The Dharma of Star Wars – A Book Review

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”.

Book Summary

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.

The Dharma of Star Wars

Jedi Master Qui-Gon JInn with his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi

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.

My Critique

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.

Conclusion

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!!!

The Dharma of Star Wars

The Dharma of Star Wars rating

Click here to buy your copy today!

 


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23 Responses to The Dharma of Star Wars – A Book Review

  1. Derek Marshall says:

    Hi Ian,

    Totally awesome! I had no Idea there was a star wars connection to Buddhism! Totally awesome, Not a big star wars fan

    I am defo going to get Star wars on Net flicks and keep an eye open for references.

    Interestingly, can you explain mindfulness?. I know what it is and practice it daily but have a difficulty putting it into words

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Derek,

      Thanks! There are also connections to Taoism as well, but then Taoism and Buddhism both emerged in the same timeframe and Taoism definitely had more influence on forms of Buddhism like Ch’an in China, or Zen in Japan.

      I went into mindfulness a little bit in a previous post but I will definitely dedicate a single post devoted to mindfulness and what that means, including how it is similar and different from the concept of mindfulness you might find in popular culture.

  2. Philip Monrean says:

    This seems like an amazing book! I have practiced Buddhism for years and I always loved the idea of the Jedi because they closely resembled Buddhist teaching. I did not know this book existed but I will definitely have to read it! I like how the author applies buddhist ideas to Star Wars, it seems like it would make a lot of sense! I wonder, does the author touch a lot on zen Buddhism specifically? It seems like this particular aspect of Buddhism would be even more similar to the Jedi. Thanks for the review!

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Philip,

      Yes, this was definitely a cool book. The author is actually an ordained member of Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s group so it’s definitely Zen.

  3. dan700 says:

    Great review! As a true Star Wars fan and someone who like to study different religions I had already noticed the presence of some Buddhist concepts in the Star Wars universe, but I have never seen in spelled out like this. The books seems really interesting and I would definitely recommend buying it.

    • Ian H says:

      It is a great book and one that I come back to sometimes as a refresher. I did another review of a book called The Tao of Star Wars recently which is also another great book looking at the Star Wars mythos from the Taoist perspective.

  4. Michael Angelo says:

    Hi Ian,
    I really love Star Wars. I thought the concept of the Force was taken from India culture.
    Now everything is make sense to me. Buddhist has meditation and else.
    The monk and jedi have similarity in term of no attachment to the world. This is really mind blown.
    Are you telling that the writer of this book is a monk and also a Star Wars fan?
    I think I should spend some time to read this.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes the author of the book is an ordained monk (which doesn’t always mean that they are confined to a monastery) as well as a Star Wars fan.

      The book is definitely brilliant in how he structured the book. You’ll learn quite a lot about Buddhism and the Jedi in the process.

  5. Molly says:

    I have always an idea that there was a connection between the concept of The Force in Star Wars and Buddhist ideas. Now I see that this book really sets them out clearly. I love Stars Wars, and I am always happy to read something else that talks about the films. I will really enjoy looking at this?

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, you’d definitely love this book. There’s also another book that I think you’d love called the Tao of Star Wars. Read my review here

  6. Sam says:

    Hey, I love your review, but disagree on one point. If Star Wars annoys you, get annoyed in your Buddhism and figure it out. Buddhism is one of few religions, [if you can call it that], that asks the practitioner to revolt if they see fit! Star Wars fans, and Buddhists, check it out!

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that Buddhism really is not as much a religion as it is a science of the mind. And if we look at it from a scientific perspective we can imagine that the Buddha encouraged us to replicate his results.

  7. ariefw says:

    I know that George Lucas is a fan of Eastern religion. As I am from Asia, I found much correlation between Starwars and the Far East tradition.

    But I can enjoy Starwars without mixing it with the heritage I’m in. Well, I can safely say that George Lucas had created a new “religion”.

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, there is much from both Buddhism and Taoism in Star Wars. I don’t think George Lucas created a new religion but there are those that actually did create a Jedi religion though Lucas doesn’t have anything to do with it. And you’re absolutely right, you can also enjoy Star Wars without thinking about the spiritual aspects of it.

  8. Jim says:

    Hi Ian, left a comment. That was good review. I never would have made that connection with Star Wars. But the proof is there, eh.

    One thing that comes to mind. Everything I’ve learned here says we should be putting all adds and such on the right but I noticed yours were mostly on the left. Just the way it worked or….

    Cheers!
    Jim

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Jim,
      Thanks for the comment! There is a lot of hidden wisdom in Star Wars, not only from Buddhism but also from other Eastern philosophies like Taoism.

  9. Debra says:

    I love and star wars as a child and remember that Yoda was when my favorite characters. Until reading your post I was not aware that the philosophy and teaching of the Jedi were based so much on Buddhism and the Tibetan monks.

    They say you learn something new every day.

    I have a young nephew that is rather new two star wars. So from your critique, can I assume that this is an easy read?

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Debra,
      Yoda is definitely my favorite character as well and I also grew up loving Star Wars. This book is definitely an easy read and if he’s into Star Wars then he’ll find it very interesting and entertaining.

  10. Jim says:

    Hi Ian, interesting review. I never would have made that connection with Star Wars. But when you put it like, for sure. I`m a big Star Wars fan. Only one I haven`t seen. Keep putting out there. I like It.

    Cheers!
    Jim

  11. 4bcurlygirl says:

    Hello I really enjoyed going through your site.. You have a great selection of books that can be helpful when wanting to get more knowledge on Buddhism. I’m in the field of spiritually, so recently I’ve been thinking about researching Buddhism. The life of a Buddhist is very peaceful. Thanks for sharing your information on Buddhism. 🙂

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for visiting my site! There are a ton of resources to go through and don’t forget to comment if you have any questions.

  12. Fairweather Green says:

    Seems like a great book for me to explore. My wife is buddhist – I love Star Wars – what better fit could a book have!?

    I will definitely read this book, it will give me a whole different perspective of the Jedi.

    Thanks for your review, this is right up my street.

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