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The Zen Mind: The Nature of Zen Documentary

The Zen Mind The Nature of Zen Documentary

The Zen Mind: The Nature of Zen documentary, directed by Jon Braeley and produced in 2006 by Empty Mind Films, an independent film company, which is focused on the overall wellness of mind and body.

Zen is the Japanese form of the Sanskrit word dhyana, “meditation” and is a school of Buddhism which has had a significant impact in Japan and Europe and America.

Founded in China in the 6th century C.E. as the Ch’an school of Mahayana Buddhism, it was exported to Japan in the 12th century C.E. and gradually developed its own unique, indigenous character.

The Indian scholar/monk Bodhidharma is traditionally attributed with transferring the tradition from India to China.

The essence of Bodhidharma’s teachings is that one does not need to study sacred texts, worship deities, or do elaborate religious rituals to achieve enlightenment.

Rather, one needs to break through the boundaries of conventional thought using meditation and experience the world as it truly is in the moment. Bodhidharma’s definition also says that Zen is not an intellectual discipline you can learn from books. Instead, it’s a practice of studying mind and seeing into one’s nature.

Zen maintains that this was the way the Buddha himself attained enlightenment. Zen teaches that all humans have the capacity to attain enlightenment because we all have an inherent Buddha-nature; indeed, we are all already enlightened beings, but our true potential has been clouded by ignorance.

According to some Zen traditions, this ignorance is overcome through a sudden breakthrough — called satori — during meditation in which the true nature of reality, and our experience of it, is revealed.

Zen teachings contain various sources of Mahayana thought, including the Prajnaparamita (The Perfection of Wisdom) and Tathagatagarbha literature, also the teachings of the Yogacara, Madhyamaka schools.

There are three traditional Zen schools today in Japan: Soto, Rinzai, and Obaku. Dogen Zenji founded Soto school Zen in Japan. The Soto tradition aims above all to concentrate on the life of Buddha, that is to say, follow Buddha’s daily life, advancing continually in achievement thanks to daily practice, without expecting anything extraordinary.

The essence of Soto is Shikatanza, sitting, only sitting. Rinzai was founded during Tang Dynasty by Rinzai Gigen.The Rinzai tradition is based on a strict discipline designed to disarticulate mental creations. The Koan or enigmatic question that is difficult to answer is of great importance and its resolution, beyond the realms of the intellect, leads directly to the experience of Satori and awakening. Obaku was established in 1661 by a few chan masters from China.

Zen was transmitted to Vietnam very early, possibly as early as the 7th century. A series of teachers transmitted Zen to Korea during the Golden Age.

Despite the apparent simplicity of the message of Zen, training is arduous and requires guidance from a master. In Japan Zen became popular among the warrior samurai for its focus on discipline and self-control; Zen also informs the practice of various arts, such as calligraphy, painting, garden design, and archery. Beginning in the 20th century a popularized version of Zen has become spread throughout the world and influenced many in both the United States and Europe, where it has been incorporated into everything from motorcycle maintenance to cooking to professional sports.

While we’re talking about teachers, I should mention Zen masters. The phrase “Zen master” is hardly ever heard inside Zen. Popular notions of “Zen master” roughly correspond to what a Zen teacher is. The title “Zen master” in Japanese “zenji” is only given posthumously. In Zen, living Zen teachers are called “Zen teachers”.

An especially venerable and beloved teacher is called “roshi,” which means “old man.” I’m not sure how that works when the teacher is a woman, however. In any event, if you ever run into someone who advertises himself as a “Zen master”, be skeptical.

“Even though you try to put people under control, it is impossible. You cannot do it. The best way to control people is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in a wider sense. To give your sheep or cow a large spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them.

This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good. That is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them.” ― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice.

The Zen Mind: The Nature of Zen synopsis:

Takes us across Japan to explore the practice of modern day zen. With interviews, demonstrations of sitting and actual practice, we take the lid off the many misconceptions that abound in zen meditation (zazen).

This documentary reveals the daily routine of a zen monk and can take you inside the walls of the zen monastery and into a world never imagined by outsiders.

We join the formal ceremonies of Kyoto’s largest zen temple and witness the rituals that have managed to survive a thousand years. In the depths of the surrounding countryside we visit a zen center that is carrying on the very spar tan and simple zen lifestyle that many temples have abandoned.

This contrast heightens as we enter Japan’s largest soto zen monastery and live with the zen monks and disciples. Our cameras film unrestricted as we join the monks.

Throughout this journey is the underlying practice of zazen or meditation, the act of sitting and concentrating the mind to an emptiness—to reach a self-realization and enlightenment. Intimate interviews with the spiritual heads or Roshi reveal their methods and precepts for zazen and keeping their students on the path to enlightenment.

One of Japan’s leading flute players, Christopher Yohmei Blasdel provides the unique soundtrack of shakuhachi flute fused with digital melodic tones. In The Zen Mind movie, the combination of beautiful photography, compelling narrative, and striking music create a very memorable zen experience.

The Zen Mind movie is filmed entirely on location in Japan at the following Zen monasteries and center: Soji-ji Monastery, Tenryuji Temple, Ryoanji Temple, Nanzenji Temple, Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto Kokusai Zendo, Dogen Sangha-Tokyo, Komazawa University and Eishen-ryu Iaido dojo.

Some Zen quotes:

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” Dogen Zenji quote.
“Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen.”
”Many roads lead to the Path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice.” Bodhidharma quotes.

Watch on more documentaries, like: Around the World in 80 Faiths, Programming of Life, Ostrov, Yogis of Tibet, Inner Worlds, Outer WorldsRic Elias-3 things I learned while my plane crashed, You Can Heal Your Life, The Shift or Living Luminaries: On The Serious Business of Happiness.

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