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« because this movie is dealing directly with human desires. »
« I think it also addresses very well that monks are not automatically awakened just by becoming monks (not even by doing major retreats)…
It addresses well how the mind (starved from stimuli) can be at risk (of overwhelm, then of mindless mistakes) when coming out of a retreat. It's classic to warn people attending retreats (even simply a one-week retreat) about the 'return to the world'; it's good this film uses this as a key turning point.
I like that much wisdom is expressed by the lay woman. This is traditionally a weak rebirth (lay + female) and yet she's the wisest by far. Thus she embodies many teachings on emptiness and also captures the compassionate ideal of Tara / Quanyin / Avalokitesvara. »
« or the biography of (Sōtō) Zen master Dogen… It is decent in showing the difficulties met by Dogen when he came back to Japan, from political (patrons) to economical (famine). As for weaknesses, it unfortunately avoids the controversies around Dogen, so e.g. it takes for granted the 'mind-to-mind transmission' supposedly received in China (which is controversial, because not actually certified… Dogen himself said he “came back empty-handed”!)… or e.g. it focuses on a traditional Sōtō perspective, thus avoids discussing koans (even though Dogen wrote a collection of koans!). So, this is basically an “official” bio, from the Sōtō Zen tradition's perspective. But it remains a decent film, which exposes the sort of difficulties well-meaning teachers had to go through to perpetuate the Dharma. »
« another (official) biography, of one of the greatest Tibetan yogi… As a Tibetan perspective, it's full of fantastic powers, etc, so for the Westerner, it's hard to let go of skepticism in front of some claims, but maybe that's the point: this film is not minimizing claims, it is full on, and as such it presents a perspective that few convey in the West. This can be seen as culturally interesting, or as the kind of Buddhist expedient means Tibetan teachers don't hesitate to rely upon to impress the masses and hopefully thus be able to teach them something. »
« It won the famous Cannes festival in 1971. It's an loose adaptation of the story of Hui-neng, the 6th Chinese patriarch, known as Rinzai in Japanese (who started the ‘Southern’ form of Zen —with koans,— letting quietism define the ‘Northern’ form of Zen).
Hui-neng wrote the “platform sutra” on (among other things) how he received the Zen “mind-to-mind transmission.”
The film is partly about how some people try to acquire scriptures as holy objects, etc., i.e. spiritual materialism… and how Hui-neng exemplified “going beyond scriptures” (by literally destroying sutra scrolls).
The film did not necessarily age very well, but it remains fun to watch. »
« It is a parody turned bad. It's a documentary really, on someone presenting himself as a guru, knowing full well he has nothing to show for it… But what started as a joke quickly turns darker, as followers ‘believe’ this guru and a cult-like dynamic enters the scene. When the main character decides to let people know it was all a sham, some will be upset, others will believe he's an even greater guru as this 'outing' becomes his greatest teaching of all…
It's quite sad, but it's a good film on the projections on teachers, the need for some spiritual people to find an anchor, a reassurance, rather than face uncertainties, etc. »
“Cloud Atlas” by Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski (2012)
« This is directly about karma… and the causal (much later) ripples of small(ish) acts [which were never meant to start such a movement]. It covers wholesome acts, unwholesome acts (based on greed, aversion, ignorance), and rebirth too (not reincarnation), but maybe it's too hollywood-y? I don't think it's in the same category as the above films, but it's not bad. »
« About detachment when someone dies, clinging on not living the present with loved ones and not being here in order to pursuit a possible better future who will never come. and the main guy becomes a frigging Buddha! »
“Hi! Dharma!” (or “Let's Play Dharma” — 달마야 놀자) by Cheol-kwan Park (2001)
“Hi! Dharma 2: Showdown in Seoul” by Sang-Hyo Yook (2004)
« Two South Korean comedies about gangsters and their encounters with Buddhism. They are funny and insightful also.
