Posts tagged #One Mind

ONE MIND - U.S. Premiere

Bringing ONE MIND to life has been a rich and challenging adventure! You’ve all been very patient, and we look forward to sharing the film with you. Therefore, we are very excited to announce the U.S. premiere of ONE MIND!

The Buddhist Film Foundation will present ONE MIND at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, California (about 30 minutes drive from Berkeley or San Francisco) on December 18th, 2016 at 6:30 PM.

Agnes and I are in the U.S. right now, so we will both attend the screening. A very special guest, Rev. Heng Sure of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, will present the film. And Rev. Heng Sure will join me for what we hope will be a lively Q&A discussion after the film. 

We look forward to having as many of you as possible join us for this premiere screening!  

Tickets on sale here:

Posted on December 15, 2016 and filed under Organic Film-making.

The Ox is Difficult to Tame


It is a new spring. Here in Beijing, the weather is warming. Today I noticed tourists pausing to smell the lilac tree out in the hutong.  It's a beautiful time of year.  

In search of inspiration for the edit, I went to my bookshelf a few weeks ago for my copy of Bill Porter’s translation of “P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses”. It is a beautiful, visual, poetic work and a narrative on meditation and spiritual practice. 

“in willow shade by an ancient stream

the herdboy gives the ox free rein

from dusk blue clouds and sweet grass fields 

he leads it home untied” *

For the last several months, I’ve had my “Editor” hat on and these images and words of the ox-herder have taken on yet another meaning for me.  

There are about 100 hours of footage here for One Mind (I just counted), covering four seasons. It took months just to comb through each second to find the most precious and revealing moments of life at Zhenru Monastery. Then my quandary was just how to combine these moments into something more than just an accounting of daily activities. How to turn it all inside out? How to reveal the great wonder within? 

If I approach too aggressively, with too much intention, it slips away. If I approach too lightly, it just hides there in the high grass, unexpressed, unrevealed. Yes indeed, the ox is difficult to tame!

We are very close.  The film is on track to be finished this summer, and we are getting very excited to share One Mind with you all!

*Image and Text from "P’u Ming’s Oxherding Pictures and Verses", translated by Red Pine, published by Empty Bowl



Posted on April 5, 2015 and filed under Wonder and Inspiration.

the best of intentions...

zhaitang_01 - Version 2 (1).jpg

Reviewing the footage today for One Mind, I found a conversation with a young monk who is talking about how tough it can be to maintain a pure and motivated heart for the practice. He says folks always arrive at the monastery with the best of intentions, but inevitably the novelty and excitement wears thin. What follows is a period where you have to reach deep, remember your purpose and commit to seeing it through before really settling into life there.  Sound familiar?

Posted on October 17, 2013 and filed under Shared Journey.

On finding a hermit monk

finding hermit monk.jpg

Over the years, a number of folks have written to ask me, how do I find the hermit monks in the Zhongnan mountains? And honestly, this has been a really difficult question to answer.  

On one hand, there are real practical considerations. For example, hermits are generally not hermits for life so they move here or there or return to monastic life with a community, so one can never say with certainty where they are. There are real language and cultural barriers. Although I speak Mandarin, I needed a translator to understand some of the monks in the film as many were from different parts of China and spoke with heavy accents or in local dialects.  I imagine many of you remember that in Road to Heaven, Bill Porter gets picked up by the police because he wandered into a restricted area while looking for Wang Wei’s mountain. And we can’t forget that hermits are hermits in some respects because they don’t want to be disturbed.  I share this not to discourage but to shed light on some of the realities of this journey.

But most importantly, I think it’s important to reflect upon why it is that we are seeking a particular path.  I learned this lesson the hard way, as they say, when I set out on my journey after graduating from university.  

When I was a student, I wanted to be Japhy Rider. He was my hero. Just as Japhy Rider did in Dharma Bums, I also set out to read Han Shan poems from the original texts, and I spent a summer on a fire lookout in the Pacific North West.  Inspired by his story and the amazing wisdom he encountered on his path, I wanted to go to Japan to study Zen.  I decided to write a hand-written letter to Gary Snyder (Japhy Rider) telling him about my plans and why I wanted to go to Japan.  I told him that I wanted to write a book and translate poetry and other grand schemes only a twenty-one year-old could utter all at once in a single breath.  He graciously returned my letter and pretty much told me, If you are going there for those reasons, then please don’t go. He told me I should go if I am seeking spiritual cultivation and really feel that it’s my own authentic path, but if it’s for any other reason, I shouldn’t bother.

I knew he was right, but I didn’t understand his meaning. Not at that time, anyway.  I felt that my motivations were definitely spiritual. What I think I didn’t understand was the “authentic” part. I still bought a one-way ticket to Japan and I found my way to a Zen Monastery. And it was only until I was actually sitting meditation in a Zendo, staring at the cold slate floor, that I realized I was not supposed to be there.  Something deep in my stomach told me that this wasn’t right and that I was not following my own authentic path.  I made the painful decision to return back home. What followed was a long period of doubt and confusion.  I was overcome by frustration over my failed trip.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. 

And then one day I was sitting meditation in my room at home.  I was feeling agitated and couldn’t keep my eyes closed. I then looked up at my bookshelf and realized that the shelf was full of books about China and Chinese Buddhism.  Not Japan. China was the place I was really committed to. The Chinese poets were the ones that carried me through the day and taught me to appreciate the world around me, the nature, the subtle wisdom of strangers, the good things in life, like moss on rocks and a shady spot under a pine tree. The Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch was full of mysteries into which I knew I wanted to inquire. I hardly slept that night, for when one thinks they have discovered their path, they want it to start right away.  I awoke the next morning and started making plans to go to China. And China is where I lived for the next decade.  China is where I found my teachers.  And meeting the hermits and making Amongst White Clouds has only been part of this larger journey.  

So being with hermits has taught me something, yes. But I don’t seek them out anymore. Opportunities for practice are all around us, usually in ways that we never expect.  Nowadays, I actually spend more time with Chan monastic communities, where I enjoy the support of a community of seekers, all gritting our teeth through sore legs and cold, cold nights. The relevance of these organic, deliberate communities is the topic for my upcoming film, One Mind.  

Will your path bring you to the Zhongnan mountains? Maybe, or maybe not. The important thing is to follow your Path for what it is, not what you envision it aught to be. So thank you Mr. Snyder for the poetry of that letter. I only half-listened back then. But I hear you now, loud and clear.

Edward Burger, edited by Agnes Lam

Photo by Ishwar Harris