A few intrepid movie viewers came out Wednesday night to watch Why Has Bodhidharma Left For The East, a provocative film by award winning South Korean film maker Yong-Kyun Bae, and certainly not an easy film to fathom for those of us who are at the beginning of our Buddhist path, and may have a Western oriented impression about Zen in particular.
About a half hour in, one of those watching turned to me and said, "Does this get happy?"
Hmmmmm, how to answer?
I said, "Well, it changes."
And there, I thought, is the crux of the movie and of life itself--it changes. Impermanence is King.
And then about mid way through, as one of the characters is leaving the gritty tenements of his childhood and his blind, disabled mother, without saying a word to her, the DVD stopped altogether and froze as he crossed the threshold to depart for the mountain monastery.
A speck of dust on the DVD?
We all held our breath waiting for the DVD to right itself, but stared for many seconds at the character's anguished face--Dukkha, and the sudden revelation of the consequences of his actions, and the purest sense of emptiness.
What is important about Bae's film is everything the Master says, his disciple's intense struggle to find respite from deep conflict, and the constant, ethereal presence of the young boy, whose innocent discoveries of the world hasten an experience of awakening; a death and rebirth, chasing the Ox through the forest and finally sitting where the Master once sat, with the incense of the Master's relics permeating all of the universe.
It is powerful stuff, and sometimes difficult to stay with, but like the practice itself, we are rewarded for our perseverance.
We all laughed.
By the time the movie ended, we were all exhausted, and there would not be the opportunity to discuss and question and wonder together.
I really missed that, and felt badly that I hadn't allowed more time to finish the movie and then talk--we could have begun an hour earlier....
Still, I was glad for the opportunity to share the film. It is always difficult for me to fathom what folks take away from such events, and of course, to know what may percolate to the surface of awareness as time and practice go on.
Out on the sidewalk, when I asked another viewer what she thought, she stopped and said, "It was a disturbing movie. There was no one there to hug that little boy, to comfort him...."
And I agreed, there is a harshness present in this movie/life, but it was interesting that this was her immediate focus.
It is all a dharma teaching, regardless of what we think we understand, and allowing that awareness to go beyond our comfort zone is where we find Buddha.
Sometimes you actually hear that nut cracking!