Tag Archives: TV

‘Lost’ and Buddhism

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The TV series “Lost” had hundreds of moments that made me think: “That’s so Buddhist!” I know that themes from every major religion appeared during the six years of the series. But the series finale, which aired in the U.S. last night, ended with a dialog between Jack Shephard and his father (the not insignificantly named Christian Shephard) that had to be the most Buddhist conversation ever heard in an American TV series.

SPOILER ALERT! Stop reading now if you have not watched the final episode.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the DHARMA Initiative and the number 108 to Buddhism. Slightly more subtle is the character name “Richard Alpert”; the real Richard Alpert not only co-wrote a book with Timothy Leary (famous for championing the use of LSD) but later traveled to India, where he studied yoga and meditation. He changed his name to Ram Dass. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of the final episode of the series, however, the Buddhist ideas flowed like free running water. We have Jack finding his purpose in life — to help other people. And Hurley — his purpose is the same. And Kate? She’s helping Claire. Desmond? He’s helping everyone. In the end, everyone finds their purpose. And guess what? They are all the same.

In the church where everyone gathers, there’s a dharma wheel on the stained-glass window and a Buddha statue on top of the bookcase. (Oh, yes, the dharma wheel — all that “turning the wheel” to move the island!)

How many times were the words awakening, awake, and wake up used in the episode? (Shades of The Matrix: “Neo. Wake up!“)

The dialog between Christian and Jack resembles the best conversations between teacher and student in the Zen tradition.

What was the so-called sideways timeline? I think we have to conclude that “mind makes everything.” It’s a delusion, like the lives we live here, the karma we make. That doesn’t make it not real. It is real. But not really real. There’s reality — and then, there’s real reality. When have you ever seen that on television?

And what does Jack’s father tell him in the end?

Let go.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha!

Breathe.

See also:

The Buddhist Secrets About Lost

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Buddhist ideas, American TV: Avatar

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Sometimes you keep hearing about something again and again, forgetting and remembering, until finally, at long last, you go and check it out. That’s how it was for me and the animated TV series called “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” from Nickelodeon (you can read all about it at Wikipedia). Nick has an excellent Web site devoted to the series. At TV.com, you’ll find a compact episode guide and viewer reviews.

Many different people had asked me whether I had seen this TV series. When I said no, they would always tell me a little bit about it, such as “One of the characters is this boy Buddhist monk.” I would think, yeah, yeah, I’ll look into it. And then, I would forget.

So finally someone mentioned that he had downloaded all 60 episodes of the animated series with BitTorrent, and that led me to watch the first season (20 episodes, about 25 minutes each). Whoa. These are really good!

So first, you need to know I do like animation. The original Disney “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) is a lifelong favorite of mine. Recently I discovered the work of the Japanese animation great Hayao Miyazaki, and now I’m on a leisurely mission to see all his films. But I have not seen much of the zillions of anime series from Japan, and I do not run out and watch every Pixar or Disney feature film. So, yes — I like animation, but I’m not a freak for it.

Second, I have a very low tolerance for stupid stories. A lot of U.S. animation (especially on the Cartoon Network) is just junk. It is unwatchable, in my opinion.

So with those two facts in mind, you are about to hear how much I love, love, LOVE “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I’m up to episode 7 in the second season, and it just keeps getting better and better!

Now, it is true that Aang, the young hero of the series (he is the Avatar, whose task it is to save the world — of course!), is a monk. No one in the series says “Buddhist,” and I have not seen any Buddha images so far. But in episode 4 (season 2), a man with prodigious martial arts skills tells Aang that the whole world is one big living organism, just like the giant banyan tree above them.

“You think you’re any different from me, or your friends, or this tree?” he asks Aang. “If you listen hard enough, you can hear every living thing breathing together. You can feel everything growing. … We all have the same roots, and we are all branches of the same tree.”

Later in that episode, the same man tells Aang and his friends: “Time is an illusion, and so is death.”

Breathe.