Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Digest for - 1 update in 1 topic (Dr. Jai Maharaj): Jun 10 06:54PM

How movies embraced Hinduism (without you even noticing)
From Interstellar to Batman and Star Wars the venerable
religion has been the driving philosophy behind many hit
movies. Why?
[Caption] Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars...
is he really a Hindu?
By Nirpal Dhaliwal
The Guardian
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Last modified on Friday, December 26, 2014
Interstellar's box office total is $622,932,412 and
counting. It is the eighth highest-grossing film of the
year and has spawned an endless raft of thinkpieces
testing the validity of its science and applauding the
innovation of its philosophy. But it is not so new. The
idea that propels the plot - there is a universal super-
consciousness that transcends time and space, and in
which all human life is connected - has been around for
about 3,000 years. It is Vedic.
When the film's astronaut hero (Matthew McConaughey),
declares that the mysterious and all-knowing "they" who
created a wormhole near Saturn through which he travels
to save mankind - dissolving his sense of material
reality in the process - are in fact "us", he is simply
repeating the central notion of the Upanishads, India's
oldest philosophical texts. These hold that individual
human minds are merely brief reflections within a cosmic
McConaughey's character doesn't just talk the talk. He
walks the walk. So, the multidimensional tesseract - that
endlessly reflective prism he finds himself in as he
comes to this realisation, and in which he views life
from every perspective - is the film's expression of
Indra's net, the Hindu metaphor which depicts the
universe as an eternal web of existence spun by the king
of the gods, each of its intersections adorned with an
infinitely sided jewel, every one continually reflecting
the others.
Of course, Hollywood's eager embrace of Buddhism, yoga
and other esoteric Indian systems is not new. David Lynch
is an outspoken exponent of transcendental meditation,
Richard Gere follows the Dalai Lama and Julia Roberts
affirmed her Hinduism in the wake of Eat, Pray, Love - a
movie that tells the tale of a modern American woman's
journey towards peace through Indian spiritual practises
that grossed over $200m (£128.6m). Hinduism can get the
tills ringing even when it urges parsimony.
Nolan has long been a devout subscriber to the cause. A
director famed for being able to get a multimillion
dollar project off the ground with only his own name as
collateral, he clearly knows the value of pre-existing
brands such as Hinduism. His breakthrough hit, Memento,
had Guy Pearce as an amnesiac whose unreliable
consciousness is the faulty lens through which we see the
story of a murder, told both in chronological and reverse
order. This notion of distrusting individual reality and
looking beyond it for truth was extended in Nolan's
Inception, in which Leonardo DiCaprio leads a team of
"psychonauts" on a heist deep within the recesses of a
billionaire's mind - a spiralling adventure of dreams
within dreams in which the laws of nature increasingly
bend and warp - before finding its purest expression in
[Caption] Interstellar... spiritual journey? Photograph:
Sportsphoto - Allstar - Legendary Pictures
"Look at the first Matrix movie," says producer Peter
Rader. "It's a yogic movie. It says that this world is an
illusion. It's about maya - that if we can cut through
the illusions and connect with something larger we can do
all sorts of things. Neo achieves the abilities of the
advanced yogis [Paramahansa] Yogananda described, who can
defy the laws of normal reality."
Rader's latest movie, a documentary about Yogananda, who
was among the first gurus to bring Indian mysticism to
North America in the 1920s, has been a sleeper hit in the
US. The film documents how influential Hindu philosophy
is in American culture, with contributions from the likes
of the yoga-devoted hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.
"There's a big pent-up demand," thinks Rader. "There are
a lot of closet spiritualists who are meditating, doing
yoga, reading books and thinking about a bigger reality.
And now they can come out and say, 'Yes, I'm into this.'
Steve Jobs read Yogananda's book once a year. He
bequeathed a copy of it to everyone who attended his
memorial. It helped inspire him to develop products like
the iPad."
But before Nolan, before the Matrix, before, even, the
iPad, there was Star Wars. It was the film, with its
cosmic scale and theme of a transcendental "force" that
confers superhuman powers on those who can align with it,
which opened up mainstream American culture to Indian
esotericism more than anything else. George Lucas was
influenced by the mythologist Joseph Campbell, whose work
A Hero With a Thousand Faces traced the narrative arc
common to all mythic heroes that Luke Skywalker would
embark upon. Campbell himself lived by his Upanishadic
mantra "follow your bliss", which he derived from the
Sanskrit term sat-chit-ananda.
[Caption] Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Photograph: Warner
Bros - Sportsphoto - Allstar
"The word sat means being," said Campbell. "Chit means
consciousness. Ananda means bliss or rapture. I thought,
'I don't know whether my consciousness is proper
consciousness or not. I don't know whether what I know of
my being is my proper being or not, but I do know where
my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that
will bring me both my consciousness and my being'." His
mantra was the paradigm for Skywalker's own realisation
of the force, the sense of peace, purpose and power
gained once he allowed himself to accept and unify with
it. "If you follow your bliss," thought Campbell, "you
put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all
the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought
to be living is the one you are living."
As his mastery of the force neared its peak, Skywalker
comes perilously close to taking Vader's sinister path.
With this, Star Wars established the principle in
Hollywood of superheroes having to overcome an inner
darkness while battling an external enemy, and finding an
enlightenment in the process. Nolan's trilogy of Batman
movies - in which a tortured protagonist struggles as
much not to become his nemesis as to defeat it - have
introduced a whole new generation to the Indian god-myths
and the teachings of yoga that emphasise the priority of
one's internal journey while facing the challenges of the
outside world. Next year, even younger recruits to the
cause will feel the force of the new JJ Abrams' Star Wars
"Spirituality is the open-secret," says Rader. "A lot of
people know that if we quieten down we can tap into a
deeper power. And the movies that tap into that, like
Star Wars and Interstellar, are hugely popular. Audiences
know what the film is telling them, they have a sense
that this story is working on a deeper level. It's
telling them that there's more to life than just the
ordinary. That there's something much bigger, and they're
a part of it."
A philosophy to which many are keen to subscribe is what
makes religions successful. Movies, too.
More at:
The Guardian
Jai Maharaj, Jyotishi
Om Shanti
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