So I’m digging through my DVDs the other day and I discover a copy of a movie called Buddhist Life. The director was a guy named Luis Carapeto. He was Portuguese. I remember him coming to a number of Nishijima Roshi’s talks and retreats. Then he went back to Portugal. Later on he returned to Japan with a couple of people and a bunch of video equipment to make a movie about Nishijima.

He gave Nishijima a copy on VHS, which I then copied for myself and later transferred to a DVD-R. Then, as far as I knew, the movie just vanished. IMDB doesn’t list it. I checked around the interwebs and the only reference I can find is this listing from a film festival in Amsterdam. It gives the year of production as 2003. I think the movie may be a couple years older than that. But my memory is not so reliable. Amazon has a listing for it. Though the DVD appears to be out of print. So buy the download because maybe Luis is getting some money from those sales. And I’m sure it’ll look and sound a lot better than this third generation copy.

The synopsis on that Dutch film festival’s website says:

“I live my Buddhist life from day to day, from moment to moment sometimes in my office, sometimes in my home, sometimes in a temple. In every situation there was just my Buddhist life.” Gudo Wafu Nishijima was born in Yokohama, Japan. With a new and fresh approach to the Buddhist view of reality and the sense of balance to the philosophical and scientific investigations from last decades, Master Nishijima gives us the coordinates to start to understand Buddhism with our own method of thinking. He wants to pass the teachings of Buddhism to people all over the world who are searching for “Truth”. “We have to say that we live in a succession of moments rather like the frames of a film.” In these frames, from the present moment, the documentary is about Master Nishijima´s daily life that is all ready a Buddhist life.

I uploaded the whole thing onto YouTube this morning. Luis, if you’re out there and you want me to remove it I will. I’m under the impression that Luis and the others who made the movie have kind of forgotten about it at this point. I’m hoping maybe this blog posting might spark some renewed interest in it. I say again unto thee, buy the download! It’s only two dollars, ya cheapskates!

Watching it again I’d forgotten how good it was. It gives you a very honest look at who Nishijima Roshi was when the film was made. It shows him leading one of his annual retreats in Shizuoka for foreigners. It shows him in Europe giving talks and running a sesshin. It shows him talking to students of his from Israel and Ireland. There’s also a wonderful scene of him dragging his suitcase through Tokyo Station. He always insisted on carrying his own stuff when he went on retreats. If you wanted to help him out with his bags you’d have to kind of trick him by grabbing them before he noticed. But he was always very quick.

In one of the scenes Nishijima is in his office at the Ida Soap and Cosmetics Company working on the translation of Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarika, although the book itself isn’t mentioned. This would have been a couple years before I got involved with it. He was working on that thing for ages.

The opening scenes were shot one morning at Nishijima’s dojo in Chiba prefecture. It was a thoroughly urban Buddhist living space. At one time it had been Ida’s company dormitory back in the days when Japanese companies made new workers live together in dorms. After they stopped using it they gave it to Nishijima to run as a dojo. Then when Mr. Ida died his son decided to take it back and sell the property. Residents were required to sit two periods of zazen each day. Nishijima himself rang a bell at 5:30 every morning to signal the start of the first period. Residents weren’t required to attend that one. But the bell was there to offer encouragement to do so. I never lived in the dojo myself.

I appear at about 2:55 into part two sitting next to Nishijima in the zendo at Tokei-in temple in Shizuoka. I think maybe you can hear my voice as one of the people asking questions in one of the lectures too. But I’m not sure if it’s me or not.

I have to warn you, though. The movie is painfully slow. If I would’ve edited it I would’ve made it a lot speedier. But I think Luis wanted to give viewers a sense of Nishijima’s lifestyle. He seems to be attempting to recreate the feeling of sitting zazen in the form of a cinematic experience. You’ll have to judge for yourself if he was successful or not.




*At the time I posted this, part 3 was still loading up. So you may have to sit some zazen till it becomes available.

119 Responses

Page 3 of 3
  1. Shodo
    Shodo February 4, 2012 at 8:14 am |

    boubi said…
    "Sorry to tell you, but you are wrong again.

    Read what i wrote, it's in plain simple english, please respect punctuation, like in "read and comprehension" of olds. You can try again if it fancies you.


    Woooooah 9 bows to you….! that's some powerful condescending mojo you're wielding there.

    How 'bout this… why don't you explain what your point was instead of having me guess.:3

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 4, 2012 at 8:24 am |

    OK girls, play nice.

    Think, What would the Buddha do?

  3. Shodo
    Shodo February 4, 2012 at 8:29 am |

    "Think, What would the Buddha do?"

    Who knows…
    I would just like to know what boubi's point actually was, since i seem to be too dim to figure it out.

  4. Jiminy Cricket
    Jiminy Cricket February 4, 2012 at 8:51 am |

    ROFL. This discussion reminds me of the Futurama Episode, "Godfellas":

    Monk leader: A member of our brotherhood sits at these controls, every hour, every day, scanning the heavens for God.

    Monk at controls: There he is. No, no wait, no.

