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Thread: Beautiful short film on Western Zen Monk, Hyun Gak Sunim

  1. #1

    Beautiful short film on Western Zen Monk, Hyun Gak Sunim

    Hello Friends,

    Forgive me if this was posted already previously. "The Mirror of Zen" is a beautiful short film documenting a week in the life of Hyun Gak Sunim. I will allow the gorgeous footage to speak for itself.

    A brief synopsis: The subject of this unusual film, Hyon Gak Sunim, allowed filmmakers to follow his daily living and teaching activities for a week as he met with students and organized his daily activities. Sunim is widely recognized as one of the most influential Zen monks in modern Korean Buddhist history, a graduate of Yale and Harvard who entered the monastic life in 1992 and has done over 20 years of intensive Zen training in the ancient Zen temples of Korea. His enlightenment was certified ("inka") in a public ceremony in 2001 by his teacher, the legendary Zen Master Seung Sahn (1927-2004).

    Gassho,

    Lu

    Last edited by Jundo; 10-28-2013 at 01:51 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you for sharing!
    Gassho,
    Kaishin

  3. #3
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Zen is a really good thing.


    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  4. #4
    Thanks. Some of his talks are on YouTube.

  5. #5
    Thank you for sharing, Lu. I was able to attend some talks and sittings some years ago with Hyun Gak Sunim, and felt him sincere and authentic, the real deal. He is charming, funny and engaging too, and I love hearing the Dharma with a New Jersey-Korean accent.

    Boy, I wonder what would happen if a film maker followed me around and added a musical score? I very much doubt they could capture such pretty, romantic images of me. (Perhaps a close up of my plumber's butt crack as I change the litter in the cat box, all to the tune of the Monkee's Daydream Believer. Much editing would be involved, and much film left on the cutting room floor. ).

    I just came back from Korea. Most Zen in Korea (Christianity is much more widespread in South Korea than Buddhism, by the way) is a Rinzai/Linji Tradition centered on Koan Zazen, as was Master Seung Sahn and the Kwan Um School. In turn, the Kwan Um school is very different in some important ways from maintream Korean Zen, with much more of an emphasis on lay folks sitting Zazen and some other things. (I was also surprised to see at the end of the film that Hyun Gak Sunim has now left the Kwan Um formally. I wonder about his reasons, and I think he did not really go far). And all is somewhat different from Soto Zen in Japan, in the West and here at Treeleaf. As I always say ...

    ... Precisely the same, yet often quite different. Sometimes very very different, but just just the same.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-09-2013 at 05:10 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Different but the same, yet all delicious ... much as the Monkees are the Monkees, while Imawano is Imawano ...

    The late great Kiyoshiro Imawano ...



    ... the the kinda what they are Charan Po Ratan ...

    Last edited by Jundo; 09-09-2013 at 03:20 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Nice video. Reality TV worth watching.

    Jundo all I can say to the Korean Monkey remake is.. wow.

    Gassho,
    C

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post
    Nice video. Reality TV worth watching.

    Jundo all I can say to the Korean Monkey remake is.. wow.

    Gassho,
    C
    Japanese Monkey remake. And they are not "remakes". It just is what it is. Same song, different, all luscious.
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-09-2013 at 02:34 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Yes My bad! I posted before you wrote who the artist's were.

    It certainly IS..

  10. #10
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Thank you for posting. Beautiful footage! I couldn't help but wonder, as I was watching it, how similar videos would look from fellow Treeleafers. Jundo would obviously be cleaning litter boxes , and I'm sure we'd all have our similar, mundane tasks, that really are special and sacred.

    Gassho,
    Treena

  11. #11
    Thank you Lu, very nice.

    Gassho
    Shingen



    If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
    ~ Dogen Zenji

  12. #12
    Senior Member Genshin's Avatar
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    Beautiful video Lu. I liked the way the film centered on the ordinary day to day stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    Gassho
    Matt

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui Myozan Kodo's Avatar
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    His enlightenment was certified ("inka") in a public ceremony in 2001
    Beautiful images. Thanks for sharing the film.

