An Inside Look At The Religious Influence For The Jedi

Are Jedi Just A Science Fiction Version Of Shaolin Monks?

Quick question. Who said “you will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive”? Was it Buddha when he was dictating one of the globe’s ancient religions or was it Yoda, the tiny Jedi master of the Star Wars movie franchise? If you answered Yoda, you are right and probably have your own Yoda accent. Yoda, like most of the Jedi mythology, is a blending of different Asian religions.

Maybe that is why the use of the Force by Jedi is so much like Qi Gong masters who claim to have mystical powers involving the manipulation of energy. But let’s break down how the Jedi are a combination of Taoism and Buddhism. The Jedi believe there is a balance in the universe between two opposing forces, the light side and dark side. Taoism does not believe in a deity, but in a balance between two cosmic forces, Yin and Yang. Buddhism believes that all suffering comes from desire. The Jedi think non-attachment is key to their faith. In fact, the reason why Anakin Skywalker becomes evil is rooted in his attachment to his wife and mother.

See the connections?

Part of this was intended, and some was probably a part of where George Lucas got his ideas from. Star Wars: A New Hope is roughly a western remake of the Japanese movie Hidden Fortress, that is a samurai epic. Samurai were warriors that had a personal code of honor and were influenced by the religions of the time, Buddhism, and Taoism. Some of the influence was intentional. It is reported that the image of Yoda is modeled after Tsenzhad Serkong Rinpoche, one of the Dalai Lama’s debate partners and tutor.

Speaking of Yoda, he tells Luke Skywalker “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” This idea of the world being beyond our perception is a critical connection between Buddhism and Taoism. In fact, the Jedi are always telling others that they miss what is indeed going on in the world. In fact, The Last Jedi has one of its vital Jedi using manipulation of reality to defeat evil (and to that one person who hasn’t seen The Last Jedi you’re welcome for not spoiling the movie).

Meditation and reincarnation are daily practices and beliefs of both Buddhists and Jedis. They both even wear robes that look pretty similar. Although Buddhist monks believe in non-violence, while the Jedi claim non-violence while also being generals in wars and lightsabering any problem that gets in their way.

So perhaps one day in a director’s cut we will see the Buddha as a Jedi apparition next to Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan. Or maybe you should just read some Zen Koans to celebrate May The Fourth.

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