Author Topic: 10 Buddhist References in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace  (Read 31245 times)


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10 Buddhist References in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
« on: December 21, 2012, 04:44:57 AM »
1.) The whole Jedi order has many of the trappings of the various Buddhist monastic orders around the world, as has been known for years. However in the beginning of The Phantom Menace we get to see the student- master relationship which is so important in Buddhism and in (both Sides of) the Force. NOTE: this could also be said of many other religions, or training practices, eg. martial arts.

2.) The term "mindfulness" is perhaps more important to Buddhists than anyone else. It is associated with being aware of the present moment. Qui-Gon Jin keeps telling Obi Wan to be mindful. (To understand "mindfulness", perhaps you may wish to try this experiment: talk to your friends for 5 minutes about any topic you like, BUT, without any reference to the past or the future...its not so easy!)

3.) "Fear Leads To Anger,
Anger Leads to Hate,
Hate Leads to Suffering"


"There is Suffering
There is a cause of Suffering
There can be an end to Suffering
The 8-fold path brings about the end of Suffering"

-Buddha (the Four Noble Truths)

4.) The selection of new Jedi's is very similar to the selection of Tibetan Tulkus, or Incarnate Lamas: A.) Both Must be selected when they are very young. B.) Both must pass a series of tests. Anikin had to "see" what was on the hand-held video screen. Tibetan Lamas must, among other things identify the possessions of their predecessors. See the movie "Kundun".

Which brings us to the Biggest Buddhist Connection of the Movie:

Queen Amidala represents The Dalai Lama

5.) First, the name. When she takes on the persona of her servant, she is named Padme. This word is taken from the most famous Tibetan prayer/chant: Om Mane Padme Hum. Also, Padma means Lotus, which is the Symbol of Enlightenment in Buddhism. Why would Lucas chose a Tibetan name for a character? Also, the name Amidala has all the letters of Dalai Lama. In fact you can anagram: DALAI LAMA into: AMIDALA-LA ("LA" is the Tibetan honorific for respected people, much like "SAN" in Japanese culture)

6.) As you hopefully know, in 1949 the Red Army of Communist China invaded and annexed the independent nation of Tibet, subsequently killing 1.2 Million Tibetans via war, torture, and mass starvation. In the movie, the The Trade Federation (T.F.) represents the Chinese, as indicated by their accent & some of their mannerisms.

7.) The T.F. forces a treaty onto the Amidala's People. This represents the 17-Point Agreement forced onto Tibet by China after the invasion. (which the Dalai Lama never signed and in fact repudiated upon his departure) By the way, in so far as Palpatine is someone who Amidala was initially trusted to protect her people, he represents Mao Tse Tung.

8.) Amidala was a Teenager when she came to power, as was The Dalai Lama. As such they were somewhat naive to the machinations of international politics. Both were then faced with the dilemma of whether or not to flee their home country to plead for help from the international community, or stay behind and suffer the same fate as their repressed people. Both chose to flee.

9.) Stopping the Trade Federation's Oppression of Naboo = Stopping the Chinese oppression of Tibet. At the end of movie the Galactic Republic will cancel the Trade Agreement of the T.F. In real life, the U.S. has often discussed canceling China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status, as a result of China's massive human rights violations. It was only cancelled once (after the Tien-an-men massacre) and has since been reinstated. The vote in Congress is always close, and so far China is still has MFN status, all its attendant financial benefits, in spite of the deaths of 1.2 million Tibetans.

10.) The Hidden Swamp area of Jar-Jar's people is built on the ruins of an ancient temple which was patterned after Ankgor Wat, Cambodia, the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire, a Buddhist kingdom in S.E. asia around the 8th century AD. There are even huge statues with trees growing around them both at Ankgor Wat and in the movie.

Are there any other references to Buddhism or the Buddhist teachings in any movie this forum has watched?


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Re: 10 Buddhist References in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2012, 05:52:20 PM »
According to Yoda in "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back," the Force is used for good, knowledge, and defense. Jedi do not use it for violence. This sounds a lot like Buddhism, which is a philosophy, not a religion. Buddhists believe in non-violence.

Jedi also meditate to clear their minds of emotions so they do not lean toward the Dark Side. Buddhists meditate to clear their minds, too. Many things happen when meditating, including gaining knowledge, insight, and even physical powers. When Jedi die, those who are worthy become Force ghosts. One of the rebirths in Buddhism is Devas, which are sometimes spirits or even lower gods.

There are many other connections between the Force and Buddhism. This made the Force a philosophy that required training the body and mind by using the mind. It gave the Force a metaphysical feel to it, making it more interesting.

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Re: 10 Buddhist References in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2012, 09:24:46 AM »
Star Wars is pretty far back. There are newer sci-fi movies like Matrix, whose plot has a very powerful reference to key Buddhist beliefs about reality and certain key moments in the movies are also like little parables on karma. However, it is all packaged in a futuristic vision of the future. I found a really good explanation on the Matrix.


The Matrix itself parallels samsara, an illusory state of reality that is not what it appears. Samsara refers to revolving worlds that develop, reach heights, collapse, are eliminated, and then ultimately are replaced by other worlds. The goal of some Buddhists is to escape from this cyclical pattern of doom and eternal pain, which they believe is possible. Many of the freed humans choose to accept the Buddhist state of karma, which suggests that whatever state they are in, it is the result of their own doing. Their condition is self-created, and this idea emphasizes the importance of choice. Karma allows people to shape their next life. If they choose actions that are virtuous in this world, they’ll be more contented now and in the next life. But if they choose nonvirtuous acts, they get what they deserve. Buddha’s Four Noble Truths suggest that life is suffering, an idea The Matrix supports. Practicing Buddhists of all sects are rigorous meditators, practicing their faith by disciplining their minds. Morpheus trains Neo with the programs to free his mind and realize his potential based on freeing himself from laws. The training is not intended to teach new skills, since these skills can be easily downloaded, but to liberate Neo from the bondage of rules and to free him from the trappings of the world.

The most accessible and most popular elucidation of these beliefs relates to the spoon parable a young boy tells Neo in the Oracle’s waiting room. The story is specifically contrary to Christian belief systems and refers to an old Zen Buddhist koan (paradox) about freeing yourself from the logical mind and entering the “Buddha-mind”:

The wind was flapping a flag at the temple. One monk said the flag was moving, the other monk said it was the wind that was moving. They argued and pondered, but could not come to a conclusion. An elder passed by and they asked him which was moving. “It is neither the flag nor the wind that moves, but your mind.”

When Neo visits the Oracle for the first time, she jokingly gives him a cursory doctor’s exam. Even this action has a mythic dimension, as a certain sect of Buddhism believes that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will be proven by a set of markings on his body.

The Matrix trilogy refers knowledgeably to certain aspects of Eastern religions while ignoring or contradicting others. Not many practicing Buddhists would carelessly fire any type of automatic machine gun. Similarly, true Buddhists, practicing proper virtues, have no enemies, though Morpheus clearly tells Neo that not only are the Agents enemies, but since Agents can turn into anyone in the Matrix, everyone is a potential enemy.

No one religion or spiritual discipline forms the backbone of the Matrix trilogy. Instead, parts of many religions are fused into a patchwork quilt of ideas and references that deepen and enrich the films.