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Cinema: The dharma of skywalkers

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THE MAKE-BELIEVE world of films is compelling. And a well-written one can often be insightful. One such film series is Star Wars-a meditative anthology on the nature of good and evil. There is much in Episodes IV, V and VI that explores philosophical truisms we can learn from.The original release of the first Star Wars…

THE MAKE-BELIEVE world of films is compelling. And a well-written one can often be insightful. One such film series is Star Wars-a meditative anthology on the nature of good and evil. There is much in Episodes IV, V and VI that explores philosophical truisms we can learn from.

The original release of the first Star Wars introduced us to a gallery of timeless characters: Yoda, Obi-Wan, Han Solo, Luke and Leia, and, of course, Darth Vader. The dramatic joust between Good and Evil in the storyline fuelled my fascination towards the franchise. And the scene that blew my mind; the iconic moment when Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker “No, I am your father!”

I was captivated because the intricate plots resonated with much that I had learnt about the ancient dharmic ways at home. Like, when the Jedi are searching for the Chosen One, the intention is not for Good to defeat Evil. Instead, it is to bring balance to the Force. This is a deeply dharmic thought-a prominent philosophical strain expressed in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Ati sarvatra varjayet, or excess or extremes should be avoided, always. For divinity lies in the lap of balance. I hesitated to voice these musings to people outside of my family. They would wonder, I convinced myself, at how I was seeing similarities between the philosophies in one of the most successful Hollywood film series of modern times, and ancient Hindu thought.

So I was intrigued when I came across an article, titled ‘The 3,000-year-old sacred story that inspired Star Wars’, a few years ago, written by Damien Walter. In a gentle, well-articulated manner, Walter dwelt on a gripping story set ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away’, with technical razzmatazz that could wow one to a mush, but one that actually had a deeply ancient and dharmic core.

“So I was intrigued when I came across an article, titled ‘The 3,000-year-old sacred story that inspired Star Wars”–Amish

As J.J. Abrams, the director of The Force Awakens, is quoted in the article, ‘Star Wars was never about science fiction, it was a spiritual story.’ Walter proposes that one of the inspirations for the films was our very own Ramayana, through the masterly work of Joseph Campbell. The choices made by the characters, the nuances in all situations and our fascination with them, makes us learn.

But I think it goes deeper than just the story. Doesn’t the Force seem a bit like our Brahman? I must clarify, I’m not referring to the caste Brahmin, but ‘Brahman’,the Divine that animates and is at the heart of the entire universe. Much like the Force. Those who truly understand the Brahman are the realised souls in the dharmic way. They ‘have the force with them’!

In George Lucas’s imagined universe, did the Force ultimately find balance? As it turns out, the destruction of the Sith does not lead to balance. For as our ancient texts say, true balance, the point at which we attain moksha or nirvana, is beyond Good and Evil. And since balance is not restored, even when the Sith die out, a new dark side emerges within a generation. It would seem that balance is always an active pursuit, never a passive attainment! More interesting is the fact that the Sith and the Jedi were former brothers in the Force, and it was a schism between the dark and the light side of the Force that drove them apart. Many Indians have forgotten that even the Indian tradition’s asuras (so-called “demons”) and devas were actually half-siblings and had the same father: Saptarishi Kashyap. Intriguing parallels, wouldn’t you say?

As J.J. Abrams, the director of The Force Awakens, is quoted in the article, ‘Star Wars was never about science fiction, it was a spiritual story.’

In the Indian way, time is circular-not linear with a beginning and an end-and if time is circular, when your journey moves forward, you sometimes realise that you have been here before. But what you enjoy is the journey itself, not the destination. Now let’s see where The Rise of Skywalker takes this journey of a modern story with an ancient soul.

May the Force, and Brahman, be with you! n

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