduous escape from Tibet and his enduring inner strength and compassion for those he led through the Himalayan mtns during winter is simply unbelievable. Enjoy falling in love with VCTR, if you haven't already." -Ruth Ritchey (on Facebook)
Touch and Go, Part One, was funded in part by a grant from the Chogyam Trungpa Legacy Project. Thank you to the good people at the CTLP.
Thank you also to Lady Diana Mukpo and Shambhala Publications for their permission to use excerpts and images from Born in Tibet.
Thank you to Dan Russell for permission to use his 1968 color photograph of Trungpa Rinpoche on horseback. Visit Dan Russell's website at www.deepmind.co.uk.
Thank you to Lee Weingrad, CEO of Surmang Foundation, for his photographs of Surmang.