    I always wondered, did Gotama have a certificate? How do we know he wasn't a fake?

    Gassho
    Myozan

    PS: Jundo: I'm sure we could make you look as cool. We got Hans!
    Myozan Kodo
    Ordained Soto Zen Priest in Training
    Dublin, Ireland

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.
    "Here the way unfolds."

  14. #14
    Hello,

    thank you for sharing this visual gem. Shot on a Canon 5d Mark III (which is only fitting since it is about Buddhism...Canon is named after our beloved Kanzeon/GuanYin). If I ever win the lottery, that's the camera I'll buy

    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  15. #15
    I am so thrilled everyone enjoyed the short film. The filmmaker captured the essence of the practice so well with each frame, "This moment....This moment...This moment.."

    Jundo, I can visualize the director scanning into ultra-slow, crystal clear, wide-shot of you from behind, with your computer in front of you sharing the Dharma, your hands moving slowly in the air as you emphasize..

    _/\_

  16. #16
    Well ...

    Generally I am not a fan of anything that over romanticizes, prettyfies or idealizes temples, practice, Asian scenes or Buddhist figures living or dead. If you take anything or anybody, give it the Hollywood treatment, you can photoshop an image into something smooth, polished and fakey-glorious. On the other hand, it has been going on since the early days of Buddhism when they started to paint pictures of the Buddha and Buddhalands that looked like this ...



    Of course, one could say that the film or idealized picture captures some essence. Perhaps, but in many cases it just turns people or places into a postcard or cardboard cutout. It becomes hard to tell where the real person or place begins, and the music video/PR job begins. Are we looking at the real person, or an airbrushed version? What is wrong with life with all its warts, sweat and plumbers butts?

    No, I rather disagree with this statement ...

    The filmmaker captured the essence of the practice so well with each frame, "This moment....This moment...This moment.."

    Perhaps, in the sense that Zen Practice leaves nothing out ... real or fake ... so even a polished and improved PR job is real. Even press agents and tv commercial directors (selling Zen folks like they were selling salad dressing or a chevrolet) have Buddha Nature. On the other hand, I do not think it captures the essence of anything because it is kinda fake.

    I am somewhat reminded of those airbrushed postcards of Japan's Mt. Fuji that look like this ...



    ... when many scenes around Mt. Fuji look more like this ...



    Zen Practice is not about polishing up life's ugly. It is more about seeing right through the beautiful and ugly to something truly Beautiful.

    By the way, don't let my comments about the film take away from Hyon Gak Sunim, who I feel is a very gifted teacher and sincere practitioner. He is someone very very special. Here is a very clear interview he gave to Public Television awhile back.

    Hans, maybe we have to get that fancy camera, professional lighting and a make-up department, and improve our production values around here? :-)

    Gassho, J

    Last edited by Jundo; 09-09-2013 at 03:38 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  17. #17
    Jundo, I find your perspective refreshing. Thank you for sharing. The artist attempted to translate Hyun's teaching of being present, of finding the joy (and the ugly) in each moment. I found her cinematography, straight forward shots of nature and of Hyun's every day life far removed from anything remotely sensationalizing him or the practice. Her form of poetry, is all. And what beautiful poetry it is.

    _/\_

  18. #18
    Yes, the line between poetry and paid for PR can be a fine one. Maybe this is "paid for PR poetry"?
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-09-2013 at 04:36 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Touche, Jundo!

    I bow down graciously! _/\_

  20. #20
    As in the case of Adyashanti we discussed a few weeks ago, don't fall too easily into being impressed by a polished or well packaged image.

