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Watch a documentary exploring a day in the life of Buddhist monk Leonard Cohen

For a spell of five years beginning in 1994, the great Leonard Cohen lived at the Mount Baldy Zen Centre which was located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.

Cohen, at this time, was exploring the world of a Buddhist monk and was living on Mount Baldy in order to study and assist Zen Master Kyozan Joshu Sasaki Roshi. 

“I don’t think anybody really knows why they’re doing anything. If you stop someone on the subway and say, ‘Where are you going – in the deepest sense of the word?’ you can’t really expect an answer,” Cohen once said when speaking to author Pico Iyer back in 1998. “I really don’t know why I’m here. It’s a matter of “What else would I be doing?” Do I want to be Frank Sinatra, who’s really great, and do I want to have great retrospectives of my work? I’m not really interested in being the oldest folksinger around,” he added in reflection.

Back in the spring of 1996, French artist Armelle Brusq was tasked with filming a documentary of Cohen’s daily routine at Mount Baldy. “Cohen’s cabin with his Technics KN 3000 synthesizer and computers are shown, and he sings his new song ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’. He also recites three unpublished poems, two telling about Roshi (one titled Roshi at 89). The third was titled ‘Too Old’,” the documentary director Brusq once explained.

“The camera also visits the office of Stranger Management: Cohen demonstrates his archives (lots of boxes full of notebooks, he shows a poster of his first book Let Us Compare Mythologies and a painting made by Suzanne, the mother of his children). Later a studio session is going on, he is working with Raffi Hakopian (violin) and Leanne Ungar (his sound engineer). Afterwards, Cohen and Brusq dine at Canter’s.”

He added: “In this documentary, Cohen tells about his life, his memories, why he lives at the Zen Centre. He suggests that some kind of a circle has been closed and now he can do something else.”


The soundtrack for the documentary is as followed:

  • ‘Waiting for The Miracle’
  • ‘Teachers’
  • ‘A Thousand Kisses Deep’
  • ‘Democracy’
  • ‘The Future’
  • ‘Suzanne’
  • ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’
  • ‘Closing Time’
  • ‘Never Any Good’

(Source: Open Culture)