Producers: Irving and Elda Hartley
The Mood of Zen
With Alan Watts
This collaboration between renowned thinker Alan Watts and documentarian Elda Hartley begins with verdant images of the Japanese countryside as Watts ponders why it is so elegantly maintained and so productively farmed. He attributes it to the centuries-old practice of Zen Buddhism and its central tenet of being one with nature.
In this practice, Watts holds up to his 1970s largely American audience a way of life that can offer all a great measure of peace and perspective. He explains:
"To resist death, to resist change, to resist transience, is to resist life itself and to come to feeling as a result of this resistance that you as a human being are in some way separate from life, that you do not belong in the universe, that you do not express its fundamental energy as waves express the existence of the water. Through Zen Buddhism, Man has learned to cooperate with nature. Man is nature becoming conscious of itself and this extra power of consciousness which man has enables him to cooperate with nature to bring out the potentialities of nature in a far more beautiful form than they may even be found in wild nature itself, thus the Japanese garden is a supreme example of this collaboration."
The simplicity of the formula Watts and Hartley designed for this and their other film collaborations is perfectly compatible with the theme of simplicity so central to the heart of Eastern thought. The formula was considered successful by the film and philosophy worlds, garnered a host of awards, and continues to provide insight both into the cultural awakening to Eastern thought in the West in the late 20th century and a powerful meditation experience for today's viewers.