In his book, The Dharma of Star Wars, Matthew Bortolin — a student of Thich Nhat Hanh — sorts through the films’ spiritual themes and applies Buddhist teachings to George Lucas’ epics. He writes, “In Star Wars, it is Luke Skywalker in the saga’s ﬁnal chapter that best exempliﬁes wisdom and compassion. In Return of the Jedi Luke has developed these qualities of being better than any Jedi before him—even better than his Master Obi-Wan.” Read about Luke Skywalker’s practice of wisdom.
Luke’s true Jedi mastery is demonstrated by the fact that he allows himself to be vulnerable to suffering. By doing so he discovers an inner strength greater than that of any Jedi of his time and even of the previous era of the Jedi’s ascendancy.
After his confrontation with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke knows good still remains in his father. Obi-Wan, however, cannot see this. He is attached to the view that Vader is “more machine than man, twisted and evil.” Obi-Wan fails to look deeply, to see past the vile acts of Vader and recognize the heart of a man who was suffering terribly. Luke does not make the same mistake. He saw that his father had forgotten himself and needed to be offered understanding and compassion in order to be returned to the good side.
In Return of the Jedi Luke’s wisdom and compassion propel him to turn himself over to the Empire in order to rescue his father. He tells Leia, “There is good in him, I felt it. He won’t turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him. I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try.” Luke allows himself to be made a prisoner of the Empire in order to “save” Vader, to draw his father out of suffering. Offering understanding and compassion, Luke appeals to the good Anakin that remained in the shadows of Darth Vader.
Reminding him of his life before he turned to evil Luke says, “You were once Anakin Skywalker, my father.” “That name,” Vader replies, “no longer has any meaning for me.” “It is the name of your true self,” Luke says. “You’ve only forgotten. I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven it from you fully.” Then Luke directs his father back to himself, to look deeply into his own nature: “Search your feelings, Father…. I feel the conﬂict within you. Let go of your hate”—for it is Vader’s attachment to hatred, hatred for himself, for his crimes, among other things, that perpetuates his suffering.
It’s important we see in this that even Luke Skywalker, with his great mastery of the Jedi ways, of understanding and compassion, cannot with his own power “turn” Vader away from the path of the dark side. This is always the case. We can only offer others compassionate support and wise advice, but only they themselves can remove the shroud of ignorance from their heart and mind. Luke does not tell Vader what he should or should not do, he simply directs Vader back to himself, to search his own feelings, to investigate his own mind and discover the truth that it is not “too late” for him, that he can still lift himself out of the dark side. This is the Jedi way, and it is also the Dharma way.
Reprinted from The Dharma of Star Wars with permission from Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144 USA. www.wisdompubs.org
true dharma eye says
Lucas was heavily influenced by the philosophies of Joseph Campbell and Carlos Castaneda when writing the original film. The trinity of the Hero / Shadow / Old Man are key archetypes for Campbell. Also, the description of the "force" by Obiwan is directly quoted from a Castaneda book.. i.e. "It controls our actions yet obeys our commands".
Also the Lensman series and Kurosawa's "Hidden Fortress" were big inspirations.
source materials says
The Lensman series begins with "Triplanetary", two billion years before the present time. At that time, the universe has few life-forms aside from the ancient Arisians, and few planets besides the Arisians' native world. The peaceful Arisians have foregone physical skills in order to develop contemplative mental power. The underlying assumption for this series, based on theories of stellar evolution extant at the time of the books' writing, is that planets form only rarely, and therefore our First and Second Galaxies, with their many billions of planets, are unique.
The Eddorians, a dictatorial, power-hungry race, come into our universe from an alien space-time continuum after observing that our galaxy and a sister galaxy (later to be named Lundmark's Nebula or more simply the Second Galaxy) are passing through each other. According to an astronomical theory current at the time of the publication of Triplanetary, called the tidal theory (the primary theory prior to the rehabilitation of the nebular hypothesis), this will result in the formation of billions of planets and the development of life upon some of them. Dominance over these life forms would offer the Eddorians an opportunity to satisfy their lust for power and control.
Although the Eddorians have developed mental powers almost equal to those of the Arisians, they rely instead for the most part on physical power, exercised on their behalf by a hierarchy of underling races. They see the many races in the universe, with which the Arisians were intending to build a peaceful civilization, as fodder for their power-drive.
The Arisians detect the Eddorians' invasion of our universe and realized that not only are the Eddorians a rapacious, power-hungry race but also that the Eddorians would defeat them in a direct physical confrontation. The Arisians hide from the Eddorians and begin a covert breeding program on every world that can produce intelligent life, in the hopes of creating a race which is capable of destroying this invading race, with a combination of mental and physical powers, and thus prove themselves better guardians of the universe than the Arisians.
The second book, "First Lensman", concerns the early formation of the Galactic Patrol and the first Lens, given to First Lensman Virgil Samms of "Tellus" (Earth). The Arisians, through the scientist Bergenholm (actually an Arisian entity appearing as a human, and who "invented" the interstellar drive), make it known that if Samms, the head of the Triplanetary Service which administers law enforcement to Tellus, Mars and Venus, visits the Arisian planetary system – and only if he visits the Arisian system – he will be given the tool he needs to build the Patrol he dreams of. That tool is the Lens.
The Arisians further promise him that no entity unworthy of the Lens will ever be permitted to wear it, but that he and his successors will have to discover for themselves most of its abilities. They otherwise maintain a highly distant profile and refuse to talk to other beings, stating that they have given civilization the tool it needs to bring about a good future and that people should otherwise not have reason to contact them.
The Lens is a form of "pseudo-life," created by the Arisians who understand life and life-force in a way no other race does. It gives its wearer a variety of mental capabilities, including those needed to enforce the law on alien planets and to bridge the communication gap between different life-forms. Thus, it can provide mind-reading and telepathic abilities while connected directly or indirectly to the skin of its user. It cannot be worn by anyone other than its owner, will kill any other wearer (in fact, it is fatal to even touch if not in contact with its owner), and "disappears" shortly after the owner's death, by some means which is not explained but is described as "more like evaporation or sublimation, except that there was no gradual diminution in volume, and there was no detectable residue, either solid, liquid, or gaseous".