“Zen” the Movie

Bronwen and Frans Stiene Articles, English, Video 6 Comments

Zen the movie

Zen is a poignant, in-depth, reverent and surprisingly moving portrait of Eihei Dogen, the great 13th century Japanese Buddhist master. He studied at Buddhist centers in China and established a monastic practice which emphasizes sitting meditation; he is regarded as the founder of the Soto school of Zen. This feature film is impressively well-researched and produced with great attention to authentic detail.

From pilgrimages to China to armed monks at war, the Kamakura Era was a time of upheaval in Japan and saw the beginnings of both the Rinzai and Soto schools of Zen, and the arrival of tea. The country would never be the same again.

Born in 1200, orphaned at eight and initiated as a monk at age fourteen, Dogen is perhaps best known in the west for his texts Instructions to the Cook and a collection of discourses called the Shobo Genzo. He led a renaissance in practice and doctrine in Japan, and his Zen is the practical implementation of the principle of non-duality. Two key points are: there is no gap between practice and enlightenment; and, right behavior in daily life is Buddhism itself.

To study the way of enlightenment is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body and mind as well as the bodies and minds of others drop away. – Dogen (translation by Kazuaki Tanahashi)

Taken from Buddhist Film Foundation

Comments 6

  1. Avatar of Colin Powell

    Thanks for sharing this, Frans – it looks like a must-watch for me!
    I love the way these epic Japanese and Chinese films are photographed and the music fits so well.
    Also, after a while the subtitles seem to disappear as you are drawn into the story.

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Colin,
    I love that style of cinematography as you say it draws you in.

    The movie is also peppered with great quotes from Dogen. Just reading a book about him as well called: Enlightenment Unfolds – The Essential teachings of Zen Master Dogen. Here is a great quote by Dogen from the book:

    The whole universe
    shatters into a hundred pieces.
    In the great death
    there is no heaven and earth

    Once body and mind have turned over
    there is only this to say:

    Past mind cannot be grasped,
    present mind cannot be grasped,
    future mind cannot be grasped.

  3. Avatar of Katherine W
  4. Avatar of Nathan

    I never watched “Zen” the movie before. But the storyline of this movie impressed me and I’m excited to watch it right away. Thanks for inspirational post.

  5. Avatar of Candice
  6. Avatar of Linda Arigi

    I watched the movie and loved the cinematography and the story.  However I would have liked to learn more about how Dogen’s work has impacted Japanese spiritual traditions from that time forward.  Guess I have to do my own research! :-q Dogen’s life was so reflective of Kukai’s, with studying in China and bringing such a powerful and pure lineage tradition back to his own country.  Maybe these guys were reincarnations!!

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