    In this case, though, while the video may be too polished ... the teacher, Hyon Gak Sunim, has the substance to back it up. Inside the shiny package and the TV commercial, there is actually something nutritious to eat.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-09-2013 at 05:06 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  21. #21
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Yes, the line between poetry and paid for PR can be a fine one. Maybe this is "paid for PR poetry"?
    I was thinking something similar. The artistry of this short film is great and compelling, what kind of ruined it for me was the email plug for talks at the end. Of course to be fair I don't know anything about this individual, his talks and how he supports himself. It was still interesting.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    ... the teacher, Hyon Gak Sunim, has the substance to back it up. Inside the shiny package and the TV commercial, there is actually something nutritious to eat.

    Gassho, J
    Jundo, since you seem to have met him, could we get him to do a guest talk for Treeleaf?
    (He seems to be familiar with new media, judging by how often the smartphone and tablet were in view...)

    I'd be curious why he is based in Germany. Are the States saturated with Zen teachers already? All the better for the German students, of course. Train travel from sangha to sangha is definitely easier in Germany. I enjoyed the town scenes, especially Regensburg.

  23. #23
    I do not know him beyond those brief times, but can ask a good friend, Nindo, who is a teacher in Kwan Um to put us in touch.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  24. #24
    Senior Member YuimaSLC's Avatar
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    I watched the film a few days ago (thank you Lu) and then let it sit with me. I thought it a value to watch, both for what it said/implied and didn't say. Beautiful cinematography.

    Coming back today to comment, I read the comments Jundo and others have offered the past few days; which spoke similarly to what I was going to offer. Obviously, the film is edited, and therefore it becomes a little too polished in terms of trying to capture this perfect, even flow, of moment-by-moment. (And moment-by-moment is, in it's own unobstructed nature, perfect...empty...pure.) However, a perfect, active, well-ordered, in-control-of-events day shouldn't mislead the viewer to thinking nothing goes awry, or goes counter to his "plan". Plans are conceptual things, like navigating with meridians of longitude and latitude.

    A bicycle tire that gets punctured and goes flat...thus requiring attention with the same serene reflection we see in the film, would have been helpful. And, missing the train as a result of the flat tire. (what does the priest do then?) Or, encountering someone on the train who decides all your contemplation and focus needs some interruption.

    As Taigu put it, talking about his takahatsu-ing on a street corner; one is met by all myriad forms of phenomenon, including jeers from passers-by, or kind words, or a splash of mud from a passing motorist. All those, too, to be met with equanimity.

    I don't mean to imply that this priest doesn't have the depth to embrace all conditions of life. My impression is that he does. But, I wish that the filmmaker had the wisdom to recognize and include conditions that don't immediately look serene, that might appear disruptive.

    Gassho

    Richard

  25. #25
    I just watched again. It's PR, an info-mercial. A well polished, well made MTV video. Religious propaganda.

    If this director presented mud being splashed from a passing car, it might look like a hip version of Moses' parting the Red Sea in C.B. Demille's old movie.



    It is an up-to-date, 21st Century hagiography ... idealized image of a Holy Man.

    Beautiful lighting. Entertaining I suppose. They should have gotten Keanu Reeves to play the monk. The film version of life usually is better than life.



    Gassho, J (who knows the reality of life is so much better than that!)
    Last edited by Jundo; 09-13-2013 at 01:35 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  26. #26
    I agree with you Jundo. I re-watched it and after the awe for the quality of the film making went away (Really well made) it is just as you say over dramatized. Reminds me of a story I heard about a man who went to see a Karate demo in Japan. The demo was flashy and fun and after the show the man went up to the master and told him "Ive been doing martial arts myself for many years and I never quite saw some of those techniques." "Thats because I made half of them up" replied the master. "Why would you do that?" "I am not going to show a room full of strangers things that they can use to actually hurt people, and sadly the flashy stuff is what attracts most people. But the ones that stay and stick around...."

    you get the point.
    Humbly,
    Seiryu

  27. #27
    A movie like this could be made about anyone. The practice makes it more interesting but most of us sit once or twice a day, so I do think I could make at least a photo report 1:1 like this of anyone.

