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“On the Road” Documentary on Buddhist Nuns of Korea

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Writer admin Date31 Jul 2013 Read5,560 Comment0


The Story of Korean Buddhist Nuns
“On the Road”

The Story of Korean Buddhist Nuns
“On the Road”
The Baekheung-am hermitage is a small monastic practice center for female Sunims located in Eunhae-sa Temple, the 10th District Head Temple of the Jogye Order. This strictly maintained temple opens up to the general public only twice a year. It is otherwise restricted, allowing only a few sincere Bhikkunis (Buddhist nun) to stay for meditation and Buddhist practice. The documentary “On the Road” is gaining much attention as it beautifully depicts the lives of the practicing nuns of Korea in Baekheung-am hermitage.
On the spot light is Lee Chanje, best known for his artistic documentaries within Korea as well as in differnt international film communities. Lee states, “I was inspired by Bhikkunis practicing Vipassana meditation in Walnut Village of Cheonan, Korea. This experience eventually lead me to create this documentary.” The film crew began their work on April 2011 until the February of the following year, an endeavor which lasted approximately 10 months. The film crew resided in Baeheung-am duiring this time in order to share with the world the pain, joy and the lives of Korean practicing Bhikkunis, allowing some of the most memorable scenes to become available to the public which could never seen otherwise.

The narration of the film was also written
by the director Lee. He stated about the film, ”I thought the most difficult part of the film was  finding a temple. But, I was obviously mistaken," and added, "We tried our best not to disturb the Sunims. The entire film crew even quit smoking and tried to live as quietly as possible. Nonetheless, we got kicked out of the temple four times. I believe this experience was one of the most challenging time of my life." 

Ven. Yeongun, the abbot of the hermitage, spent most of her life in practice. However, she was lost for words when sharing her own story infront of the camera. “A grain of rice is comparable to a drop of blood. One must understand that everything is gained through efforts of others.  I must wonder then...have I practiced sincerely enough to receive such a precious gift offered by others?”

On the other hand, Ven. Seonu was left behind at the temple by her parents when she was only a baby, and many told her she was born with Karma to practice. A novice nun, Ven. Sanguk, left behind her PH.D. diploma a few days before her final interview. She decided to renounce the world while  practicing at a Seon Center in the US. She also left her family simply with a single note of goodbye. Another novice nun, Ven. Minje came to the temple without much knowledge in Buddhism except for some random information found on the internet. Each of these Sunims tell a unique story of their own and moves the audience with their stories. Especially when Ven. Sanguk’s mother comes to beg her daughter not to enter the monastic, the audience fell silent filled with emotion.

Lee stated, “I have become a Buddhist after filming this documentary and I can honestly say that it was one of the most profound and inspiring experiences of my life.” 
The film is 104 minutes long and began screening at various Art Film Theaters nationwide starting on July 24, 2013.

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