Star Wars and the Dalai Lama
In the Ethics for a New Millennium the Dalai Lama talks about many concepts of Tibetan Buddhism that run parallel to the main themes of George Lucas’ film Star Wars made in the late 1970’s. Filmmaker and Director George Lucas borrowed from multiple sources, including the ancient Greeks, Taoism and Tibetan Buddhism. George Lucas used the idea of enlightenment as a goal to spur his characters to develop. He also made sure his characters were realistic, human and flawed so we would identify with their struggles and their desire to escape their struggles through enlightenment.George Lucas used religious philosophies to create a religion of his own, called the Jedi. The Jedi is not exactly a religion, nor a practiced faith, it’s a group of people with the same and shared understanding of the Force—the Force being life itself and everything around us, from the soil that grows our plants to the air we breathe. In developing the Jedi, Lucas focused on the concept of the undisciplined mind. The Dalai Lama in Chapter 6 of Ethics for a New Millennium explains how the undisciplined mind can be dangerous and if left alone will blunder around and wreak havoc like an elephant.
The Jedi connect with the Dalai Lama by not trying to convert people but just by sharing their wisdom and trying to help people conquer negative emotions.
“Murder, scandal and deceit all have their origin in afflictive emotion. This is why I say that the undisciplined mind—that is the mind under the influence of anger, hatred, greed, pride, selfishness, and so on is the source of all our troubles which do not fall into the category of unavoidable suffering.” p. 87. Ethics for the New Millennium
If you read this passage to a Star Wars fan they will quote you back the words of Jedi Master Yoda; “Fear leads to anger, Anger leads to hatred, and hatred leads to the dark side.” Yoda advised the Jedi to keep their minds away from fear.
Negative emotions in Buddhism are the same as the dark side in Star Wars; both believe negative emotions are more easily felt because they can consume the person. Anger jealousy, aggression these emotions flow through you and lead you down the path of the dark side.
Another key similarity is the Jedi uses his power for knowledge and defense and never for attack. Both the Dalai Lama and the Jedi undertake complete commitment to training the mind and keeping the faith. An example of this from Tibetan Buddhism is that the 14th Dalai Lama has fled his own country rather than pick up arms against his oppressor because he has a complete commitment to his belief that people can change. He believes it is a reasonable expectation that sooner or later his oppressor will learn how wrong oppression is and will change.
The Dalai Lama has reached millions of people around the world with his inspirational writings but although it may be risky to say so I believe George Lucas’ Star Wars has reached possibly billions of people in the far corners of the globe because movies are a media most people are exposed to. If Project Happiness is successful we may also reach many people with the Dalai Lama’s message by using film, the internet and new media to communicate old wisdom. The most important thing to remember is the message is what matters. I imagine the Dalai Lama is probably a fan of the Force.