    Just a jest: isn't riding the train also dear Taigu's way? I'll bet some of us with time and talent, could make an even more dramatic series about our teachers because there is even Takuhatsu! Capture dear Jundo preparing for Zazenkai, concentrated, absorbed in starting up his computer connections,doing the Kesa and/or Rakusu ritual, beautiful beard, talking on skype or tired from reading millions of posts until late at night, tending to family,sitting on the floor eating an apple,watching soap series for contrast,etc.

    Your life, my life all so great, majestic and beautiful in its uniqueness. Intimate and personal in black and white. All very interesting when watched through the eye of a camera in slow motion. Why? Because this is when we suddenly do pay attention to detail and beauty, like we should at any moment in our own story, right here right now.

    Maybe that's the lesson here. Don't have to be a great master to lead a life worth watching carefully. Let's look at our own lives in the very same way we look at this vid. Marvel and cherish at the great gift we have been given.

    Gassho

    E.

  28. #28
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enkyo View Post
    Your life, my life all so great, majestic and beautiful in its uniqueness. Intimate and personal in black and white. All very interesting when watched through the eye of a camera in slow motion. Why? Because this is when we suddenly do pay attention to detail and beauty, like we should at any moment in our own story, right here right now.

    Maybe that's the lesson here. Don't have to be a great master to lead a life worth watching carefully. Let's look at our own lives in the very same way we look at this vid. Marvel and cherish at the great gift we have been given.
    Well said!
    Gassho,
    Nindo

  29. #29
    Senior Member Heion's Avatar
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    Lu,
    I love it! Thanks for sharing. Very interesting and knowledgable.

    Enkyo,

    Your words are lovely and a great reminder for me. I sometimes get into such a moment, but pass it off as being a fluke or weird. I guess I should view my life as a third person, sometimes.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  30. #30
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    Hello

    I am thinking we should make a short film of Jundo, running around doing Zazen, wearing bathing suits and Halloween costumes, in his bathtub, picking out props for his videos.

    Just a thought.

    Silly as you sometimes are, you keep it real Jundo. Thanks.

    Gassho C

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Clark View Post

    Silly as you sometimes are, you keep it real Jundo. Thanks.
    No, I am completely a silly fake and fraud. Only Buddha is real.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    I was also surprised to see at the end of the film that Hyun Gak Sunim has now left the Kwan Um formally. I wonder about his reasons, and I think he did not really go far
    Hello Jundo,

    I still lurk on here (I'm still very intrigued with Dogen, even though shikantaza has ended up not being my practice), but stumbled on this old post when searching Google for something else. If you, or anyone, is curious about Hyon Gak Sunim's departure from the Kwan Um School (KUSZ), I still have his goodbye email from when I was also a KUSZ member (my current teacher teaches in the more traditional Korean Zen style, though he keeps a loose affiliation with the KUSZ and did not make the kind of break Hyon Gak Sunim made). In short, he basically just wanted more freedom to travel and teach where he wanted, in the way he felt best, and not be constrained by the institutional requirements of the KUSZ.

    I hope everyone is well!

    -Sam

    EDIT: I should add that Hyon Gak Sunim had, in the past, submitted writings "outside the tradition" in KUSZ publications and has recently been quoting Dogen on his blog.
    Last edited by SonofRage; 03-04-2014 at 02:31 PM.

  33. #33
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    So beautiful.

    Thank you.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  34. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Boy, I wonder what would happen if a film maker followed me around and added a musical score? I very much doubt they could capture such pretty, romantic images of me. (Perhaps a close up of my plumber's butt crack as I change the litter in the cat box, all to the tune of the Monkee's Daydream Believer. Much editing would be involved, and much film left on the cutting room floor. ).



    Gassho, J
    Why does the score of 'West Side Story' immediately come to mind?

    hmmm...

    Gassho,

    Lee

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