July 11, 2011

The Karma of Star Wars.

Don’t resign yourself to your past. You CAN change your destiny.

“Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” The teaching of karma demonstrates that our actions today stay with us and impact us tomorrow. Obi-Wan’s apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, becomes Darth Vader—in that action he makes certain his journey down the dark path, and once he starts it consumes him, dominating future actions. Vader becomes trapped by the dark side; every evil act he commits takes him deeper into the dark side and makes it harder and harder for him to break the karmic chain of his malefactions until evil seemed his only choice.

If we take Yoda’s words above as absolute truth we may think that, like Vader seems to be, we too are dominated by our choices and actions, and they entirely consume us, but recall the following from Return of the Jedi.

“You cannot escape your destiny,” Obi-Wan tells Luke. “You must face Darth Vader again.”

“I can’t kill my own father,” Luke says, almost pleading.

“Then the emperor has already won.”

Later, as Luke stands over his fallen father prepared to destroy him, the Emperor is ecstatic. He gleefully says, “Good! Your hate has made you powerful. Now, fulfill your destiny and take your father’s place at my side!”

By this point, Luke is a Jedi, a Jedi that sees through the shroud of the dark side and perceives life with right view. To kill Vader, as Obi-Wan wants, will place Luke exactly where the Emperor desires him—at the Sith Lord’s side. Either choice will produce the same result: the dark side. But Luke is not controlled by destiny. He is free to choose, and his choice saves the galaxy.

While our present state of mind is in large part based on our past karma, we must not adhere to a doctrine of determinism and believe that everything that happens is simply fate or that our past actions enmesh us into a specific pattern of behavior from which we can never escape. Yoda claims Vader’s destiny is forever dominated by the dark side, but we know that is not true. There is no doubt that Vader’s karma leads to the dark side and keeps him there for decades, but his will allows him to choosea different path, a path of compassion. That new choice saves his son and frees Anakin from the dark-side prison he had constructed. Our karma can set us down paths that consume us, but those paths need not “forever dominate our destiny.” We have will, and we can choose our actions for good or ill. If we pay attention to the teaching of karma, we see that it actually emphasizes rather than ignores the importance of human will. And despite its often-mentioned “destiny,” the Star Wars saga as a whole portrays agreement with this view.” –from The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin

Watch Luke and his father, Vader, change their destinies.


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