James Zito’s New Film Inquiry Into the Great Matter: A History of Zen Buddhism is Now Available on DVD!

Via Reverend Danny Fisher
on Jan 21, 2010
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Boulder’s very own James Zito is pleased to announce the DVD release of his new documentary Inquiry Into the Great Matter: A History of Zen Buddhism. At the film’s website, James describes it this way:

This film tracks the evolution of Zen Buddhism from its beginnings in the China of the T’ang Dynasty to its transfer to Japan in the 11th century and up to the present day. In three parts the film examines the growth and development of Zen by profiling the lives of some of its greatest masters who embody and exemplify various important phases in Zen’s long, illustrious and mysterious history.


The first part looks at the place of Zen within the continuum of Buddhism as a whole examining its origins in China and the beginning of Zen’s transfer to Japan. In addition to profiling the important Zen masters Eisai, Dogen and Muso Soseki, it also contains an examination of the etiology and aesthetic of the Zen garden.


The second part traces the arc of Zen’s golden age in Japan from its steep rise and tremendous growth through its period of aesthetic excess and spiritual decadence to a period of great destruction and eventual renewal. Here the lives of Japan’s most important masters such as the great Daito Kokushi, the iconic Zen master Ikkyu Sojun and the greatest Zen master of the last 500 years Hakuin Ekaku as well as the humble Ryokan are examined. In addition there are segments examining the role of the tea ceremony in Zen and a look at the evolution and function of Zen art and calligraphy.


The third part deals with the current state of the Zen Institution in Japan and discusses the current dissemination of Zen to the West. It also examines how Zen’s core values are being essentialized in their journey to the West and contains an examination of the fundamental role of meditation in the practice of Zen Buddhism.

In a past post for elephant journal, I dubbed James’ previous film, Compassion and Wisdom: A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the best movie I have yet seen about Buddhism. I’ve seen two parts of the new film, and it’s similarly extraordinary. Trust me: this is a film you should see as soon as possible.

Order your copy of Inquiry Into the Great Matter:  A History of Zen Buddhism at http://www.historyofzendvd.com.

FYI: I have an interview with James appearing in the upcoming issue of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Stay tuned for more on that.


About Reverend Danny Fisher

Rev. Danny Fisher, M.Div., D.B.S. (Cand.), is a professor and Coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West in Rosemead, CA. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister by the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California in 2008. In addition, he is certified as a mindfulness meditation instructor by Naropa University in association with Shambhala International. A member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, he serves on the advisory council for the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. In addition to his work for elephant journal, he is a blogger for Shambhala Sun. He has also written for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Religion Dispatches, The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, The Journal of Religion & Film, Eastern Horizon, New York Spirit, Alternet's Wiretap Magazine, and other publications. His award-winning website is http://www.dannyfisher.org


5 Responses to “James Zito’s New Film Inquiry Into the Great Matter: A History of Zen Buddhism is Now Available on DVD!”

  1. This is very interesting, especially since I lived in Japan for two years in high school and visited some famous Zen sites, like the Great Buddha of Kamakura http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C5%8Dtoku-in

    Thanks for this article and link to the website. This history is very relevant to some of the other recent articles on Buddhism, like "Toward an Integral Buddhism" http://bit.ly/6ifkgS

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. […] and Vimalamitra) from India in order to spread the buddhadharma in Tibet. This was during the T’ang dynasty in China, when Tibet was entering history as a great power and eventually conquered China. […]

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