Amongst White Clouds

Amongst White Clouds

Ratings: 8.49/10 from 82 users.

Amongst White CloudsAmerican director Edward A. Burger takes us on his unforgettable journey into the hidden lives of China's forgotten Zen Buddhist hermit tradition.

Amongst White Clouds is a look at the lives of zealot students, gaunt ascetics and wise masters living in isolated hermitages dotting the peaks and valleys of China's Zhongnan Mountain range. The Zhongnan Mountains have been home to recluses since the time of the Yellow Emperor, some five thousand years ago.

Many of China's most realized Buddhist masters attained enlightenment in this very range! And now? It is widely thought that this tradition was all but wiped out by the twists and turns of history. Amongst White Clouds shows us this is not the case.

One of only a few foreigners to have lived and studied with these hidden sages, Burger reveals to us their tradition, their wisdom, and the hardship and joy of their everyday lives.

With both humor and compassion, these inspiring and warm-hearted characters challenge us to join them in an exploration of our own suffering and enlightenment in this modern world.

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32 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Theresa

    Lovely film; I think there is a part in all of us wanting to be free of possessions and the attachment to them. That message is clear in all religions. We are all called to a different place in life. I would like to see a follow up to this film. Thanks.

  2. Crina

    I see a well chosen path and clear inner purpose. As witnessed in Orthodox Christianity back in my country at monks hidden up in mountain caves, or in Sufism and so on. These are personal spiritual journeys which we are in no position to judge whatsoever. We should take what resonates with us from their experience and use it for our own growth. Everything else is irrelevant.

  3. kerry

    Well, they certainly have some possessions--the tools they use to farm with. I'd say it's highly debatable whether their tools are better than more modern tools like a tractor. These monks don't appear very productive in their farming--perhaps they grow enough to feed themselves. With some better tools in the same amount of time they could grow enough to feed many more people. Their life is certainly simply and apparently relatively stress free. But they don't have much responsibility. I haven't watched the whole thing yet but I don't see any kids running around so they aren't responsible for a family.

    Someone commented earlier that Buddhism is not a violent religion. That's simply not true. Read Zen at War for a good introduction to Buddhist violence.

  4. Sparrow021

    No ; I think it surly means to let go of attachment; this and that. In the montains there is only natural hardships, plus any that you bring. The works they do must be part of thier practices..I think

  5. athulii

    somehow it gives an idea that we can get enlightenment only when we leave home and go up lonely hills. no offense against the great monks up there, still making this decision to stay away from the world is a great one. Still doing the same cleaning, building and cooking huh, to do this again i would never want to go to the mountains. I have seen sadhus totally surrendered and they don't even think of their next diner, or their clothing yet they also live very much in the world with people, but isolated in their true self

  6. rastapasta

    i wonder if they eat gravy up there in them hills?
    second time i viewed this doc.
    inchanting, scarce and devote...

  7. Emily Stites

    Buddhism is one of the religions that I have never heard have a violent background. I have so much respect for this faith and the people who participate in it. This was a great doc that truly portrayed the true essence of a life of a Buddhist, regardless if in isolation or not.

    1. Sarmoun Darq

      Unfortunately that is not the case. One example being Burma buddhists violence,etc. against the Rhohinga

  8. mmhmm

    Such a great film.
    These men and their lives and thoughts resonate deeply within me.
    Thanks for posting. <3 Blessings

  9. kenhoffman

    I didn't think Rachel's comment was a judgement. Rather it was simply an observation or statement made in order to learn more. If you took it as a judgement that says a lot more about you then about her comment

  10. david

    What a beautiful documentary!
    Especially liked the part about laypeople living unbalanced lives because they feel the two extremes, love and hate.

    Also the metaphor about a persons soul being like the sky. A cloudy day might be dark and dull but it does not mean there is anything wrong with the sun:)

  11. Stephen

    Where can I find a copy of this with subtitles?

  12. insight

    Rachel, no disrespect intended; but I suspect you have a skewed misconception about the ascetic life of a hermit, lama, or arhat. It’s not so much the actual value of a possession, but rather a person’s attachment to it. You don’t know the history behind the gold watch, often a ascetic may give a teaching to a layperson, and that person has so much gratitude that they give their watch to the lama in appreciation. The lama being kind and not wanting to offend the person, keeps the watch. But it has no material value to the hermit, only sentimental value. The fact that the recluse could live such a challenging life in the mountains should say much more about his devotion to asceticism than a trinket he wears on his wrist.

    It’s a good idea not to judge another unless you know the circumstances or you have reached their high level of consciousness. Else your judgments may be very shallow and narrow-minded.

    1. Benny

      Very well said and nice put.

  13. rachel

    so far interesting but i can't help but notice at 17:34 the ascetic (sp?) is wearing a gold watch...? WTF? they give up all comforts including clothes, shelter, food, etc but watches are ok? pls explain if you can...

  14. Druidia

    Jack -
    I have no _lue.

    1. Jack1952

      You have no glue?

  15. jack1952

    @ Druidia

    Maybe Ellyn's "o" doesn't work. Or is that "O"? Anyway my "-" doesn't work. I'll let you -uess what letter that is.

  16. Jay

    I thought communism utterly extirpated this way of life, never to return. I'm glad I thought wrong. What a nice documentary this was.

  17. G.S. Virk

    These zealot students, gaunt ascetics living in isolated hermitages were truly wise masters living . They lived real life, life that sings truly healthy, dance and life Laughting of human life.

  18. Druidia

    Ellyn -
    Interesting comments. Now if I only knew what the heck a G-d is. ;^)

  19. Ellyn

    Why do you think G-d started life in Paradise. Then man ruined it and G-d banished us. Think about it. If we only do what G-d wants, we can be there again.

    1. Brandon Schultz

      I feel like this comment is some really crafty and high-quality trolling, and if it is, my hat is off to you, Ellyn. Nice work.

  20. tim

    the subtitles on this video aren't the same as the dvd, the actual movie's subs are fine :)

  21. Sveet

    Hey Vlatko,

    Wicked site, so much goodness. Had a friend recommend "The Unmistaken Child" and have since been looking for it. Don't know if you could find that content but I am sure many people (myself included) would find it to be a wonderful addition to the site. Otherwise would anybody know a place to stream it? Thanks.

  22. Yarrow

    Please, make that "...look at one of the Tibetan-like Ways.." :)

  23. Yarrow

    Possessions... we are happy when we pursue them. When we attain them, we are unhappy. Because the moment we acquire them, they possess us, because we are afraid to loose them. We possess things only for a very brief moment. After that, the possession reverses. Yet, we can have anything... provided we do not allow it to possess... us. Aah, there are so many ways to be. I liked the video! A very refreshing look at one of the Tibetan Ways To Be..

  24. Tubz

    a truly wonderful documentary.................

  25. hanan

    despite the editing the message was clear. calming and enlightening. thank you.

  26. Druidia

    I noticed that too.

  27. Capricious

    Very enlightening documentary overall.

    The only complaint I have is the frequency of the extremely poor editing of the subtitles. There must have been 10 different times people would be speaking and you would simply see that subtitle flash the screen for literally only a half second.

  28. Druidia

    I find it satisfying that there are people like this who can be happy without all the trappings of what we deem "modern necessities." In fact, it may be quite the opposite; our possessions often lead to unhappiness as they create craving for more. A most unusually insightful film...thanks Vlatko for including this little gem!