In 2016, we asked ten prominent cultural figures to tell us their favorite movie that contained Buddhist lessons (explitly or otherwise). In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Big Lebowski, here’s what Oscar-winning actor and Big Lebowski star Jeff Bridges’ told us.
Now, it could be argued that there’s no Buddhist theme in The Big Lebowski whatsoever. However, my buddy Bernie Glassman has another opinion. He said to me one day, “Did you know that the Dude in The Big Lebowski is considered by many Buddhists to be a Zen master?”
I said, “You gotta be kidding. We never talked about Zen or Buddhism while we were making Lebowski. The brothers never said anything about that.”
“Yeah,” laughed Bernie, “just look at their name—the Koan brothers.”
Koans are Zen stories that only make sense if you can see that life and reality are different from your opinions about them. Most of the famous ones were written in China a long time ago.
Bernie went on: “The Big Lebowski is filled with koans. Only they’re in the ‘parlance of our time,’ to quote the Dude. It’s filled with ‘em, like: The Dude abides—very Zen—or The Dude is not in—classic Zen—or Donny, you’re out of your element, or That rug really tied the room together. It’s loaded with ’em.”
Now, my buddy Bernie is a Zen master himself, and he convinced me that The Big Lebowski has a Buddhist theme. In fact, we wrote a book about it called The Dude and The Zen Master (a portion of my answer to this question is ripped off from the intro to that book).
So, yeah, my favorite movie with a Buddhist theme? Gotta say, The Big Lebowski. But, as the Dude might say, “That’s just my opinion, man.”