Using Movies to Make Hindu Philosophy More Accessible

There are many Indian movies (e.g., Anand made in the 1971) that clearly have many aspects of Hindu philosophy. However, this is not relevant for those who have been brought up here in Australia. There are many Hollywood movies that can be used instead. While certain directors like George Lucas and Christopher Nolan have acknowledged the influence of Hindu and Buddhist thought in their movies, there are others who may not have been inspired by Hindu Dharma. But their movies have aspects that can be used to illustrate Hindu philosophy.

I will summarise a few explicit examples here. The following list is by no means exhaustive. I suggest that parents can use situations in various movies to plant the seed of Hindu philosophy in their children.

The movie Star Wars, with Yoda and the Jedis, can be related quite easily to the Mahabharata. Yoda is very much like Krishna who provides guidance but does not make decisions for others. For example, his statement “Your path you must decide.” is exactly what Krishna told Arjuna at the end of the Bhagavad Gita. Yoda refuses to answer questions like “Which way is the right way?”. He emphasises that when one is choosing between two options, there are always pros and cons to consider. Hence each person has to make their own decisions.

Yoda’s statement “The fear of loss is a path to the dark side. Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy.” is very much in keeping with the lessons in the Bhagavad Gita. Yoga emphasises the message of dispassionate action in the Revenge of the Sith by stating “The shadow of greed that is. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”

The movie Matrix illustrates the Advaitic idea of Maya or illusion. Neo has to look beyond Maya and connect with what is true. After Neo has understood the Matrix he develops “super powers” which can be interpreted as having realised Brahman. One must be careful though, as realising Brahman does not give super powers; only infinite and eternal happiness. The Matrix is like Samsara, and keeps us captive. The Matrix will continue to exist as long as there are people who have not realised Brahman. This is similar to the Matrix harvesting humans for energy. In the beginning Neo is unsure what is happening and not sure what is real and what is imaginary. His guide Morpheus is the Guru (e.g., Krishna for Arjuna or Varuna for Bhrigu) who teaches him how to overcome this complex illusion.

In more recent movies like Iron Man and Thor, the heroes are not perfect. They have numerous flaws such as having a huge ego and feeling entitled. This illustrates the thin line between right and wrong. This can be related to the Mahabharata where everyone has good and bad qualities in them. Note that Iron Man does not start out to save the world. His initial motivation is totally about self-preservation but he realises that he can also do good. The destruction caused by the fight for righteousness is evident in both the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Captain America, when compared to Iron Man and Thor, is more moral. He can perhaps be compared to Yudhishtra for his righteousness and fairness. Other obvious analogies include the Hulk being like Bheema.

In the movie Interstellar, there is the infinite multidimensional set of prisms called Tesseract. This is nothing by Indra’s net where the infinite sided jewels continually reflect each other. All locations on this net are the same, but we go chasing after what appear to be the different reflections. It is this unnecessary chasing of reflections that causes pain. Moksha is when we realise that all the different reflections are the same. That is, we need to realise that our minds are just reflections of a cosmic unity.

Other Reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/dec/25/movies-embraced-hinduism
Brahman and Maya via Graph Theory
Bhriguvalli: Bhrigu’s Train of Thought from the Taittiriya Upanishad
Maya: Illusion, Unreal, Part of Brahman?
Karma Yoga: Dispassionate Action