Five gangsters escape in a van after a bloody confrontation with the rival Chunno gang. They realize that they have a snitch in their own gang and that they can't get out of the country because the police will be looking for them. So they go to the mountains and hide in a Buddhist monastery. But the monks there don't want the gangsters as their guests. They decide that if the gangsters can win three out of five contests, the gangsters can stay, but if they lose, they must leave immediately.
In order to deliver a package for their recently departed head monk, the monks travel to Musim-sa Temple in Seoul, in their first contact with civilization in years. But they find Musim-sa in financial trouble and in danger of being taken over by Beom-shik and his gangsters, who plan to build an apartment complex on the land. The monk trio have no choice but to stay in the city to protect the temple, and ready themselves for another showdown.
“The Heavenly Creature” by Pil-sung Yim & Jee-woon Kim (2012)
« short film, part of the “Doomsday book”, a collection of 3 short films: a robot awakens in a temple, and the film explores the human reactions to this situation (from local monastics to the establishment, from the technician checking the robot to the CEO of the company that built the robot…). Nice study of how the awakening of a robot could be seen as the end of the world rather than celebrated, and of how the robot might appropriately respond to this situation. »
“The Matrix” by Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski (1999)
“Matrix Reloaded” by Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski (2003)
“Matrix Revolutions” by Lana Wachowski & Lilly Wachowski (2003)
« You have of course the Matrix trilogy. You need to somehow let the Hollywood stuff aside, the core topic is the nature of reality, causality/karma, etc... I once did a three days seminar on that movie »
« “The Matrix” is often cited on similar questions on the internet…
Even if I could potentially agree with a relationship to Buddhist teachings in the first movie, I'd quite strongly disagree with the second and third movies though… but even the first movie is not really Buddhist, it might simply insist on views that are shared with Buddhism among other spiritual traditions…
All the movies use Christian references more than Buddhist ones, from the purgatory of the train station, to the Merovingian acting as the fallen angel —old, powerful, and not obeying the architect—, via imagery for Neo based on the messiah, and Zion as a reference to Jerusalem.
Re. Neo, the predicted coming was in the first film, as well as death and resurrection (and greater powers after resurrection), but they add a lot in the next movies: walking on fluids (information flow takes the place of water)… seeing though blind… and of course one's sacrifice as a way to save humanity…
There definitely are variations… e.g. Neo's ultimately fighting about choice, not so much Love (of God, or otherwise) nor freedom (described as illusory), nor ethics…
The very idea of shaping reality through fighting with it, to bring it to what one thinks “it should be”, seems very anti-Buddhist to me. This trilogy would be existentialist, more than Buddhist or Christian, except I don't think the autonomy considered (which resembles Christian “free will” nonetheless) matches what Buddhism teaches about autonomy / freedom.
I can see of course the “mind that bends, not the spoon”… or the people trapped in the matrix because they're entangled with the system… or the “free my mind” to abandon certainties about the world… Sure, these point to teachings shared by Buddhism.
But it's also a staple of all religions that one should let go of previous ways to look at the world, in order to embrace new (supposedly wholesome) views… and that people are prisoners of the ‘lmerchants’.
But not many practicing Buddhists would carelessly fire automatic machine guns to (rather powerless) security guards… And Morpheus clearly tells Neo that not only the Agents are enemies, but since Agents can turn into anyone in the Matrix, everyone is a potential enemy! This seems seriously incoherent with Buddhism.
So, overall, I quite liked the first movie, not so much the second, even less the third… but in any case, I doubt these are "Dharma-(directly-)related" movies. »
« In the second movie, they openly talk about karma. It's not Christian. The end of the third one is "peace", in a way that Neo understand Agent Smith is his dark counterpart. Only by letting go he could reach peace... etc etc. Many Buddhist references. But also mysticism, as found in christianity, Hinduism, etc. »
« One could just as well point out many Western / European philosophers, like in this article. One might end up seeingkarma simply out of wanting to seekarma. »
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