    Leela: How long have you been at it?

    Monk leader: 700 years. We've not yet examined one/ten millionth of the sky, but we will go on until we find the Almighty, even if it takes to the end of time.

    Fry: And then what?

    Monk leader: Then we utter unto him a short prayer. You see, the telescope is also an amplifying transmitter.

    Leela: Sort of like a giant karaoke machine?

    Monk leader: Not really. Would you like to see our giant karaoke machine?

    Leela: Not really.

    Fry: [places arm over Monk leader's back, hand on Monk leader's shoulder] Hmmm, finding God. That's important, yeah. But you know what might be a treat for everyone? If you let me use the telescope to find my lost friend Bender.

    Monk leader: I, I don't know what to say other than, absolutely not. Your loss is a tragedy but our work …

    Fry: Ah, come on. You guys have forever to look for God. All I'm asking is one measly lifetime to find my friend.

    Monk at controls: He speaks out of love for his friend. Perhaps that love in his heart *is* God.

    Monk leader: Oh, how convenient. A theory about God that doesn't require looking through a telescope. Get back to work!

    I've never found the use of the word "God" helpful in any explanation or illustration of Buddhism, Zen or otherwise.

  5. Pine Oak Ee Oh
    Pine Oak Ee Oh February 4, 2012 at 9:08 am |

    A Child' Guide To Hardcore Zen anonymous entries on the blogsphere:


    These text-message pop cultural artifacts are only used by the slow-on-the-up-take: Mysterion.

    Hate to give this away, it has been a useful tool when looking at his "anonymous" posts for quite some time now. Oh well, he will continue since old habits are hard to break, like this God talk.

  6. anonymous anonymous
    anonymous anonymous February 4, 2012 at 10:15 am |

    Have some respect Pine. Mysterion was the first person to type out ROFLMAO on the interenet. In 1985 he invented the Yo-Mamma Joke. He has surfed the Web from one end to the other and has now started over.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 4, 2012 at 10:59 am |

    next is…

  8. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 4, 2012 at 10:59 am |

    108 !

  9. john e mumbles
    john e mumbles February 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

    What do we all want, what do we really need? What is the essential quality of our existential despair that only a certain mercy will repair?

    We want to be understood. We want someone to say "yes, that's right," to agree with us, to validate our opinions, to say "yes, it will be alright now." Looking around, honestly, we see there is no one to do this, that our truth is singular, our understanding unique. Isolated, alone… "I was a treasure who wished to be known" (Allah in a hadith qudsi to Muhammed), alone with The Alone, the All One… turned to our only salvation, the ultimate unknown, never to be known outside a desperate collaboration.

    This imagined solace, sacred space of faith in things unseen, becomes belief, lest we "believe not to believe" (Austin Osman Spare) in a meaning, The Meaning: to live a meaningful life happily ever after.

    "We shall live for no reason. Then die and be done with it. What a recognition! Who shall save us? Only the knowledge we have lived without illusion, not excluding the illusion that something will save us. For the temple of our pretenses shall come down in the end in a murderous fall of its stones…"

    -William H. Gass A TEMPLE OF TEXTS p 191

  10. boubi
    boubi February 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    Shodo said…

    Woooooah 9 bows to you….! that's some powerful condescending mojo you're wielding there.

    How 'bout this… why don't you explain what your point was instead of having me guess.:3

    Yeah, OK, 9 would be enough, but not for me, just the way the tantrics do it, just do it for you, for the sake of doing it.

    Anyhow don't give up, just some more effort should do it, it just won't work if you don't do it by yourself … sorry it the way it is, you have to find it out by yourself, "the old fashioned way".

    By the way what do you mean with "Sodo"?

    Truly yours



    keep the good stuff coming!

  11. Shodo
    Shodo February 4, 2012 at 4:03 pm |

    Stop pretending to have some hidden point… we both know you got talked into a corner.

    If I am wrong however, feel feel to prove my assertion wrong.

  12. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm |

    I have to agree. On the face of it, there is nothing to prove that you know what the hell you're talking about, boubi.

    You're all bluff.

  13. SoloZen
    SoloZen February 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

    Excellent – thanks very much for this.

  14. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 5, 2012 at 5:38 am |

    Mysterion, for what its worth that wasnt me commenting at 6:30pm. the fact is that I almost never comment here uness the moderation is in effect. and when I do it is never directed at a specific person.

    I have a feeling that one of Brads "enemies" percieves that I have some form of "power" and by co-opting my name will feel

  15. Tattoozen
    Tattoozen February 5, 2012 at 5:40 am |

    powerful themselves.

    I wish their mom and dad had told them they loved them more as a child and they wouldnt need to troll the internet for self verification.

  16. mieledi
    mieledi February 10, 2012 at 7:02 am |

    I really like this article, is really great, and the christian Louboutin to continue to pay attention to it.

  17. cc aa
    cc aa February 29, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  18. Anonymous
    Anonymous February 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    any chance you could make the entire film available for download?

Comments are closed.