"We think happiness is what we get when attachment gets what it wants. Buddha says happiness is what we get when we give up attachment."

Ven. Robina

Lama Yeshe

Lama Zopa Rinpoche


The award-winning film by Amiel Courtin-Wilson

In 2013 The Bodhichitta Trust re-released a special edition of Chasing Buddha, the award-winning documentary film about Ven. Robina by her nephew, the internationally acclaimed Australian filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson.

The main feature is available for rental (US $3) or streaming/download purchase (US $10). The all-access bundle, which adds two and a half hours of extra material, including a 2013 interview with Ven. Robina and outtakes of interviews with inmates at Kentucky State Penitentiary, is also available for streaming/download purchase (US $15). You can read more information about the film and purchase the Director's Edition DVD at chasingbuddhafilm.com.

At the heart of Chasing Buddha, the documentary film about Ven. Robina's life and work with people in prisons, are the candid, heartfelt meetings between Ven. Robina and inmates at Kentucky State Penitentiary.

Honored at Sundance, featured in cinemas, on Australia's SBS, and on television worldwide, this inspiring film launched Amiel’s career when he was nominated for Best Documentary Director at the Australian Film Industry Awards in 2000. 

Chasing Buddha Film Awards

Filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson spent three months following Ven. Robina, his aunt, as she traveled non-stop around the US, teaching in the centers of her teachers Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, and also visiting with inmates on death row and others at Kentucky State Penitentiary.

In 1998 Amiel and his childhood friend cinematographer Vincent Heimann spent three months on the road, documenting Ven. Robina's visits to the centers of her teachers, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe, on the East Coast and in California, as she led courses and retreats. Joking about her renowned energy and relentless pace, and the two of them seemingly forever chasing after her, Vinnie said at one point “We should call this film ‘Chasing Buddha’!”

The heart of the film that Amiel created is revealed in Ven. Robina's meetings with the inmates of Kentucky State Penitentiary, where Amiel and his cameraman had unprecedented access, including to those on death row and others serving life sentences.

Ven. Robina talks to Ralph Ospalski, who is serving a minimum 25-year sentence at Kentucky State Penitentiary, about his Buddhist practice.

The connection between Robina and these men is palpable. Their past violence, their crimes – none of this phases her. “I have such admiration for people who struggle to deal with the difficulties of life,” she says. Their efforts to understand their own minds, to come to terms with the reality of their lives in prison, touches her heart and inspires her own practice and her determination to help others, especially those with nothing and no one to turn to.

When it was first released in cinemas, in 2000, Chasing Buddha was nominated for Best Director at the Australian Film Institute Awards. That same year it was an official selection at Sundance; an official selection at the Brisbane Film Festival; winner of Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival's Dendy Awards; and winner of the Sydney Film Festival's Rouben Mamoulian Award.

Amiel is kindly offering 50% of all profits from the sale of the DVD to Ven. Robina's Bodhichitta Trust in California, which supports the work of her teachers, Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. The Bodhichitta Trust is handling all sales of Chasing Buddha.

Ven. Robina and her nephew, Amiel Courtin-Wilson, who directed Chasing Buddha when he was just 18, in Melbourne in May.

After 14 years of running Liberation Prison Project, which helps thousands of prisoners throughout the USA and Australia, Robina passed on the job of executive director to a colleague in Australia in 2009. She maintains contact with many old friends in prison.

One of Ven. Robina's meetings with Ralph, one of the prisoners featured in the documentary film about Ven. Robina's life, Chasing Buddha. The prisoners' past violence, their crimes – none of this phases Ven. Robina. Their efforts to understand their own minds, to come to terms with the reality of their lives in prison, touches her heart and inspires her own practice and her determination to help others.
"You could sit through a month of fiction films and not come across a character half as interesting as Robina Courtin"

- Jake Wilson, Urban Cinefile

"A bracing and surprisingly stylish documentary

- Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"In his inspired first documentary, Courtin-Wilson provides an intimate portrait of a unique individual whose own search for inner peace helps guide others to transcend their arduous circumstances."

- Rebecca Yeldham, Sundance Film Festival

"An intimate portrait of one woman's relentless search for inner peace."

- The Cinematic Intelligence Agency

"Directed with passion, love, and devotion ... we are treated to a rare individual."

- Dennis Schwartz, Ozus’s World Movie Reviews

"A woman who will never conform and is the more inspiring because of it."

- Joyce Morgan, The Sydney Morning Herald

"In a packed 51 minutes, the extraordinary life of this irrepressible dynamo unfolds."

- Mandala Magazine

"Guaranteed to shake any preconceptions one might have about the religious life, asceticism, or indeed Buddhist nuns ... A fascinating film."

- Julie Rigg, Radio National, Arts Today

"Robina Courtin's journey from radical political activist to radical Buddhist nun is a fascinating one. Her frank admissions about the attraction of spending time with condemned men attempting to control their crazed energy reveal what makes this offbeat woman tick and neatly draws in the strands of her colourful life prior to her conversion."

- Richard Kuipers, Urban Cinefile

"If you think of Buddhist nuns (and monks) as meek and mild souls, lacking in personality, Chasing Buddha should put that notion to rest once and for all."

- Stephen Groenewegen, eFilmCritic.com