Driving Toward Dharma: Buddhism Doc Seeks Heartwood In Long Beach

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All photos were taken by Adam Eurich while filming Seeking Heartwood. He has an online photo gallery full of many more.

The plastic molding on Adam Eurich’s 1998 Honda Accord was claimed by the road long ago. The dirt-covered paint job and balding tires exist as mere badges of honor for a film maker now stopped in Long Beach after 21 months on a cross-country trek to find clarity. Just like the core Buddhist principles he hoped to capture while filming his documentary Seeking Heartwood, the periphery of Eurich’s journey is unimportant. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

“If you want to pull the heartwood out of a tree, you don’t stop at the twigs and leaves,” Eurich says. “The outer bark, the inner bark…these are things that can benefit you on your spiritual path but the point of it is to get to the very heart of it.”

Eurich’s path to this one-man nationwide filmmaking adventure is as complex as the countless disciplines and doctrines that compose the foundation of his subject—Buddhism in America.

A former competitive body builder from Abilene, Texas with a degree in architectural engineering and zero camera experience, the 28-year-old doesn't fit the conventional recipe for aspiring filmmaker. However, Eurich’s deep curiosity of his surroundings and his own frustrations from a decade of practicing Buddhism left him wanting more. And his inspiration to quit his promising career as an architect came from unlikely source—underground hip-hop artist Immortal Technique.

“I was in D.C., working on really outrageously expensive homes for rich people and politicians,” Eurich says. “And, I’m listening to this guy. This kind of filthy, really offensive rapper and he was shining light on things that needed to be known. I felt I needed to do something. I needed to find that thing that I wanted to shine light on. If I was going to find my path, I needed to get back to Buddhism.”

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So, with the blessing of his parents and a brand new video camera, Eurich quit his job and packed his belongings into his back seat and hit the highways, hoping to simplify the route to enlightenment by learning from some of America’s most experienced teachers.

Financed by his savings account and online donations, Eurich has covered nearly 60,000 miles of the American countryside, meditating in remote temples tucked away in the Ozarks, taking in Dharma talks from Irish-Catholic monks in Texas and filming active Buddhist movements in urban settings like San Francisco. After witnessing the diversity of American Buddhism, Eurich has decided to set up base camp in Long Beach where he will complete the final five months of intensive filming and then (if his currently running Kickstarter campaign meets its goal) move into Seeking Heartwood's post-production.

“In Long Beach, I can go to a Cambodian Buddhist temple, a Tibetan monastery and get teachings from a highly realized master, a Zen group on Thursday nights or the local Long Beach meditation group and see a more modern, American-progressive version of Buddhism,” Eurich says. “Every kind of sect of Buddhism is here. It’s like a mini Buddhism buffet.”

That buffet line also serves as a home away from home for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama who shacks up at the Tibetan Buddhist Center on 4th Street when he’s in town to speak. After nearly two years of endless filming, meditating and, of course, driving, Eurich believes he’s found the heartwood that he sought out.

And, when he begins to market his film—which is tentatively scheduled for a late 2013 independent release—he hopes that people don’t see it as a “Buddhism for Dummies” type work, but more of a handbook to being human and living a better life.

“It’s going to be a Buddhism for everyone film. This religion is a commentary on what it is to be a human being,” Eurich says. “ It’s about the human condition. There’s a way of talking about Buddhism that strips away all the culture and tradition and just gets to the heart of what it means to be a human being. That’s what I’d like to do.”

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Seeking Heartwood has a website, where Eurich blogs about his recent interviews and travels. There is also a Kickstarter campaign that ends October 11.

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