Dust to Light poster

There never was a bodhi tree

nor a mirror bright

the mirror is already clean

so where is the dust to alight?

Dust to Light is a 12 minute documentary about what is really going on under the surface when we are cleaning. The film listens as four Zen practitioners reflect on the transformative process of cleaning when it is approached as a meditation rather than burdensome chore.

Director's Statement

Cleaning is an activity everyone either loves or hates. Dust to Light organically grew out of my own personal transformation from loathing to cherishing the activity of cleaning. My hope is that this film helps others to understand how they relate to cleaning and to find a more balanced way.

This film came about as a byproduct of a visit to the Tea Sage Hut in Miao Li, Taiwan. The Hut was a Zen & Tea training center visited by people from all over the world. As a Zen center, cleaning is an important element of the daily practice. Cleaning is scheduled into each day and is often a group activity. Zen practice transformed my own relationship to cleaning from resentment to appreciation. The once irritating task of washing the dishes became full of peace and gratitude.

As I was also recording an audiobook with the Hut's residents I had the mic ready and the opportunity to interview them. This film is a brief exploration of our collective transformations. May it inspire you to examine a seemingly mundane part of your day more closely and to appreciate your life more fully.

a comment on the title...

The title Dust to Light comes from a poem within a Zen story about Zen's Sixth Patriarch Hui-Neng. Briefly, Hui-Neng was an illiterate peasant who came to live at a Zen monastery. The Fifth Patriarch set a challenge to the monks to write a poem to demonstrate their wisdom. The most senior practitioner stepped up to the challenge and posted the following poem:

The body is a bodhi tree

the mind a mirror bright

take care to wipe it clean

and let no dust alight.

Hui-Neng asked a monk to read the poem to him. Although not a monk, he was quite wise and knew there was a deeper understanding to demonstrate. He had a monk write this poem for him in response:

There never was a bodhi tree

nor a mirror bright

the mirror is already clean

so where is the dust to alight?

The Fifth Patriarch saw Hui-Neng's deep understanding from this poem and named him his successor.

There are many translations of these poems. The first time I encountered this story was during a Dharma talk. I heard the phrase as "dust to light". This always stuck with me and suited the subject of this film.

The full story can be read HERE on pages 7-12.