The Zen Mind

(18 customer reviews)


An Exploration of zen practice in Japan today from the metropolis of Tokyo to Zen Temples of Kyoto?

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. You can read reviews of The Zen Mind at Top Documentary Films.

The Zen Mind soundtrack is by Christopher Yohmei, a grandmaster of the shakuhachi flute. Read our post on this superb musician.

Additional information

Length (Runtime)

60 Minutes


English Language

Digital Format

HD 1280×720 MP4

18 reviews for The Zen Mind

  1. Video Librarian Magazine

    Writer-director Jon Braeley looks at the essence of traditional Japanese Zen in the beautifully produced coffee-table-book equivalent, The Zen Mind. Braeley captures the intimate discipline of meditation, inc. Kekkafuza, Chosoku and the use of the Kyosaku (stick). It offers a tantalizing glimpse of Zen. Highly recommended.

  2. Don Warrener

    Absolutely amazing and wondefully shot after watching it I was truthfully extremely relaxed and ready to take on more stress from my every day life. I can not recommend this film enough. It showcases the most beautiful temples in Kyoto and brought back many fond memories. Braeley did a first class job and I take my hat of to him.

  3. Timothy Begijn

    Yesterday I received The Empty Mind and The Zen Mind. Extraordinary films. Congratulations and looking forward for other work (although I will not be tired with these films for a while).

  4. S. T. Munro, Canada

    I very much liked this film because it shows how Zen is practiced in Japan from the traditional temple setting of Soji-ji, to the maze of office towers in downtown Tokyo. Zen can fit any and every setting and situation – it’s endlessly adaptable to real life. Several abbots and monks are interviewed from both Rinzai and Soto Zen and contain the same teachings on how to live one’s life right now.

  5. Arthur V. Rowe

    I enjoyed all of the content. The filming is beautiful. I recommend this to anyone who is interested in being guided in self exploration.

  6. Sharon

    Visually stunning, not overwhelming with buddhist doctrine. it was good to hear from a buddhist nun about the treatment of feminine chelas.

  7. Sharon S.

    I saw some criticism but in my experience this movie is pretty accurate. And it’s an excellent movie for one that covers a topic like Zen Buddhism, which is probably best experienced anyway. You’ll never have an inkling of what Zen is really truly about unless you practice and experience it for yourself. That’s because a person can hear one sentence and understand it in many different ways. Plus, it’s like trying to describe the color blue to a blind person. Words don’t really cut it, it’s got to be experienced. And I’m not even talking about satori here, I don’t know what that is yet. I’m just talking about the super basic beginning parts of practice. So anyway I give this movie a thumbs up. Five stars. Well done.

  8. Magnoliaz

    An intimate look into what it is like to be a monk in a Zen monastery. This film tries to explain why sitting in meditation is done and what benefits it provides the monks. Its not just about sitting still looking at a wall but rather about reaching enlightenment. What is enlightenment? Why do we want that? It is all presented in this film for you to consider.

  9. Jason Gregory (Author)

    I watched The Zen Mind many years ago and it has always been one of those documentaries that I guide people to watch when they want to explore Zen Buddhism. Jon Braeley did an amazing job with the film. It is very simple, and yet visually beautiful. Hence, very Zen. It is a definitte must watch if you are a beginner to Zen or already a lover of Zen. I am the author of Fasting the Mind, Enlightenment Now, & The Science and Practice of Humility.

  10. Megan Sommer

    Great insight into Japanese culture of Zen.

  11. Bill Thompson

    I really enjoyed The Zen Mind. I’m not aware of similar films that deal exclusively with Zen. I thought it tied various aspects of Zen together–iaido, kyudo, meditation, etc.

  12. Stan Chang

    Another John Braely doco on the hard to explain topic and practice of Zen.This shows the discipline required to attain the ‘Quiet Mind and Enlightenment’ the monks seek.
    Zen cannot be explained but can be experienced so the disc would be an individual thing for each viewer.

  13. Adrian Bain

    A thoughful, in-depth documentary. Beautiful shakuhachi music, visits to major Zen locations, interviews with masters. An excellent tour through Japanese Zen. I am very pleased with this DVD.

  14. Enis Yolcuer.

    An insightful documentary about Zen with a lot of meaningful teachings. This helped me understand and feel the way of Zen more clearly.

  15. Dharma Documentaries

    This is a beautifully photographed introduction to the many faces of Zen in contemporary Japan. With haunting Shakuhachi flute music by Yohmei Blasdel, the documentary gives an overview of Zen practice and theory. There is also a short introduction to such things as good posture, koan contemplation, walking meditation and evening meditation in the natural surroundings of the temples; and we see how Zen has affected Japanese culture in everything from house design to the martial arts. Among the contributors are the remarkably young-looking (83-year old) Gudo Nishijima (above), Profs. Ishii, Shuko and Seishi, Hozumi Gensho Roshi, Priest Joshu Toga and Dai Tow Noda, and covers both Rinzai and Soto practices.

  16. Edward Gerster

    What a pleasure to view a documentary on Buddhism that is concise, accurate and artful on many different levels. The word “Zen” has been co-opted in English to represent many things that it is not. “The Zen Mind” is a true depiction of the practice of Zen in modern day Japan, both by monastics, clergy and laity. A very fine film, with very fine shakuhachi (flute) music and narration. Highly recommended.

  17. Tom van Dijk

    Thanks for sharing this with us. it is a great movie!

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