Why Has Bodhidharma Left For The East? (1989)

Director – Yong Kun-Bae


Bodhidharma was a 6th century Buddhist monk from India who is generally credited for introducing Buddhism to China. The question “Why has Bodhidharma left for the east?” is a famous koan or riddle, the purpose of which is to free the student of attachment to conceptual thinking. This movie, however, has nothing to do with either Bodhidharma or koans. But is is an apt title for this meditative and quiet film.

​The movie is set in the Korean mountains wherein a Zen master lives alone with an orphan boy. A young monk who has left the city life with his old mother and responsibilities in search of enlightenment is staying with the ailing Zen master. The movie deals with the perennial issues of man – sorrow, peace, desires, responsibilities, and death. There are very few dialogues in the movie but it still communicates a lot. The film shows a sharp contrast between the life of the city and the life in the forest. The story moves at a slow pace allowing one to absorb the happenings on the screen – the mountains, the stream, the trees, the antics of the boy, and the inescapable fact of life i.e. death.

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