November 26, 2014

One Mind

One Mind: A Cinematic Meditation on Zen Monastic Life in ChinaEdward Berger, best known for his award-winning documentary of hermit monks in China, Amongst White Clouds, is tackling another impressive documentary, One Mind: A Cinematic Meditation on Zen Monastic Life in China.  If it’s anything like his first, we can expect One Mind to be presented with the same warmth, compassion, humor and honesty of his first documentary, and  just as devoid of propaganda and hagiography.  In his new film, Berger focuses on the numinous nature of being, of the world in which we live, as reflected in the daily lives of monks living in Zhenru Monastery, the same monastery where Hsu Yun (Empty Cloud) lived for many years, and where he died.  

For more information about his upcoming film, or to contribute to the project, visit The funding for this project depends on contributors for funding. To view his past film, Amongst White Clouds, in its entirety, click here, or to learn more about it, and how to buy the DVD, visit

From Edward Berger


ONE MIND is a documentary film that will engage audiences with the living practice of a traditional Zen (Chan) monastic community in Southern China. Eschewing talking-head interviews and the authority of a narrative voice, audiences can expect a 90-minute immersion into the textures and sounds of a natural life, subtly expressing a motivation toward the spacious wisdom and compassion born of an enlightened awareness of unity and interdependence. In ONE MIND myths will be dismissed, as audiences can see that robust spiritual communities committed to strict adherence to tradition are thriving, whilst remaining somewhat hidden, at the core of China’s spiritual landscape.

Weathering the traumatic and rapidly shifting tides of history over the past century, the disciples of China’s great Zen Master, Empty Cloud have emerged at the heart of the revitalization of Zen Buddhism in China. Zhenru Monastery, the place where Master Empty Cloud lived and died, is considered one of China’s most respected and austere communities carrying forth a lineage over 1200 years old. In harmony with the land that sustains them, the monks at Zhenru Monastery farm, grow tea, and maintain a daily liturgy and strict meditation schedule. At the heart of this community is a group of cloistered meditators. Respected for their utter dedication to an internal art of cultivation, they are supported as the wellspring of wisdom and profound compassion from which the community draws its strength.

My Personal Connection

My journey began in university after reading the poetry of Han Shan, a Buddhist hermit that lived during the Tang Dynasty. The poetry of Han Shan and the mysteries of other Buddhist writings inspired me to seek out their source. That journey led me through India, Japan, Myanmar and finally China, where I have lived for over 10 years. Encountering hermit monks in the Zhongnan Mountains in China (as portrayed in my first documentary, Amongst White Clouds) taught me the importance of perseverance and dedication to practice. But over the years, like many others, I have struggled to integrate what I was learning into the activities of my daily life; how to practice “off the cushion” so to speak. So, my teachers suggested that I go to Zhenru Monastery in Southern China for study. There I found a community of hundreds of Chan monks living and practicing together; a community where the relationships between people, as well as with the physical spaces and natural environment they live in, form an integral part of a spiritual practice. My experience of participating in this community, where every aspect of their life is so deliberate, has been really enriching and transformative. And this is what I want to share through this film, ONE MIND.

Articles by Chuan Zhi

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