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The Zen Mind (2005)

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In the last fifty years the culture of Zen has spread far beyond Japan. Zen centers and zen retreats have sprung up throughout America and Europe.  When Dogen, the founder of Soto Zen, brought Zen to Japan from China 800 years ago, it quickly took root and became an integral part of Japanese life. Yet what do we know about zen practice in Japan today?

The Zen Mind is a fascinating journey across Japan to explore zen in its natural habitat. A travelogue across the breadth of Japan to explore the practice of modern day zen. We will take you from the bustle of rush-hour Tokyo to the tranquil mountains of Kyoto. From zen centers hidden among city skyscrapers to the zendo in a remote monastery. With unrestricted access, we will take you into a world outsiders rarely see or hear about. It is a world where material wealth is exchanged for spiritual wealth. Where the mind is trained and conditioned like an olympic athlete.

Zen training is explored in The Zen MInd through the practice of zazen or sitting meditation and kinhin (walking meditation). With interviews, demonstrations of sitting and actual practice, we take the lid off the many misconceptions that abound in zen meditation. While the cloistered lifestyle of the zen monk is in decline in Japan, zen meditation is spreading rapidly in the west. Typical of this modern approach to dharma practice is the Dogen sangha, a zen center in Tokyo where commuters stop on their way home for zen meditation. It is a complete contrast to the remote mountain monasteries where formal buddhist rituals are zelously maintained. This contrast heightens as we enter Japan’s largest Soto zen monastery and join the monks in their everyday workplace, cooking and cleaning. Before and after their work is done they will sit in zazen. We will take you into the zendo or meditation hall and like a fly on the zendo wall, witness the monks as they begin what will be many hours of zazen and sometimes through the night. Only the abrupt crack of the roshi’s stick on the monks shoulder breaks the silence as he summons them to focus, flushing out any thoughts… erasing self-doubt and ego… clearing a path to self-realization.

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