Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Where Is the Spoon? Buddhism and the Matrix.

In this report, I will focus on the Buddhist elements found in the movie The Matrix, and on the essay
There Is No Spoon by Michael Brannigan from the book The Matrix And Philosophy. Two important elements of Buddhism are compared and contrasted in this essay. They are the elements of reflecting and non-reflecting. One of the most iconic scenes of the Matrix movie finds Neo waiting in a room full of children at the Oracle's house. These children are other "potential" messiahs, like Neo. As Neo scans the room, he notices a young boy in the robes of a Buddhist monk sitting in a full lotus position and telekinetically bending spoons. As Neo leans down to watch, the boy speaks. "Do not try to bend the spoon," he says, "that would be impossible. Instead, try to realize the truth...there is no spoon." This scene illustrates an important teaching of Buddhism, the idea of reflection. Buddhism, particularly the Zen tradition, teaches that we should seek to gain a clear, mirror-like mind.

  The other side of this teaching is non-reflection. Although reflection is crucial to freeing one's self from an illusory world (i.e., the Matrix), Buddhism constantly reminds us that the mind can be our worst enemy. It can take one down all sorts of detours and distractions.The best example of this idea in the Matrix is the sparring match between Morpheus and Neo. Although Neo has gained incredible skill in martial arts, Morpheus still defeats him initially. Never one to miss a teachable moment, Morpheus points out that Neo's weakness is not his technique. After all, their match is taking place in the Construct, where laws of gravity and physics don't apply. Neo is thinking about his every move, he is reflecting, if you will, and his use of mind is allowing Morpheus to beat him at every turn. In order to beat Morpheus, Neo has to stop thinking. He has to achieve what is known in Zen Buddhism and the Japanese martial arts as mushin, or "no-mind". Non-reflection is the other side of the coin, so to speak. The Buddha teaches us to reflect, but also teaches us to free ourselves from reflection. Non-reflection is what ultimately leads one to acquire mushin, or "no-mind", and acquisition of "no-mind" is what ultimately frees one from the illusory world around them. This is why Morpheus pushes Neo towards mushin by urging him to "stop trying to hit men and HIT ME!"

Michael Brannigan, "There Is No Spoon", The Matrix and Philosophy, William Erwin et al., Open Court Publishing, 2002 Print.

Mushin (non-mind) http://zen-buddhism.net/zen-concepts/mushin

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