The Dharma of Star Wars – Book Review
In this post I will be reviewing a book called “The Dharma of Star Wars” written by Matthew Bortolin (who lives in Ventura, California) who can be described as a Buddhist Star Wars super-fan. He has camped out for tickets to all of the Star Wars movies and even owns his own Jedi robe.
As a Buddhist, his teacher in Zen Buddhism is the renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. He has also been a Buddhist monk for a number of years and have lived in monasteries in America as well as all over the world.
As most of you already know, the philosophy and teachings of the Jedi were clearly based on Eastern philosophy, but mostly from Buddhism. Not to mention that the Jedi Master Yoda himself was based on a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was the debate partner of the Dalai Lama, Serkong Rinpoche.
The concept of the Force is similar to one of the many definitions of the word Dharma (and also similar to the Tao of Taoism) and the Jedi Knights themselves were partly inspired by the Samurai of feudal Japan who practiced Zen Buddhism. In fact, George Lucas was inspired by the Japanese word for samurai films “jidaigeki” when he came up with the word “Jedi”.
This book is basically a handbook to the teachings of the Buddha including the Four Noble Truths and the Eighfold Path with parallels drawn from all of the Jedi and Sith sequences in the Star Wars movies to teach the Middle Way of the Buddha.
For example in Chapter 1 The Jedi Art Of Mindfulness and Concentration, the parallel that is drawn is from the first prequel movie Star Wars : The Phantom Menace in which:
“the Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn advises his Padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the practices of mindfulness and concentration while the two are aboard the Trade Federation Droid-Control Ship representing the Galactic Republic as ambassadors of peace. Obi-Wan gives voice to his concern about and the wariness of a far-off disturbance in the Force.
Qui-Gon sensing his apprentice is lost in the future and not grounded in the here and now, councils him to practice the Jedi Art Of Mindfulness and Concentration. Mindfulness and concentration are also the beginning and end of the practices handed down from Siddhartha, and that came to be known as Buddhism” (The Dharma of Star Wars, Chapter 1, Matthew Bortolin)
He even adds a conversation between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan:
Qui-Gon: “Don’t center on your anxieties, Obi-Wan, keep your concentration here and now where it belongs.”
Obi-Wan: “But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future.”
Qui-Gon: “But not at the expense of the moment, be mindful of the Living Force, young Padawan.”
This is just a brief example and the other examples contained in this book go much deeper in easy to understand language.
This a very unique book, even if you aren’t interested in Star Wars which differs from other books in the same genre such as the Tao of Star Wars and the Tao of Yoda in that the Star Wars examples provide more down-to-earth example which really helps you understand the Buddha’s teachings, even if you are new to Buddhism.
It uses very easy to understand wording to get its point across and even adds some humor into the text as well, which I found to be refreshing. Also in the second section of the book, there is a guide to help you apply the teachings of the Buddha/Jedi called “The Padawan Handbook” in your daily life which includes Star Wars-themed Jedi/Buddhist contemplation.
I can also testify that after I read this book, I had a better understanding of Buddhism, and since I’m also a Star Wars fan myself, I really enjoyed the examples from the movies and certainly gave me a lot to think about.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves Star Wars or to anyone that would like to get a general idea of the Buddha’s teachings and how they inspired the philosophy of the Jedi.
However, if you hate Star Wars then this book is not for you and will only annoy you which is not something that should happen if you want to learn about Buddhism.
My rating for this book is 4 out of 5 stars and I definitely recommend it!!!