Top Ten Buddhist Moments in Non-Buddhist Movies (Inspired by Shambhala SunSpace)

Via on Sep 30, 2009

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A few months ago, over at Shambhala Sun Space, web editor and elephant journal bud Rod Meade Sperry asked readers, “What’s your favorite movie moment that somehow touches on or refers to Buddhism, but isn’t from a specifically Buddhist film?”

Since posting this question, Rod has had dozens of replies, many of which included some very interesting picks.

I initially responded with two picks and the bits of Buddhist wisdom that those moments evoked for me.  I’ve thought about it more since, and have ten moments to present to you below.  You’ll find ten Buddhist thoughts and a clip that each calls to mind.  Enjoy!  And please share your moments with us!

10. “You can’t con fear, or frighten fear. You have to respect fear. You might try to tell yourself that it’s not real, that it’s false, but such an approach is questionable. It is better to develop some kind of respect, realizing that neurosis is also a message, rather than garbage that you should just throw away. The whole starting point for working with fear and other emotions is the idea of samsara and nirvana, confusion and enlightenment, being one. Samsara is not regarded as a nuisance alone, but it has its own potent message that is worthy of respect…If you give up your hope of attaining something, then tuning into fear is tuning into its insightful quality. Then, skillful means or action arises spontaneously out of the fear itself. Fear can be extremely resourceful rather than representing hopelessness. It is the opposite of hopelessness, in fact…When you connect with your fear, you realize you have already leapt, you are already in mid-air. You realize that, and then you become resourceful.” – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

9. “When Lord Buddha spoke about suffering, he wasn’t referring simply to superficial problems like illness and injury, but to the fact that the dissatisfied nature of the mind itself is suffering. No matter how much of something you get, it never satisfies your desire for better or more. This unceasing desire is suffering; its nature is emotional frustration.” – Lama Yeshe

8. “The voice of the mountain torrent is from one great tongue;
The lines of the hills, are they not the Pure Body of Buddha?” –
Zenrinkushū

7. “Nothing else has any importance, nothing must deter us, we must become the sole parent of all helpless living beings.  At the same time that we feel this determination, however, we also keenly feel our inability to carry it out. We realize we need complete freedom from afflictions ourselves, as well as virtual omniscience about the condition of others. We need to know the techniques to lead the sufferers to happiness. And we need a perfect impartiality towards all others, coupled with a complete selflessness. In short, we realize that we must ourselves become perfect Buddhas first.” – Robert Thurman

6. “By amending our mistakes, we get wisdom.
By defending our faults, we betray an unsound mind.” – Dajian Hui Neng

5. “Normally, we feel undermined by our emotions, and we feel bewildered by them. But once you have a sense of being in contact with the emotions, from that sense of familiarity, a sense of openness takes place… You might think that you have a problem with the emotions and I as a teacher will present you with a technique to control yourself. But instead we should give people some sense of experience and how awareness works with the general environment, which is what emotions are, basically.” – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

4. “Whenever you want to perform [an act of body, speech, or mind], you should reflect on it: ‘This [act] I want to perform — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful [act], with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful [act] with painful consequences, painful results, then any [act] of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction… it would be a skillful [action] with happy consequences, happy results, then any [act] of that sort is fit for you to do.” - the Buddha

3. “We have a fear of facing ourselves. That is the obstacle. Experiencing the innermost core of our existence is very embarrassing to a lot of people. A lot of people turn to something that they hope will liberate them without their having to face themselves. That is impossible. We can’t do that. We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to see our gut, our excrement, our most undesirable parts. We have to see them. That is the foundation of warriorship, basically speaking. Whatever is there, we have to face it, we have to look at it, study it, work with it and practice meditation with it.” – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche


2. “Most of us dread bad or uncomfortable situations, wondering what we can do to make them less unpleasant. But as far as [Dharma] practice is concerned, that isn’t the point. Surrendering to a situation might indeed make us feel better, but that is not the purpose of the exercise. Surrendering allows us to feel the qualities of a situation and to see things clearly. If we turn away or respond with aggression, we never get the chance to do that. So even if you feel the situation that’s about to unfold might be so embarrassing, frightening, or difficult you would never recover from it, just open to it. It may appear like a high wall that you can’t see beyond, but you will pass through it and come out the other side.” – Rigdzin Shikpo

1. “Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.” –
Śantideva

About Reverend Danny Fisher

Rev. Danny Fisher, M.Div., D.B.S. (Cand.), is a professor and Coordinator of the Buddhist Chaplaincy Program at University of the West in Rosemead, CA. He was ordained as a lay Buddhist minister by the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California in 2008. In addition, he is certified as a mindfulness meditation instructor by Naropa University in association with Shambhala International. A member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains, he serves on the advisory council for the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program. In addition to his work for elephant journal, he is a blogger for Shambhala Sun. He has also written for Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Religion Dispatches, The Journal of Buddhist Ethics, The Journal of Religion & Film, Eastern Horizon, New York Spirit, Alternet's Wiretap Magazine, and other publications. His award-winning website is http://www.dannyfisher.org

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3 Responses to “Top Ten Buddhist Moments in Non-Buddhist Movies (Inspired by Shambhala SunSpace)”

  1. [...] and film, elephant journal, Shambhala Sun Space trackback I’ve got a new post over at elephant journal that I hope you will take a look at it.  It’s comprised of my picks for the “Top Ten [...]

  2. Dwan says:

    Ack – what's the movie for number 6? It's been removed my the user.

  3. Scott says:

    Beautiful post…thank you :)

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