One Mind: A Zen Pilgrimage


ONE MIND is a rare cinematic portrait of life inside one of China’s most austere and revered Zen communities. The monks at Zhenru Chan Monastery continue to uphold a strict monastic code established over 1200 years ago by the founding patriarchs of Zen in China. In harmony with the land that sustains them, the monks operate an organic farm, grow tea, and harvest bamboo to fuel their kitchen fires. At the heart of this community, a group of cloistered meditators sit in silence for 8 hours every day. Suggesting a Zen version of the critically acclaimed film Into Great Silence, ONE MIND offers an intimate glimpse into a thriving Buddhist monastery in modern China.

Director Edward A. Burger (Amongst White Clouds) has lived and studied with Buddhist communities in China for over 15 years, and is the first Western filmmaker to be granted such unprecedented access to the daily rituals and traditions practiced in this remote mountain monastery. 

But more than a portrait of life within this monastic community, ONE MIND is an experiment in Buddhist filmmaking. A markedly quiet and contemplative film, Burger has set forth to craft a documentary that is not ‘about’ Buddhism, but rather a ‘Buddhist film’. Taking inspiration from traditional Zen stories and lessons told to him by elder monks and teachers at Zhenru monastery, each chapter of the film explores the trials and challenges we all must face when we set forth to become wiser, kinder human beings. In ONE MIND we learn that this journey begins when we turn our gaze inward. That no matter how far we have traveled and how many mountains and valleys we have crossed, the true adventure awaits us within the landscapes of our own mind.

China is a rapidly changing society, struggling to find a new identity while rectifying its tumultuous past.  Over the past century, many old traditions and cultures have been lost, leaving an empty space in the hearts of many Chinese people. Most believe that these traditions are lost, or are corrupt in their current forms. There is little awareness, even in China itself, that communities such as Zhenru Monastery still exist. The potential for such traditions and communities to become a wellspring of hope and healing for people is enormous. Therefore it is important to let the world know these traditions not only exist, but are in the process of revitalization in China.

Moreover, in recent years, the West has become very interested in Buddhism, its philosophies, cultures and spiritual technologies. “Mindfulness” is a household word now, appearing even on the front page of major magazines.  But there are still many misconceptions about mindfulness and meditation practices which ONE MIND seeks to address. Moreover, as environmental issues become a pressing topic to everyone across the globe, communities like Zhenru are a model for ecological living, where a community not only remains conscious of their consumption of resources, but actually seeks after a kind of direct and intuitive understanding of how our lives are affected by the natural landscapes we live in, and vice-versa. One does not need to be Buddhist to gain something from this cinematic experience.  

Distributor: Juno Films, Inc.
Genre:  Feature Length Documentary
Running time: 78 minutes
Production date: 2016
Filming location: People’s Republic of China
Language: Mandarin with English Subtitles
Copyrights: One Mind Productions, LLC; Juno Films, Inc.
Filming format: HDV, 50i
Screening formats: HD 2K, BluRay, DCP, ProRes, DVD 

Directed by Edward A. Burger
Written by Edward A. Burger and Agnes Lam
Produced by Agnes Lam and Edward A. Burger
Edited and Recorded by Edward A. Burger
Original Music by Douglas Quin
Sound Design Douglas Quin
Executive Producers: Agnes Lam, Kate Freed, David Noble, Ching Smith