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#676685 - 04/09/11 09:56 PM Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas?
Lisa - Buddhism Offline

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Since writing an article on movies about Buddhism awhile back, I've often been asked to write an article on movies that don't explicitly feature Buddhism, but might be said to explore Buddhist themes. Here's my take on it, including quotes from The Matrix, Waking Life, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Defending Your Life, and Forrest Gump.

I'd love to hear some more suggestions, or your takes on my list. Thanks!


Edited by Lisa - Buddhism (04/09/11 09:57 PM)
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#677011 - 04/11/11 12:07 AM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: Lisa - Buddhism]
Jilly Offline
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I love this article! I'd love to see an in depth review of the themes in ground hog day.

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#677020 - 04/11/11 01:04 AM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: Lisa - Buddhism]
ExerciseEditor Offline
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7 Years in Tibet (obvious)
Peaceful Warrior (more obvious)
Into The Wild
Jacob's Ladder
Big Lebowski
I Heart Huckabees
Wizard of Oz (big time especially Toto character)


Just a few I've watched. I've watched so many more but too many to try to remember : )
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#677038 - 04/11/11 01:42 AM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: ExerciseEditor]
Jilly Offline
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LOL - definitely explain the Wizard of Oz one... laugh

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#677043 - 04/11/11 02:01 AM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: Jilly]
Lisa - Buddhism Offline

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Thanks Jilly, I'm glad you saw this, as you were the one who originally suggested it after I did the original Buddhist movies article!
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#677044 - 04/11/11 02:05 AM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: ExerciseEditor]
Lisa - Buddhism Offline

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Monica, thanks for the ideas. I mentioned Jacob's Ladder and Seven Years in Tibet in the original Buddhist movies article, but the rest of these I didn't think of. I read Peaceful Warrior but never saw the movie, definitely have to get that one on my Netflix list. I love the Big Lebowski and I Heart Huckabees, didn't think of those.

And I forgot about Into the Wild - it does have the whole renunciation/looking for what's real theme going on. But too bad he doesn't find the 'middle way' like Buddha did after his ascetic phase...

Wizard of Oz I will have to watch again...haven't seen as an adult, so missed the Toto/Buddhist link I guess!
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#677048 - 04/11/11 02:10 AM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: Lisa - Buddhism]
Jilly Offline
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I also agree about the Into the Wild...i actually have this book set up for my mother to read if I die in the wilderness. I'd hope it would help her understand me better. not sure she'd get it, but one could not say i did not try. smile

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#677201 - 04/11/11 03:59 PM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: Lisa - Buddhism]
ExerciseEditor Offline
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I've watched The Wizard of Oz dozens of times (it's one of my favorite movies) but never considered the symbolism. There's tons of interpretations of this movie including very interesting political ones but the main one has to do with the fact that Baum was a Theosopist.

Apparently the book and movie is chock full of this but I wouldn't know that if I had not read a few articles on it. Here's are some fun quotes taken from various websites that you might find interesting. Is Toto our Buddha within?

"the entire story of the Wizard of Oz is an allegorical tale of the soul�s path to illumination � the Yellow Brick Road. In Buddhism (an important part of Theosophical teachings) the same concept is referred to as the �Golden Path�.

The story starts with Dorothy Gale living in Kansas, which symbolizes the material world, the physical plane where each one of us starts our spiritual journey. Dorothy feels an urge to �go over the rainbow�, to reach the ethereal realm and follow the path to illumination. She has basically �passed the Nadir� by demonstrating the urge to seek a higher truth.

Dorothy is then brought to Oz by a giant cyclone spiraling upward, representing the cycles of karma, the cycle of errors and lessons learned. It also represents the theosophical belief in reincarnation, the round of physical births and deaths of a soul until it is fit to become divine. It is also interesting to note that the Yellow Brick Road of Oz begins as an outwardly expanding spiral. In occult symbolism, this spiral represents the evolving self, the soul ascending from matter into the spirit world."

"Most of the spiritual interpretations of The Wizard of Oz see Toto only in terms of his relationship to Dorothy. In his Zen Buddhist interpretation of The Wizard of Oz, Joey Green points out that Toto is the only one who loves Dorothy unconditionally, but Dorothy invites trouble by allowing Toto to run through Miss Gulch's garden in an effort to get Aunt Em and Uncle Henry to take notice of her. Darren John Main in his New Age interpretation of The Wizard of Oz argues that Toto is an extension of Dorothy's character. Toto represents the creative part of the soul that may lead us into trouble but also uncovers important lessons. As he puts it, "Toto has one major function�to rock Dorothy's world." [4]In his Christian interpretation, Samuel Bousky suggests that Toto represents something more profound. He argues that Dorothy represents the spirit of humankind while Toto represents the physical body. Toto comes from the Latin Totum, which means whole. Together these two characters represent the whole of humanity."

"Toto represents the inner, intuitive, instinctual, most animal-like part of us. Throughout the movie, Dorothy has conversations with Toto, or her inner intuitive self. The lesson here is to listen to the Toto within. In this movie, Toto was never wrong. When he barks at the scarecrow, Dorothy tries to ignore him: �Don�t be silly, Toto. Scarecrows don�t talk.� But scarecrows do talk in Oz. Toto also barks at the little man behind the curtain. It is he who realizes the Wizard is a fraud. At the Gale Farm and again at the castle, the Witch tries to put Toto into a basket. What is shadow will try to block or contain the intuitive. In both cases, Toto jumps out of the basket and escapes. Our intuitive voice can be ignored, but not contained.

In the last scene, Toto chases after a cat, causing Dorothy to chase after him and hence miss her balloon ride. This is what leads to Dorothy�s ultimate transformation, to the discovery of her inner powers. The balloon ride is representative of traditional religion, with a skinny-legged wizard promising a trip to the Divine. Toto was right to force Dorothy out of the balloon, otherwise she might never have found her magic. This is a call for us to listen to our intuition, our gut feelings, those momentary bits of imagination that appear seemingly out of nowhere."


Edited by ExerciseEditor (04/11/11 04:00 PM)
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#677236 - 04/11/11 04:48 PM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: ExerciseEditor]
Lisa - Buddhism Offline

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Registered: 12/16/08
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Wow, Monica thanks so much for the Wizard of Oz interpretation!! Major palm-hitting-my-forehead moment as I read it - it is so obvious once you start thinking of it this way. The 'golden path' indeed! I didn't know Baum was a Theosophist. I studied Theosopy for a couple of years, fairly seriously. This is fascinating. I feel like I should post it as a guest post from you on the site - lots of people would like this. Perhaps I can link to this forum thread in my next newsletter...
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Lisa Erickson, Buddhism Editor
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Teaching and Private Session Website: Enlightened Energetics
Blog: Mommy Mystic

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#677255 - 04/11/11 05:01 PM Re: Movies with Buddhist Themes - More Ideas? [Re: Lisa - Buddhism]
ExerciseEditor Offline
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Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 4906
Those are all other people's quotes so please don't quote me on that. There are tons of sites with killer buddhist interpretations of the movie. If you google you will find everything you could possibly need to write an amazing article on this : )

I kind of went nuts with the quoting but it is one of my favorite movies and the idea of Theosophy appeals to me even though I would never pursue it.

BTW I love your list. I need to go read your article : )


Edited by ExerciseEditor (04/11/11 05:02 PM)
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Monica Neave ISSA Certified Fitness Therapist

Get Your Best Female Figure with the most overlooked workout strategy.

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